Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rebecca Nicholson

I Hate You review – like watching two grown women possessed by the spirit of puerile teenage boys

 Friends … Tanya Reynolds as Charlie and Melissa Saint as Becca in I Hate You.
Friends … Tanya Reynolds as Charlie and Melissa Saint as Becca in I Hate You. Photograph: Natalie Seery/Channel 4

Last weekend I saw some standup. It was a variety show, a sort of mix-tape of live comedians, held together by a compere and lapped up by an audience of regulars who knew all the running jokes that clearly happened every time this particular night was on. As a newcomer, I was baffled at first, then I started to pick up the gags and the jokes everyone was waiting for. In the end, I got into it: people in skintight bodysuits dancing to Jason Derulo at random points was indeed funny! I kept expecting I Hate You (Channel 4) to have a similar moment of reckoning, a point at which its odd blend of surreal-ish visual gags and toilet humour clicked into place. But, three episodes in, I couldn’t face watching any more to find out.

This is the latest sitcom from the creator of Friday Night Dinner, Robert Popper, who has contributed to most of Channel 4’s best comedies, from Peep Show to Spaced and The IT Crowd. It is female-led – how modern – and follows two flatmates, Rebecca (Melissa Saint) and Charlie (Tanya Reynolds), as they walk around east London’s prettier streets saying slightly spiky things to each other. I did start to wonder what it was actually about because it meanders around a premise, rather than committing to one.

I think the premise is this: Rebecca and Charlie live together, enjoy pranking each other and don’t much like their jobs in a fabric shop and a rare book dealer’s flat, respectively. The I Hate You of the title is presumably about their relationship, though they seem to be the only two people capable of finding themselves and each other even remotely bearable. They say things such as, “Get ready to have your mind and tits blown” as they read each other facts about nature from the internet.

It opens with Becca revealing that she is about to go on a date with a 72-year-old man named Leonard (“Big up the old geezers crew”). Soon, Charlie, who breaks up with her twentysomething boyfriend because he believes humans have evolved from bears, is looking for her own elderly gentleman to date. Older men send flowers and have interesting stories to tell. The women think that they have hacked dating. Only the elderly gentlemen turn out to be decrepit and forgetful, and also horny. It creaks towards a resolution as if the show is the one with arthritic limbs.

All the episodes are online already, should you be brave enough to see the series through. There are capers, mishaps and misunderstandings. Charlie visits a lord to collect a letter signed by Albert Einstein. (“What, Lord Bollocks?” says Becca.) A father dies and his daughter doesn’t really care. One of our leads says “see ya” and the other replies “diarrhoea”. It is like watching two grown women possessed by the spirit of puerile teenage boys. That is actually not a bad idea, and if it was pushed further in that direction, it might have elicited more laughs. Instead, it dips a toe in and out again. It is surreal – there is a fridge full of socks and chocolate cake, a plate piled high with sausages, a white horse randomly in the opening titles, a recurring joke about a fly – but only sometimes. It is scatological, but only sometimes. It passes in a haze of vaguely mean-spirited jokes. The funniest line, which sees them changing a chalkboard to say something offensive, is repeated in every episode.

Its underwhelming sourness is an oddity. If this was about two awful women, entirely lacking in conscience, playing practical jokes on each other and everyone they know, there would be, at least, a certain raucousness or lively spirit to it. Instead, they are just mildly dickish, not to each other, but to everyone else, such as their “loser” friend Bradley – “a major penis” – who keeps talking about his toilet habits and bum problems.

Everyone involved in I Hate You is clearly much stronger than they are managing to be here. Reynolds was a standout in Sex Education, and is fantastic on the stage. This is Saint’s first big gig, and she does her very best with lines such as, “But mum, it isn’t incest!”, when she is accused of being “sex-creepy” towards her step brother, to whom she is being sex-creepy. Popper made six wonderful series of Friday Night Dinner. Maybe there is an audience out there who will have their Jason Derulo moment and lap this up. I found it confusing.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.