Before Ricky Gervais created The Office, there was another parody of the working world called People Like Us.
At first glance People Like Us appears to be a serious documentary about a day in the life of an average person in his or her average job, but it’s not. Listen carefully to the voice over narration and you’ll hear such absurd commentary like “It’s 4pm and everybody has left school except for those who have stayed behind.” Or “Although since the beginning of the 20th century the number of people attending church regularly has fallen by twice that amount over the same period of time.”
The unseen narrator and interviewer is Roy Mallard, played flawlessly by Chris Langham. He travels Britain talking to ordinary people in their ordinary jobs: a police officer, photographer, teacher, vicar, airline pilot, mother, managing director, estate agent, solicitor, journalist, actor and bank manager.
And although we don’t see Roy at all throughout the series – except when he’s dodging the camera to get out of the shot – some of the funniest bits are based on that fact. Everyone around Roy considers him to be somewhat unattractive. The running joke throughout the series is that nobody can believe he’s actually married. He’s also rather accident prone – getting hit in the face with a golf club, spilling coffee all over himself or getting covered in acidic photo developer – and the comments made about his appearance are laugh out loud funny.
The comedy actors do such a fantastic job of playing “real people,” you forget they actually are actors in these roles. They’re so natural at delivering the most absurd lines of dialogue, making this show absolutely hilarious. Some of those actors are: Julie Davis from Gavin & Stacey; Olivia Colman, Sarah Alexander, Tamsin Greig and Mark Heap, all from Green Wing; Jessica Stevenson (Hynes) from Spaced; David Tennant, the tenth Dr. Who; and film actor Bill Nighy.
What I love the most about this show is the dry, understated humor that’s derived from misstatements and misunderstandings, along with the ridiculous dead-pan voice over narration by Langham.
People Like Us is a very clever parody of the documentary genre that I plan to watch again, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
Chris Langham – Roy Mallard
Total Seasons: 2 (12 episodes)
Seasons Available on US Formatted DVD: 2
In Production: 1999
Viewer Discretion: Language