Dead Pixels series 2 | TV review by Steve Bennett © C4
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Dead Pixels series 2

TV review by Steve Bennett

Setting a sitcom in the world of gaming is not the most obvious move: your target audience might find it hard to put down the controller long enough to watch, while the premise is likely to alienate those who wouldn’t know their Overwatch from their Runescape.

However, there’s plenty for the non-gamer to enjoy in Dead Pixels as it returns for its second season. Sure, a noob might miss some of the in-jokes and finer subtleties of Jon Brown’s script, but at its heart this is a character-led comedy about socially incompetent misfits crippled by their own doubts - and how universal is that?

The setting gives the comedy two strands to work with. When talking about their beloved game, flatmates Meg and Nicky exchange the sarcastic, cynical banter of high-status players while in the real world they are clearly gaffe-prone losers.

The character of Meg, especially, is developed in this second run. As Kingdom Scrolls releases a populist expansion pack (presciently including a plague storyline, as an aside) her devotion is tested by shallow gimmicks and the young players flooding in, ruining her fun. What happens when the thing you have devoted so much to loving lets you down?

Alexa Davies owns this role, seemingly together but so clearly not, as her doomed interactions away from the screen attest.

Meanwhile Nicky, as played by leading James Acaster lookalike Will Merrick, is more pathetic than ever this time around, becoming addicted to the chests full of goodies that the game developers have added - if you pay for them. What’s interesting is that he’s fully aware of his pitiful dependency, while debasing himself to feed it.

Their third flatmate Alison, played by the always delightful Charlotte Richie, is - superficially - the one who’s got it all together: a non-gamer who can roll her eyes in exasperation at the shut-in lives of her friends and nag them to do better.

But there’s a more to her than this apparently one-dimensional character suggests, as she becomes an avatar of how much messier real life can be than any massive online universe, as she chases status points more fiercely as any fictional gems.

Back in the game, Usman (Sargon Yelda) offers almost sketch-like diversions that highlight his grossly negligent parenting, while David Mumeni’s Russel provides a  puppyish naive enthusiasm that contrasts with the more jaded viewpoint of the hardcore games. And look out for a guest appearance from Rose Matafeo in a future episode.

Brown’s script, bristles with contemporary references - from Kingdom Scrolls chasing ‘Fortnite money’ to an online row escalating into a trans issue, somehow. His dialogue can also be jaunty, absurd, jaundiced or just outright crude, as reflects the various states of his twentysomething characters, trying to figure out what they want from life, when the online world is so much more enticing.

• The first two episodes of Dead Pixels series 2 are on E4 at 10pm tonight.

Review date: 26 Jan 2021
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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