TV review: Not Safe for Work, Channel 4
Hell is other people in a new office-based comedy drama
When office manager Danny (Sacha Dhawan) gets so wasted on whisky and ketamine that he urinates through his building’s letterbox before slumping in front of the locked revolving doors, it’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe that’s why Not Safe for Work is described as a comedy-drama having opted not to be one thing or the other.
Still, surely he’ll be immediately sacked when he’s discovered incapacitated ahead of a day’s work at the Northampton-based Immigration Pathway, the landing base for civil servant ‘fuckwits’ who aren’t capable of being cool enough to work in London. Actually, no, he is merely poured into his chair by a blissfully naïve employee so that he can get on with the real business of the day: playing extreme videogames and scanning through equally frank dating websites.
Unfortunately for Danny, actual professionals are now descending on his place of ‘work’, as part of an exodus from the capital due to government spending cuts. There’s experienced Whitehall HR boss Jeffries (Anastasia Hille) whose 20-year-old son is making her life pure hell and the formerly-wedded Katherine (Zawe Ashton) who is aghast to see that the man cited on the recently signed divorce papers as being responsible for her marriage breakdown is also on the pay-roll in Northampton.
In the opening episode, there is a subtle comedy in the air with fine performances from Ashton, and Dhawan as the permanently sozzled Danny. While the battle lines are drawn early with Katherine mainly standing firm against absolutely everyone, hints are dropped that odd alliances and curious unions will emerge.
This will hopefully be where the points of interest lie as the series continues rather than settling on an endless stream of Katherine being constantly exasperated with her fate. While the show struggles for its own identity at the kick-off, there’s a vague whiff of a modern This Life while the set-up feels as though it’s exactly where some Skins characters would have ended up next.
Not Safe for Work starts on Channel 4, Tue 30 Jun, 10pm