Liam Williams’ exploration of youtube stars, Pls Like, is one of the best things that’s ever been shown on BBC3 and now his radio series has been adapted for the channel as well. A very un-nostalgic look back at his adolescence around the early 2000’s it has a quite unique hook in that Liam himself lurks around in the background, often commenting on events in a regretful manner or discussing how they link to his life today.
The first episode begins with Williams in a bar almost getting in to a fight, much to the embarrassment of his girlfriend Jess (Lily Frazer), with Williams revealing himself to be not only pedantic in the extreme but also someone who struggles with toxic masculinity. But rather than the situation becoming violent he’s able to pause and try to understand why he acts in the way that he does, and that takes us back to his teenage years.
It’s here we’re introduced to Young Liam (Oscar Kennedy) and his mates Adnan Masood (Aqib Khan), Ralph Roberts (Samuel Bottomley), Tom “Craggy” Cragg (Shaun Thomas), all of whom are slaves to their hormones and lusting after their female school friends Rachel (Emily Coates) and Cassie (Saskia Page Martin), which rather sadly leads to violence as Ralph challenges the school bully Michael “Whitey” White to a fight as the latter flirted with Rachel.
It feels akin to a grimmer, more realistic version of The Inbetweeners, where rather than getting in to over the top scrapes the boys mostly hang around and lament their lot, the dialogue feels real and believable, and the eventual fight between Ralph and Whitey is pretty bloody horrific, giving the episode a dramatic element that doesn’t make the show what you could call a “dramedy”, but it’s not a million miles off either. The acting throughout is superb, and it’s nicely shot too, with the direction in the final scenes being especially affecting.
Fortunately offsetting the bleakness is Williams extremely honest sense of humour, the episode is packed full of his trademark dry commentary and has some very funny lines in it, from how he describes his urge to have a fight being like that of “A twelve year old boy, or a professional footballer”, and how the bully “Went by Whitey even to his parents”, to Williams thoughts about what’s worse than being a grass. And there’s even some sly absurdity too in the form of Whitey’s friend Tinhead (Jordan Pearson) who one second is quite threatening but the next suggests how to best microwave rice and gives other helpful advice.
It feels like a very genuine series, and one where Williams doesn’t let himself off lightly either, showing his actions in a less than flattering way, though he at least often castigates his past self for acting in such a manner. And though certain scenes are unpleasant to view they are necessary, part of Williams attempts at understanding masculinity and why he responds to certain situations with rage, which all adds up to a comedy series which is not only very funny but also impressively thoughtful too.