Leo Richardson's own stage play "Sh*t-M*x", Stanley Park is another of those wannabe-hip BBC3 comedies that think being relevant to teenagers just means including sex scenes and references to Facebook and Twitter. The sad thing is, they might be right. So if you're a 17-year-old nymphomaniac with calloused thumbs from tapping away on an iPhone all day, Stanley Park's the show for you.
Set in the titular south London suburb, this comedy-drama pilot focused on a group of teenage friends who have grown up together as neighbours: there's "Dirty" Debbie (Holliday Grainger), the self-proclaimed "Carrie Bradshaw of Croydon" who lives with her online-dating obsessed Auntie Pat (Sharon Horgan); closet gay "Bent" Ben (Richard Southgate), who denies he's homosexual despite once hiding Barbie dolls under his bed; Ben's best-friend "Raggedy" Ann (Jennie Jacques), a vegetarian and budding poet; virginal Lee Stevens (Joe Cole), who fancies Ann; and Lee's older brother Harry "The Hottie" (Nick Blood), a ladies man who's engaged to girlfriend Sadie (Misfits' Antonia Thomas) but admires Debbie from afar.
This script included a lot of British "teen-speak" that rarely feels authentic on television somehow (do kids really get upset someone didn't "poke" them back on Facebook?), but it did a decent job sketching out its characters. It helped that each was given memorable and simple traits to play up to -- particularly Debbie, the street's sex siren who trots around the place looking for her next conquest. The excellent Grainger (whom you may have bad memories of from the heinous Demons) fared much better with this character and a lively script, leaving the biggest impression as a promiscuous northern lass few boys can resist. Everyone else had less memorable roles, but none of the actors did a bad job with the material. In a similar gambit to Skins (a show with this pilot otherwise eschewed), famous faces appeared as the parental figures: Horgan's Aunt Sally was the first time I can remember Horgan play someone other than "herself" (did the black wig help?) and the always reliable Morwenna Banks popped up as an interfering mother.
The big sell with Stanley Park is that it's not presenting teenage life as a non-stop orgy of drink, drugs, parties, sex and violence, but as a relatively normal neighbourhood where every character has relatively noble aspirations: Debbie fancies herself a fashion designer and writes erotic fiction, and Ann has her poetry (including "An Ode To Lindsay Lohan"). But of course, you can't escape sex with a TV show aimed at youngsters, so Lee has his cherry to pop and Ben has his sexuality to determine.
Overall, I think Stanley Parl needs a few more episodes to develop its identity, flesh-out the characters, and most definitely needs better jokes. The only undeniably funny moment came with a scene of American Pie-esque embarrassment when Lee's family arrived home early to see him shagging the shameless Debbie on the kitchen table while she munched on crisps. There's definitely potential here, in raw form, but it's already a damn sight better than other BBC3 youth programming like Grown Ups and Coming Of Age.
- It appears that Holliday Grainger would prefer to be known as Holly Grainger now, according to her IMDb page. Either way, if Stanley Park is commissioned for a full series, will she return in this role? It was recently reported that Grainger's landed herself a role in a Showtime TV series about the infamous Borgia family who ruled Renaissance Italy...
WRITER: Leo Richardson
DIRECTOR: Misha Manson-Smith
CAST: Morwenna Banks, Nick Blood, Joe Cole, Holliday Grainger, Sharon Horgan, Jennie Jacques, David Kennedy, Richard Southgate & Antonia Thomas
AIRDATE/CHANNEL: 10 JUNE 2010 - BBC3, 9PM