TV Review: Turn Up Charlie, Idris Elba’s new Ibiza Dramedy (Drama/Comedy)

Idris Elba plays Charlie, a ‘one hit wonder’ DJ living on past glory and a web of self deceit.

Enter stage left his schooldays best friend turned A-List Hollywood actor, David, and his extended family.

The family consists of wife, international superstar DJ ‘Sara Caine’, 11 year old daughter Gabrielle, a girl who knows everything except the meaning of precocious, and plot-convenient bang up to the minute music production assistant and bang up the Elba generic assistant.

We can’t move on without an acknowledgement of the whole Sara Caine thing. For those reading this without island knowledge, one of our favourite local resident DJs is Sarah Main. Is it coincidence or was Sarah inspiration? We have spoken to Sarah and it seems she is unlikely to be pursuing any claim for royalties. I’m sure there’s a funny line in this somewhere, but I can’t quite come up with one now. Right, back to the show.

Idris’ Charlie hooks up with his old pal David at a gig, or to be precise a how-low-can-you-go £50 wedding Disco. One unlikely sitcom moment leads to another and abracadabra Charlie is the new manny (don’t call him that) to the precociously misunderstood Gabrielle.

Before you know it Idris, sorry Charlie, has waved his magic wand clamped in those oh so firm buttocks (so I’m told) to get himself into the phone books of swooning females and simultaneously turn the wild-child into a regretful changed character. I can imagine teachers’ spending entire careers dealing with misdirected youth feeling amazed at the ease with which a trip to Camden market with Idris, sorry Charlie, has the world’s worst pre-teen turn a new leaf. I equally imagine struggling DJs and producers sobbing at the ease with which doors open and things fall into place for Charlie. But then in both respects, this is Charlie, sorry Idris, and most of us would be prepared to accept that for the Charlies and Idrises of this world, things are truly this charmed. At least you’ll need to adopt that willing suspension of disbelief if you are going to watch it without pointing out some pretty gaping characterisation and plot flaws.

Though Ibiza is mentioned frequently from the outset, i.e. if it’s cool it’s Ibiza, it is not until episode 7 of the 8 that Charlie finds himself back on the island for a summer season. Charlie has his own journey of self discovery, lasting all of 3 minutes show time, in realising he isn’t entitled to be an Ibiza A-Lister. You don’t want to know any more to avoid any risk of a series spoiler so I’ll leave it there, but you will enjoy location spotting – especially those locations where obvious logo in return for filming facilities were negotiated. In that respect hats off to Andy Matthews at Plastik who gets the Netflix equivalent of a Superbowl advert in a full frame – notably way more bang than that given to Lio for their co-operation. Plastik 1, Lio 0. Not bad Andy.

This review has focused almost entirely on Idris Elba’s character and part in the programme. We are an Ibiza newspaper and Idris is well known to us in Ibiza through his DJ nights at Pikes – to put it bluntly this isn’t something we’d be covering if it wasn’t for him. That said, some of the other characters have their moments too. The C list promoter seems a little confused, the Nigerian relatives are fun if a little obvious. Meh.

Is it funny? Yes it is, here and there. I doubt many people will find themselves belly laughing, and I’m sure the show will say that was never their intent, hence dramedy (I can’t get on with that) not sitcom. For many Ibiza people I think you’ll find the best laughs in some of the ‘that would never really happen’ moments. For example, daytime parties in residential areas, I don’t think so, and the classic walk out of the airport to hail ‘taxi’ – quite hilarious.

Is it good? Yes. That might seem a surprising thing to say given the tone of the review, but it is as with many things all relative. If Ricky Gervais’ ‘Afterlife’ is a cool night at the Underground, Turn Up Charlie is a Foam Party at Es Paradis. Sometimes a foam party can be fun right? Just depends what you are in the mood for. Even in that context though, it seems odd that something with this weak a script would get made. To make it better would seem a fairly easy job.

Turn up Charlie is comfy TV. If you drew a spectrum of TV drama values, integrity and quality of writing, it is about as far from the Wire as you could get. As far as Idris Elba is concerned some might see that gulf in production as being versatile, some might see it as being lazy, an awful lot of people – mainly women let’s face it – won’t give a monkey’s either way as he can do no wrong.

Watch it for the Ibiza bits and/or Idris’ butt. If you enjoy it, all the better.

Other Charlie/Idris interesting facts.

Unlike his real life persona at his regular Pikes parties, Charlie does not introduce the tambourine to his DJ sets.

Charlie wakes up without an erection. Sorry ladies but there is no avoiding it, or more correctly, there is nothing to avoid. I mean, as if?

Holly Reed participated in the production of Turn Up Charlie. If you don’t know that already, seriously, where have you been?