TV Review: Stath Lets Flats would be worth watching for the pigeon sketch alone
PUBLISHED: 13:28 28 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:07 28 June 2018
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On first viewing, Channel 4's new sitcom set in a lettings agency is definitely interesting, and I'll be back for a second viewing, even if it does remind me of traumatic renting experiences of the past.
Most of us have met them – letting agents with the kind of moral compass that only points in one direction, your bank account.
I remember when I moved into a house which was condemned a few months after I left it (I watched on the news as it and an entire row of similarly lethal terrace houses in Liverpool’s Edge Lane were flattened by bulldozers in the name of regeneration), the letting agent telling me that the fact there was no heating meant “you’ll never oversleep for lectures!”.
He also claimed that inconvenience of having only one bathroom for 12 rooms in a student house was far outweighed by the fact that we had a garden “to relax in and, well, you know, you could always relieve yourself there if you couldn’t wait.” I was surprised when I watched those majestic old Victorian townhouses topple that he wasn’t lurking in the rubble and trying to let a particularly nice set of bricks to a group of students by telling them it was “open-plan living”.
Of course, I say quickly, in case furious letting agents start hanging around outside my workplace, letting agents are generally marvellous bastions of the community who care deeply about their customers. Stath, however, the construct of comedian Jamie Demetriou, is not amongst their number.
On a normal, non World Cup-saturated week, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed Stath Lets Flats, but pickings weren’t rich – no one wants to bring out their dramatic big guns when England are still in the running to – if not ‘bring football home’, then at least try not to bring apathy and regret home – I’m glad I did.
Stath (played by Demetriou) is utterly clueless, the unnatural heir to his father’s small letting agency. He is the David B(rent) of the lettings world, a man so awkward he practically sweats nervous apologies – like Brent, there’s just enough poignancy to stop you from outright hating him, but he’s an exasperating buffoon who very clearly should never be in a customer-facing role (but when has that fact ever stopped anyone?).
With his curious Chelmsford kicked through Cyprus patter, Stath’s flat viewings are painful – in part due to the fact he says things like “that’s an absolute crooner of a property, you lucky sod” and “oh blimey hell, there’s a man in the bathroom”.
Stath’s father Vasos (Christos Stergioglou) wants to hand his agency Michael & Eagle down to his son so that he can spend more time on his iPad but is reluctant
to hand over the reins to someone whose idea of pushing someone to sign a contract involves literally pushing them.
His son can’t find the right keys to open properties, sets off alarms he doesn’t have codes for, is hugely inappropriate, steals lets from other agents and effortlessly highlights the worst parts of properties (“don’t leave a toilet roll here, the wall is damp”): it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but there are some razor-sharp observations in there.
My favourite came from Carole, the agency’s top letter, played by Katy Wix. Furious that her client had been poached by Stath, she swept in and took over, taking the woman aside for a spot of faux sincere bonding which was uncannily accurate.
With the sweeping generalisations of a cold-reading medium, she said: “I don’t know you, obviously, but…I think you’re probably a little bit like me actually, aren’t you? I think you like things how you like them, don’t ask me why, I just do. You want to come in, shut the door and go ‘yes, I’m home’ Am I sort of in the right ball park?” Brilliant.
The sub-plot involves Demetriou’s real-life sister Natasia (who plays Sophie) and Al (Alistair Roberts) who are inching towards romance like tortoises. Sophie is a would-be entertainer who goes to “jumping classes” and likes Twitter: “I even got a reply from Leona Lewis once,” she tells Al, “she told me she’d had enough.”
And there are more nice touches: I loved the on-screen letting information (“spacious with a cooling draught, £1,750pcm”), the well-observed dialogue and then there was the most glorious final sequence involving Stath’s removal of a pigeon in tenant Mike’s loft: all that was missing was the Dastardly and Muttley music. That minute or two of bird-based slapstick joy was one of the funniest things I’ve seen on the box for ages.
With Friday Night Dinner creator Robert Popper as co-writer, I am convinced that this series will just keep growing on me. And did I mention that Jamie Demetriou looks spookily like my cousin, who lives on a narrow boat which boasts a compost toilet? I’d REALLY like to see Stath try and let that.