Idris Elba recently declared his desire to be like Donald Glover, who’s been gripping triple-threat status in the film, TV, and music realms. Elba’s doing pretty damn well in the first two categories, but he mucks up his TV run while also mixing it up with the music side in Turn Up Charlie, where the not-James Bond actor reminds us that, yes, he’s a real-life DJ on the side. Elba acts as co-creator in this series, which claims to be a comedy about a struggling, down-on-his-luck artist who takes a nightmare gig while aiming for stardom.
It doesn’t sound awful. In fact, it actually sounds quite watchable, if only DJ Charlie engaged in embarrassing shenanigans to properly showcase Elba’s comedic timing. Unfortunately, this series really contains two mismatched shows that cannibalize each other and take down the whole ship. The first show focuses on a turntable master who plays lame wedding gigs and exchanges regular blows with his best friend, Del (Guz Khan), and his overbearing aunt Lydia (Jocelyn Jee Esien). Those three enjoy a great deal of chemistry together and antagonize each other well in a relatable way. The second show, however, is the one that vastly outweighs the other in terms of screentime and characters who are difficult to care about. That would be the “manny” angle that saddles Elba with a nightmare child who can’t wait to ruin his life.
Let’s talk about the pluses here:
1. Idris Elba is Charlie.
2. The wine stain on Charlie’s shirt at his first DJ gig speaks to me.
3. The man can really dance.
4. His best friend and aunt are genuinely funny.
5. This would have made a great SNL skit, and blammo, done.
Then there are the minuses:
1. Idris Elba as Charlie is wasted.
2. There’s sadly not much DJ-ing going on.
3. Most of the characters, including the wise-beyond-her-years kid, fail to connect with the audience or give us a reason to care about their plight.
4. His best friend and aunt barely appear.
5. The 8 episodes are mostly full of filler.