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Monday, 2 April 2018

REVIEW: Kiss Me First: Channel 4's new 'drama' takes itself too seriously.


Based on Lottie Moggach’s 2013 novel of the same name and written Skins co-creator Bryan Elsley, the first episode of Kiss Me First plays out like a lethargic music video more than a scripted drama. For the most part, a piano tinkles repetitively as the gist of the arc slowly unfolds. We are introduced to Leila (Tallulah Haddon), a shy, troubled teenager who has recently lost her mother (to the grim reaper, not just down the back of the sofa) and escapes her problems by entering a virtual world of robotic voice acting and garish colours. Known as Shadowfax we see her in the happy side, play fighting with a friend until she follows a woman who seems to have a habit of staring at her from the woodlands. That'd get people arrested in the real world. We discover this is Tess (Simona Brown) who, even more creepily tracks her down in real life and invites her to a club. As you do. There's lots of sexuality and trouble emanating from Tess's real form and her avatar guise too. 


Leila soon stumbles on a place called which is a paradise land on the beyond the known virtual world: She meets a motley crew of discombobulated voices and the computerised interactions between the group have all the expression and personality of a conversation on Made In Chelsea. Tess's avatar name is Mania so take cover as one of many big crashing waves of metaphorical obviousness crash in. The rest of the group are Calumny, Force, Jocasta, Denier, Tippi, Laa-Laa and Po. the last two might be made up. It seems Red Pill is run by someone called Adrian but here's betting the reveal will be Charlie Brooker laughing maniacally as we discover it was him purposefully sabotaging Brian Elsley's script all along. 

By referencing The Matrix with Red Pill, even referring to it via a Wikipedia page, it strangely dates itself. In a world where movies were doing this twenty years ago and Black Mirror is currently setting the benchmark for bleak, technology inspired dystopia, Kiss Me First is willfully pitting itself against proven classics it will be difficult to emulate. As if that wasn't enough, the themes at play here are being covered this very week in a big Hollywood film by some guy called Steven Speilberg (Ready Player One). So with these three comparisons, it seems to be behind the times, not as well written and outclassed in budgetary terms all at once.

However, the thing that made the forty five minutes drag most was the show's stubborn desire to take itself way too seriously. The only glimmer of humour comes from Jonty (Mathew Aubrey), Leila's new pant flashing flatmate. More screen time for him will be a blessing and hopefully he'll end up in the virtual world and liven things up there. All in all, first impressions aren't promising. We are told two key things about Red Pill. The first being "You can feel pain" and if that's not going to be the ultimate metaphor for the series then spank us and call us Tyler Durden. The second is that "what's inside you, what you're hiding, it will come out" and we're presuming they're not talking about last night's Shepherd's pie.


Teen issues are hinted at with one of the Red Pillians (go with it, yeah) having an abusive father in his real life and it's obvious Tess is going to have her issues too. Hopefully there will be focus on each of the characters and that may expand this restricted world a little. A virtual reality needs to be exciting and provocative and we are told nothing of what this world entails other than some people hang out there. Real life, even with its rubbish weather and bloody G-tech AirRam adverts is more appealing than this.


Kiss Me First Continues Monday at 10.00pm on Channel 4

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