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Thursday, 28 March 2019

REVIEW: Dead Pixels generates comedy from the highs & lows of gaming

As if there wasn’t enough good comedy on British television at the moment, with This Time, Fleabag, Derry Girls, Home and Timewasters currently on the air, Dead Pixels has now arrived to win laughs from the world of gaming.


Created by Jon Brown, who also created Loaded and has written for shows including Peep Show and Fresh Meat, his latest offering is about a group of friends whose lives revolve around an MMORPG (‘massively multiplayer online role-playing game’ for the uninitiated) called Kingdom Scrolls. In the first episode of the series, the group suffer a huge setback in their beloved game and are thrown into disarray by the arrival of a new player.

A key strength of Dead Pixels, which makes it feel quite refreshing, is that it’s clearly created by someone with a good understanding of games, and doesn’t lapse into a mean-spirited portrayal of gamers as basement dwelling losers who can’t function in the real world. From Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty to The Sims and Candy Crush, gaming is no longer a niche interest, and many of us can now identify with the feeling of being so addicted to a game that it starts to have an impact on our lives.


We immediately get an idea of just how much of a hold Kingdom Scrolls has over its players as the series begins with Meg (Alexa Davies) abandoning a date when she gets an urgent call from Nicky (Will Merrick) that their castle is under attack. She’s aware that it’s a ridiculous thing to do, and at first decides to stay on the date, but she just can’t stop thinking about all of the gold and weapons she’s losing in the fictional world. As well as playing at home, Meg and Nicky spend pretty much all day at work talking to each other via headsets and sneakily logging onto the game whenever people can’t see their computer screens.

The third member of their Kingdom Scrolls clan is Usman (Sargon Yelda). We don’t get to learn as much about him in the opening episode, other than that he’s American and older than the other two, with a wife and kids whom he’s all too happy to neglect while gaming. There’s also Meg’s non-gaming friend Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), who’s politely perplexed by her obsession. But as a ‘proper adult’ who eats salad for dinner and spends her spare time learning to play the flute, Alison’s life choices are equally baffling to Meg.


Aside from introducing us to the characters, episode 1 sees Meg invite Russell (David Mumeni), a new co-worker she fancies, to join the game. While the experienced gamers are performing tedious tasks to win back gold, hot but dim Russell is building towers of cows and spending his real-life cash on dragons and crowns. Nicky sneers: “Look at him, running around enjoying it… What is this, an arcade game?”

In addition to being created by a Peep Show writer, Dead Pixels is executive produced by Peep Show creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong, and some of its dialogue certainly wouldn’t feel out of place in the seminal sitcom. Especially lines from the rather cynical Nicky, at one point asking Meg: “You’ve got a date? Like an American woman, in an American film? Like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got An Email?” The whole cast deliver good performances, but Alexa Davies stands out in particular. Having already appeared in comedies like Raised by Wolves and Detectorists, as well as playing a young Julie Walters in the Mamma Mia sequel, she is a great comedic performer and ensures that foul-mouthed Meg is a laugh-riot.

Contributed by Sophie Davies

Dead Pixels Continues Thursday at 9.30pm on E4 
The Entire Boxset is available to watch on All4

1 comment:

scottishwildcat said...

“Doesn’t lapse into a mean-spirited portrayal of gamers as basement dwelling losers who can’t function in the real world”? Really? That’s *exactly* how they’re portrayed, right from the start. Still funny, though.

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