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Thursday, 26 September 2019

REVIEW: Why we need more Stath Lets Flats!

In its second series, which came to an end on Monday night, Stath Lets Flats has gone from strength to strength and built up a devoted fanbase along the way. It would be a huge shame if Channel 4 doesn’t order any more.

Jamie Demetriou leaves no comedic stone unturned as inept Greek-Cypriot lettings agent Stath, from screamingly funny slapstick – a moment where he tries to exit a car while still wearing his seatbelt has to be seen to be believed – to absurd turns of phrase that make you want to immediately rewind and hear them again. Stath has a very particular way with language, whether he’s mangling English expressions (“I peg your garden”), formulating his own (“This floor is made of slips!”), or just generally talking nonsense. The first few minutes of series 2 featured him showing someone the inside of a kitchen cupboard with the words “like the windows opening, and outside… it’s all bowls baby.” Demetriou has said that one influence he had when writing the show was the sort of reality TV in which “when someone’s talking crap there’s no one to call them out, because they’re all talking crap.” Thus with co-workers like Carole (Katy Wix) and Julian (Dustin Demri-Burns) around, who look and act like they’ve stepped out of different eras of The Apprentice, Stath is far from the only one spouting gibberish.

Demetriou may be the star, but Stath Lets Flats is a proper ensemble comedy. And like in the ensemble comedies of Michael Schur, such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Parks & Recreation, a lot of warm humour comes out of the relationships between the characters. Sitcom siblings are often seen squabbling or competing against each other, but Stath and Sophie, played by Jamie’s real-life sister Natasia Demetriou, have a refreshingly loving relationship. Sophie initially had ambitions of being a dancer, before moving onto singing – she can’t do either, but there’s something quite adorable about Stath genuinely believing she has talent and always being the first to offer her encouragement.

Stath has a similarly tender dynamic with his father Vasos (Christos Stergioglou), who loves his “large boy” but is aware of his incompetence, at one point advising him “maybe don’t try to do anything ever… it’s nice sometimes to do nothing.” Greek community newspaper Neos Kosmos has even dubbed it ‘one of the most sensitive and affectionate portrayals of the migrant-parent relationship ever conceived for screen’ – not bad for a show so silly it features a slow-mo sequence of a man repeatedly putting his head in his hands!


On the topic of unexpected relationships, it’s also rather sweet (not to mention very funny) that Stath and Sophie truly think that tragic Al – who commutes from Birmingham to London every day, and is sleeping on the wooden planks of his bed frame since his girlfriend left and took the mattress – is the greatest man in the world. When the idea of Stath and Al moving in together is floated, Stath says that he would “wake up every morning and scream from delight”, and Al looks suitably puzzled.

 Stath may be an imbecile, but there’s a childlike naivety to him which feels more pronounced in series 2 and he’s all the more likeable for it. Much like Michael Scott in the US version of The Office, Stath has the ability to make you want to reach through the screen to sometimes throttle him and at other times give him a hug. When Carole tells him to stop clicking his fingers as she gives him a rare compliment in series 2’s fourth episode (she has previously called him “a shame on legs” and “actual hell”) and he responds with a sheepish “you made me feel good”, it’s difficult not to feel charmed.

There were some great new additions to the cast in series 2, including the employees of American Let’s (apostrophe and all), which is somehow an even more terrible lettings agency than Michael & Eagle. Kayode Ewumi was introduced as Bits, taking Stath and Al on a chaotic tour of the worst property imaginable (“no doors, just ropes”), while David Mumeni was almost unrecognisable as painfully dim Cem – a character so low-status that he thinks Stath is cool and Sophie is “quite posh”. And of course, before he’s even got to know him, he thinks that Al looks like “one sick guy”.

Series 2 also raised the stakes due to Julian being put in charge of the agency and, in Stath’s words, “mimbling around the office like he’s better than life’s bread”. His misguided efforts to improve things involved making a ridiculous advert and getting rid of all the furniture (“you should go inside, there’s nothing” Sophie tells passersby) before coming to the conclusion that it’s “the Greek people” that are the problem. Another wise move was giving Kiell Smith-Bynoe more to do this time round as the permanently disgruntled Dean, with Julian deciding that he’s his new best friend and “the cheekiest legend in the office” (he is definitely neither), as well as Ellie White as Sophie’s sullen Eastern European friend Katia. She confidently wins the award for most impactful exit of the series by responding to Sophie’s “where are you running?” with a dramatic “to my grave!”

Fiercely unique and endlessly quotable (from now on, I intend to refer to being a third wheel as being “a spare boy on my own chips”), Stath Lets Flats is one of the most joyous comedies currently on TV. If we were living in a pre-streaming world, I have no doubt that it would be as big as Partridge. As it stands, there is just so much TV nowadays that it’s unlikely to go beyond cult status, so here’s hoping this isn’t the last we’ll see of Michael & Eagle Lettings.

Contributed by Sophie Davies

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