People Like Us was a deadpan mockumentary series that ran for twelve episodes on British television from September 1999 to June 2000. Though only the first six episodes have been released on DVD in Great Britain, the entire series is now available in North America from BBC Warner.
People Like Us spoofs the staid social documentaries about ordinary people for which the BBC is notorious. Fictional BBC interviewer Ray Mallard (Chris Langham) and crew follow "people like us" from all walks of life through an ordinary work day. Mallard's subjects, played by a diverse group of actors in cameo roles, include the manager of a small business, a realtor, a police officer, an attorney, a photographer, a school principal, a minister, a stay-at-home mother, a journalist, an actor, a bank manager, and an airline pilot.
In his own mind, Mallard is an urbane and well-educated man of exceptional character turning out a superbly edifying program for his viewers. That his subjects see him as a creep, psychotic or incompetent escapes his notice. Always off camera, Mallard intends to present a fly-on-the-wall observational portrait of his subjects, but his inept and insensitive questioning, physical bungling, and subtly nonsensical narration subvert every episode. Far more understated than the comedy of The Office or Christopher Guest's mockumentaries, People Like Us is stiffly deadpan to the point of almost passing for incompetent but earnest documentary television.
For example, in the episode "The Photographer" it appears to only slowly dawn on Mallard that the photographer he's following is not a talented up-and-comer who boldly tossed off a stable job and marriage for his art, but instead a self-deluded incompetent on the verge of meltdown, and Mallard seemingly does his utmost to put a good face of a bad situation. And, in "Head Teacher" can Mallard be blamed that the trendy, liberal, academic jargon of the public school staff about "student-centered learning" turns out to be vapid blathering?
Much as Chris Langham's performance must inevitably be modeled on interviewers he'd known at the BBC, many of the episode details are inevitably drawn from the personal experiences of series writer/director John Morton (Broken News) who at age 34 left a career as a public school teacher to pursue scriptwriting. How fortunate for him and us that he didn't turn out like his poor characters.
The entire run of twelve half-hour episodes are included on two discs housed in a single standard-sized DVD case.
People Like Us: The Complete Series is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1 aspect ratio), however the interlaced image suffers from noticeable aliasing.
The optional English subtitles are abbreviated, capturing the sense of the words, but not always their flavor.
The 2.0 DD audio mix is acceptable for a ten-year-old television comedy. Although there's no dynamism to the mix, the dialogue is clear.
Other than some trailers for BBC America and other BBC Warner releases that play upon start-up, there are no extras on this release.
If you like your humor extremely dry and you appreciate the mockumentary sub-genre, People Like Us is worth checking out. Not available in its entirety in Great Britain, the North American release of the complete series is recommended despite its sub-optimal image quality and lack of extras.