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 optional English subtitles are abbreviated, capturing the sense of the words, but not always their flavor.