3. Hurricane George
The script for this week’s episode of Campus must have had a post-it marked “character growth” stuck to the front. By the end of Hurricane George, Matt’s sleaziness turned out to be nothing more than a mask disguising his soft, gooey middle, while Lydia’s adamantine-coated, shit-off attitude to the rest of the human race had cracked enough for her to socialise. Granted, her birthday drinks were more like a heavily guarded prison outing than a social event, but this was verging on worryingly normal behaviour.
Reluctantly, I do accept that characters have to develop to keep an audience interested, but am I so wrong for preferring the Campus lot as straightforward monsters? Now it turns out Matt’s got a heart, are we going to have to sit through him gazing at Imogen all Mr Darcy-like and making Hugh Grant declarations of love from behind that floppy fringe? Let’s hope not. Campus‘ mean streak is one of the best things about it, so to lose it would be a crying shame.
Still, there’s no real shortage of monstrosity and strangeness at the heart of the show. This week sees Lydia approach her birthday celebrations with shameless aplomb, only just stopping short of using an actual whip to conduct her own birthday whip-round. Dolly Wells stays on what is, for me, the right side of hideousness as strange loner Tennant, who, if she weren’t such a confident prick, would be a pretty sad creation. Her more sympathetic moments (singing Happy Birthday to herself and planting her own surprise birthday cake) are balanced by an excellent line in egomania and sweary insults.
Speaking of egomaniacs, Jonty de Wolfe is still cocking about the place with a Chelsea bun for a haircut. Andy Nyman has to carry an awful lot of screen time with the character, whose best moments are still the weird, unexplained ones. Asking his secretary to bury a gun with which he’d just shot a student “along with the race horse and so on”, having a tiny owl perched on his head, and successfully toasting a crumpet on the virtual flames of his screensaver were all good fun. His exchanges with Canadian restructuring guru, Georgina Bryan, less so.
I’m unsure who’s at fault for Katherine Ryan’s role as a business demon in a red dress falling flat. As a stand-up, she’s much funnier than the role she’s been given here, which had little in the way of comedy going for it. Up against the silver-tongued Joseph Millson as Matt, her timing felt out and her lines gave her very little to work with. She’ll be sticking around for the remaining three episodes, so fingers crossed things move on for her.
Two characters who haven’t moved on in any perceptible way are Flatpack and Imogen, whose courtship is building slowly. Oblivious to her growing interest in Matt, wonder puppy Flatpack is bounding energetically around Imogen, hoping to win her heart, experiencing just the briefest of reservations about dating an older woman and whether or not he’d have to, ahem, gob up it.
Flatpack’s fast becoming an unexpected Campus favourite for me. Played like a wide-eyed golden retriever by Jonathan Bailey, the character’s enthusiastic incomprehension and aerobic workouts make for charming stuff. Flatpack highlights this week include him pulling a skateboarding Matt husky-like around the quad and failing to grasp Imogen’s use of the word wizened. He makes me want to put an old jumper in a cardboard box so he can curl up in it next to my chair, as long as that doesn’t sound at all creepy. Really? Oh, okay, then. Ignore the jumper thing.
Jason and Nicole’s office flirtation has also stepped up a pace, with Jason experiencing the involuntary erections to prove it. Discovering the existence of his previously unmentioned girlfriend Cecilia, Nicole takes the logical step of coming out as almost ninety-four percent gay to throw her off the scent. I really like Sara Pascoe as Nicole, and these two share some good moments.
Whatever its flaws, Campus remains funny and inventive with some stand-out great moments. It’s a considerably better use of an hour of terrestrial channel time than another Come Dine With Me repeat or body shock doc. Nicely done, Channel 4. A few more like this, please.
Read our review of episode 2, The Culling Fields, here.
Campus airs on Tuesdays at 10pm on Channel 4.