PhoneShop: Crave reviews Ricky Gervais' new job on the high street

PhoneShop premiered this week, a satirical insight into the high-street hierarchy of mobile phone salesfolk. Crave pinned on a namebadge, smiled our best customer service smile, and took a look

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
2 min read

It's 2009 and every other shop on the high street is a mobile phone shop. PhoneShop is a new sitcom set in one such emporium. Crave put down our iPhone long enough to review the pilot -- was it Puns4U or CrapPhone Warehouse?

PhoneShop's humour is more shop than phone, with the comedy coming from the small pleasures that get you through the retail day -- the humilation of the new boy, the wannabe assistant manager getting to look after the keys, the laddish salesmen's practiced routine for grabbing camera-phone snaps of customers' thongs. Sales tactics are also laughed up with lines such as, "Let's talk about what insurance package Jay-Z might have."

There are a few jokes for phone fans, including such throwaway gems as the "raspberry business plan". A great running gag sees the staff look down on PAYG: "Even if Kelly Brook comes in here looking for pay as you go, she's going home alone", while a graduate selling PAYG is "like getting Hugh Grant to sell caravans".

Much has been made of Ricky Gervais' involvement with the show. The Extras-style awkward moments feel forced though, with the manager's onanistic confession and the hazing of the new kid going on too long.

PhoneShop shares The Office's eye for workplace detail, but favours broadly drawn caricatures over real characters. As our nominal hero Christopher, freshly graduated from his MA and mired in the desperation of the one-day trial, Tom Bennett is too limp to root for. The show is dominated instead by Ashley (Andrew Brooke) and Jerwayne (Javone Prince), two highly sexed sales machines.

The best bit of the episode is their discussion on the hierarchy of retail attractiveness: "Too many man are after them Zara-level girls... I'm talking about Claire's Accessories."

The only character to hint at more than caricature is the frustrated Janine (Emma Fryer), who'll hopefully be developed in the upcoming series. We'd also like to see more annoying and eccentric customers, who as all shop workers know, are never right.

PhoneShop has made its PAYG one-off debut, and gets a full-blown contract with a series on E4. It's no IT Crowd, but you have to give these things time. You can watch the pilot now on 4OD as part of the Comedy Showcase series. Other one-offs in the series include The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret starring Arrested Development's David Cross, The Amazing Dermot with Flight of the Conchords' Rhys Darby, and Pete v Life, about a man whose life is analysed by two sports commentators.