Big Boys is showing on Channel 4 Thursdays at 10 pm. Our live episode blog is updated every Friday morning.
Jack, 19 (Dylan Llewellyn), is a dweeby, sheltered, closeted boy from Watford, trying to overcome grief after his dad’s passing and figure out what he actually wants in life. Meanwhile, Danny, 25 (Jon Pointing), is your typical loud and proud lads’ lad. Living in an ex-classroom shed on campus, the boys get thrown together by the enigmatic Jules (Katy Wix), the head of the SU who was once a student herself a decade ago and has just never, ever left.
They soon meet Corinne (Izuka Hoyle), a sharp, study-centric Scot who’s also learning to let her hair down and Yemi (Olisa Odele), the savvy fashion kid who, at 19, has already seen it all, done it all and begrudgingly guides this gang of misfits through Freshers and beyond. And so we follow their first year at Brent Uni as they explore, experiment and try to discover themselves, helping one another along the way. Narrated by comedian Jack Rooke, Big Boys is based on his award-winning live Edinburgh Fringe shows ‘Good Grief’, ‘Happy Hour’ and ‘Love Letters’.
Big Boys Episode Guide
Big Boys: Episode One “Hello You” and Episode Two, “I Wanna Take You to a Gay Bar!”
I remember my first week at University in Leicester like it was yesterday; of course, it was twenty-six years ago, and my memories may be clouded by the copious amounts of alcohol consumed while listening to Oasis. I was 19 when I started Uni, having taken a longer route into higher education via an additional year at college. Initially, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to Uni at all, having changed my mind constantly in the year leading up to my arrival on campus; in fact, I had turned down a place at Lancaster months before, only to accept a clearing place at Leicester. But here I was, the deal was done, and as I arrived on campus with my parents in tow, a world of new adventures awaited me.
In the opening episodes of Jack Rooke’s Big Boys, “Hello You” and “I Wanna Take You to a Gay Bar”, Thorpe captures all of the intense feelings and doubts I remember so vividly within a genuinely tender coming-of-age comedy that echoes the work of Jonathan Harvey and Laurie Nunn. Jack (Dylan Llewellyn) hasn’t had the easiest journey toward a new University life. He was due to go to Brent (just ten minutes down the road from his home in Watford) in 2011, but after his dad’s death at the young age of 56, he instead opted to stay at home for an extra year with his mum, Peggy (Camille Coduri). During that year, they would console one another as their neighbours delivered lasagna to their front door while they watched daytime TV, helping each other heal and grieve in the process.
READ MORE: BEAUTIFUL THING AT 25
However, one year after his dad’s passing, Jack is ready to greet the new and exciting world of Brent University, or is he? The trouble is while Jack wants to embrace a new life that includes his hidden sexuality and a need for friends, he also doesn’t want to leave his mum. This anxiety isn’t helped on his arrival on campus when a lifelong student and head of the Students Union, Jules (Katy Wix), explains that his room in the halls isn’t available due to a gas leak. Trying way too hard to keep the atmosphere light, Jules ushers Jack and his mum to an ex-classroom portacabin that will double as Jack’s room. But, at least Jack’s not alone as he meets Danny (Jon Pointing), a twenty-five-year-old student also forced into the portacabin by the mysterious gas leak.
Danny is the polar opposite of Jack, a lads lad who loves the girls, beer and a good party. But it’s also clear that Danny has a soft, sensitive nature and his own reasons for starting University late as he takes his anti-depressant medication (something I am sure we will explore later in this blog). It’s fair to say Jack isn’t keen on attending the first alcohol-fuelled night of Brent Fresher’s week.
However, Danny isn’t about to go on his own, and after Jack reads a letter left by his dad (a note that mistakenly commiserates him for not getting into Uni), he bites the bullet and heads out with Danny; and what a night it turns out to be for Jack, from potential first gay oral sex scuppered by a nose ring to telling Danny about his sexual orientation. As a result, Danny firmly takes Jack under his wing; his mission is simple, find this boy, another boy and let him take flight as a man.
READ MORE: HEARTSTOPPER
There is something so beautiful, sweet and tender in the relationship forged between Jack and Danny in the opening two episodes. Here Rook’s comedy doesn’t just unpick a series of stereotypes surrounding masculinity; he demolishes them with a comedic sledgehammer. The relationship between Jack and Danny echoes that of Otis and Eric in Sex Education but is firmly rooted in urban reality. Here Danny encourages Jack to join the LGBTQIA student group while escorting him to his first gay club night in London. There Jack re-acquaints himself with Yemi (Olisa Odele), with whom he had an unfortunate nose ring incident the night before. Yemi becomes a gay mentor for Jack, showing him the sites and introducing him to the drag queens and the formidable darkroom! Meanwhile, Danny meets the studious and vivacious Corinne (Izuka Hoyle).
Of course, things don’t quite go according to plan as Jack decides to drink some poppers rather than sniff them, and Danny struggles to wake up his sleepy cock while in bed with Corinne. But by the end of episode two, University life has truly begun for Jack and Danny, and a friendship has formed that is both sweet, tender and adventurous. I can’t wait to see where Rook’s story takes us next because this is one coming-of-age comedy that already has the word ‘classic’ written all over it.
Big Boys: Episode Three “Merry Sexmas”
As Perry Como once sang, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” The Brent students union is decked in tinsel, the Santa hats are out, and everyone is stressing about the coursework they need to complete. However, for Jack, the idea of a brief kiss under the mistletoe just isn’t cutting it; he wants more and has turned to Grindr for help. Meanwhile, Danny is struggling with his depression medication and its nasty side effect of a flaccid cock, no matter the excitement around him. As a result, Danny has become the king of cunnilingus on campus, but his tongue is well and truly tired, and none of the girls he meets even remember his name. To add insult to injury for Danny and Jack, it’s also sexual health week at University, with the effervescent Jules dishing out condoms by the dozen while uncomfortably trying to talk about STIs.
For Jack, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the wet and sticky sex tunnel when he gets a ping on his phone from a potential meet. The problem is Jack isn’t exactly sure of himself or his penis, so he asks Yemi for advice. Yemi is more than happy to act as Jack’s gay guru, instructing him on Grindr etiquette and safety while also telling Jack how to take the perfect cock selfie for potential punters, but as the date comes into view, it is Danny who acts as Jack’s wingman.
READ MORE: A SEXPLANATION
At this point, let me pause for a brief moment to talk about the modern Grindr date. Anyone who has ever signed up to Grindr knows one thing after just two minutes of perusing the profiles, Grindr is like a dark room where you know people are fumbling around with boners, but you are never quite sure of the face until you get up close. On Grindr, people often hide behind borrowed pictures, made-up body stats and more than a few lies. On average, the majority try desperately hard to get a catch before giving up and having a wank before falling asleep.
Jack is about to learn a valuable lesson relating to the profile picture, the real face, the online stats, and the reality as he turns up at a non-descript semi-detached house for his first slice of fun. Unfortunately for Jack, it’s clear the man is not only married to a cat-obsessed wife but also slightly desperate as he offers Jack a slush puppy and attempts to put on some B-movie porn. Thankfully Jack has a safe word he will text Danny (sitting outside) if things go wrong, and things do indeed go wrong as the ashes of the man’s grandmother act as a barrier to a quick escape.
READ MORE: LOVE, VICTOR: SEASON TWO BLOG
Following the nasty Grindr incident, Jack takes a break from the killer cruising app. Still, for Danny, his medication problems continue to cause him distress and lead him to meet with the college counsellor on the advice of Corinne. Unfortunately, the meeting is about as helpful as a chocolate kettle, as Danny is advised to talk to his GP about the medication and its unfortunate side effects. The Christmas break soon comes into view for all of our students, and it’s here where Rooke finally lets us peek into Danny’s home life with his gran, who is suffering from dementia. Here we find a taster of the stresses and strains Danny endures as a carer with little to no parental support. But this is even more heartbreaking when Danny’s loving and caring gran disclosures she can no longer cope at home.
The final scenes of episode three again remind us of Rooke’s beautiful screenplay as we bounce from laugh-out-loud comedy to heartbreak in a heartbeat. But even as the episode ends, one thing is clear, while we know Jack needs Danny, just maybe Danny needs Jack even more.
Big Boys: Episode Four “Dad I Did Drugs!”
It’s a new term at Brent University, and Christmas is a distant memory. Or is it? Christmas brought back feelings of loss for Jack as he reflected on the missing seat at the dinner table once held by his dad. Meanwhile, for Danny, Christmas brought a conversation he never wanted with his gran. However, Danny has also made a decision that could have far-reaching consequences as he stopped taking his medication due to the side effects. But, rather than talking about their inner troubles, the boys quickly settle back into University life as they attempt to lift their grades (with Danny yet to submit any course work, while Jack dreams of his lecturer in skimpy underwear).
Sometimes we all need an escape route, a night of fun as we attempt to forget our troubles, and that is exactly what Danny has planned. After all, his cock is fully engaged now he is off the meds, and the local student union dealer has some cracking drug deals on offer. What could possibly go wrong? The answer is, of course, plenty! We have all had those nights where events spiral out of control due to copious amounts of alcohol or other substances.
These nights are usually the result of a need to escape the pent-up emotions and pressures of our world. It’s fair to say I had my fair share of these nights during my late teens and twenties, from a cider festival at University, where I ended up unable to walk, the smell of apples invading my nostrils for days after, to random mid-morning visits to the pub that turned into an entire alcohol-fuelled day. As Danny whips up some cannabis cakes in the kitchen, it’s clear this day will be one Danny, Jack and Corinne probably never remember with any certainty.
READ MORE: SWAN SONG
As the group gets increasingly stoned, followed by a night of alcohol-fueled partying, everything seems fine; Jack even has a drug-induced conversation with his late dad in the bar. But the following day, reality dawns as Danny wakes up in bed with a girl only to find he has shit himself, while Jack wakes up next to Corinne with a headache the size of Mount Etna. But to make the situation even worse, Jack’s mum is just minutes away from arriving for a visit. Meanwhile, Danny desperately strips the girl’s bed while she is comatose, taking the sheets with him as he leaves, having suffered the ultimate bodily humiliation.
As the day wears on, Jack’s mum believes Corinne is his girlfriend, while Danny quietly arrives home after his escape. But when Jack finds Danny sitting quietly on his bed, the truth finally comes out; Danny is struggling, and Jack is the only person he trusts to listen without judgement. Yesterday was Danny’s birthday, but no one knew, as Danny struggled to find a way to escape the day through drugs and booze. After all, this was the first year his gran (now in care) had forgotten due to her dementia – the only person who ever remembered his birthday, now lost. But as the boys open up in the safety of each other’s company, a cake waits back at their pad. One person did remember Danny’s birthday; the warm-hearted Jules.
Big Boys: Episode 5 “What A Bummer” and Episode 6 “The Letter”
As we join the final two episodes of Jack Rooke’s sublime slice of TV comedy, Jack has decided to embrace the world of Grindr fully, and he isn’t doing badly despite his nerves around anal sex. But the big A word is never far away from his sexual encounters, so he enlists Yemi as a guide to the sexual world of the posterior. However, in Jack’s mind, this involves Yemi breaking him in, whereas, in Yemi’s mind, it consists of a selection of butt plugs for Jack to try. Meanwhile, Danny spends all of his time in his bedroom as Jack experiments, while Corinne attempts to act as a bridge between them both.
Sometimes new worlds, excitement and experimentation see us distance ourselves from our friends. We have all done it, even more so when we are young. We become so wrapped up in our life that we forget to engage with the very people who make our world whole. Over the years, I have lost many friends who found partners and ditched their mates or moved to a new city and didn’t bother checking up on all those they left in the old one; hell, I’ve even done it myself! We tend to forget that not everyone is having as much fun as we are, and some may desperately need us to say hello. Danny desperately needs Jack, but Jack is busy playing with his new butt plugs. But help is on the way as Corinne steps in and suggests they visit Danny.
READ MORE: IT’S A SIN
As they arrive at Danny’s door, he puts on a brave face, laughing and joking. But his room tells a different story, and it’s not long before Danny breaks down in tears. His medication is still a significant problem, and his life feels like it’s spinning violently out of control as he sinks further and further into himself. Here Rook’s writing is nothing short of exquisite in its insight, power and tenderness as the confident lad’s lad crumbles away to uncover the scared boy under the surface. But at least Danny has Jack and Corinne, who attempt to get him back on track with the love and compassion only found in friends who care. But as the summer break nears, Danny’s problems will only increase as he is told he failed year one of University while his nan’s dementia worsens back in Margate.
Good friends are hard to come by; they stick with us no matter what and support us through some of our darkest times. Throughout our lives, we have many acquaintances but few good friends. As the final episode comes into view, friendship, love, and support take centre stage as Danny hits a crisis point.
READ MORE: A NIGHT IN THE FIELDS
To say this episode hits you like a brick is an understatement; it’s some of the most beautiful TV writing I have seen in the past five years. Suddenly the comedy takes a back seat as Jack comes to Danny’s rescue when he needs him the most. But as Danny joins Jack and his mum for the summer, his arrival acts as the spark Jack needs to come out to his mum, just as it was Danny who provided Jack with the confidence to come out at University. Here, both boys rely on each other in a beautiful symbiotic relationship of growth and support.
As Big Boys comes to a close, it leaves the door open for more, and I, for one, hope Rooke returns to these characters and gives us a second term soon. The emotional, tender and loving finale is sublime on every level and deserves the highest praise in its discussions on mental health, sexuality, friendship and belonging. Here Big Boys achieves something very few comedies manage as it laces its sublime coming-of-age drama with laugh-out-loud comedy, taking you from tears to giggles and back again. Is Rooke’s Big Boys one of this year’s stand-out TV shows? You bet your arse it is! This is a BAFTA award-winning slice of TV that has earnt a special place in my heart.
READ MORE: THREE MONTHS
Big Boys achieves something very few comedies manage as it laces its sublime coming of age drama with laugh out loud comedy, taking you from tears to giggles and back again. Is Rooke’s Big Boys one of this year’s stand out TV shows? You bet your arse it is!