Big Boys – a stand-out slice of TV that has earnt a special place in my heart

LGBTQ+ Film and TV

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 wants. 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

Episode One: “Hello You”, and Episode Two: “I Wanna Take You to a Gay Bar!”

I remember my first week at University like it was yesterday despite it being twenty-six years ago. I was 19 when I started, 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, only to accept a clearing place at Leicester. But when I finally accepted, 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 most straightforward 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.

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.

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.


Episode Three: “Merry Sexmas”

As Perry Como sang, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” and 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 isn’t cutting it; he wants more and has turned to Grindr for help. Meanwhile, Danny struggles 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.

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.

Jack is about to learn a valuable lesson relating to the reality of the profile picture, face, and online stats 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.

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 discloses 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 laughter to heartbreak in a heartbeat. But even as the episode ends, one thing is clear, while we know Jack needs Danny, maybe Danny needs Jack even more.


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