Fast food restaurants have often been used in comedies. There have been episodes of The Simpsons, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, My Name Is Earl, Shameless and others where the characters have to work in one, but it’s rare there’s been a sitcom to have one as its main setting. Here we have one in Fried, a sitcom on BBC Three.
There was a pilot episode last year before this full series. There were a couple of changes to the casting. In the pilot Derek was played by Simon Greenall and Shontal was played by Llwella Gideon.
It centres on Seriously Fried Chicken, a cheap rip-off fast food place in Croydon. As one of the employees Amara puts it, Seriously Fried Chicken is like “The weird, fat mutant cousin of KFC”.
The staff have shifts ranging from early morning to late at night. The “morning rush” is a tramp coming in and pissing on the floor. Then there’s “Drunk o clock”, that is pub closing time, when drunks come in like zombies.
They find stuff like a trainer covered in batter, and at one time had a mouse that they named Vinny, plus two rats, which the store manager doesn’t think counts as an infestation.
Speaking of the store manager, she is called Mary Fawn (Katy Wix) and is hopelessly out her depth, with an equally disastrous personal life after her boyfriend Gareth left her. In ‘The Second Coming’ she tries to set up a date with a customer by getting his contact details after him doing survey, and the guy goes as far to pretend he’s died so she won’t call again. She’s prone to terrible portmanteaus like “frygiene” (fried chicken hygiene) and “frolleague” (friend + colleague) and has been known to accidently deep fry her phone. She has an ‘egg system” in how she rates her staff, on whether the staff are “good eggs – I’ll egg you on” or “bad eggs – egg on you”. It’s completely arbitrary and also completely useless.
Then there’s Derek Wom (Matthew Cottle), the camp, sneaky, middle-aged deputy manager, who has got that position more because of long service than merit, he has “worked here since it were a Wimpy”. He keeps reporting Mary to Head Office as he wants her to be sacked so he can get her job. He used to have a band called the Wom Trick Ponies. But nowadays the rest of band is either wanting to spend time with their grandkids, on dialysis or dead.
Ed (Imran Yusaf) is the mascot and dresses up in a chicken costume handing out flyers. He’s a bit of a nutter, to put it mildly. He carries a bag of his own pubes around, and constantly gives fellow colleague Joe unwanted and terrible dating advice. One including delivering a Big Sausage Pizza with meat balls, which is putting your privates in a pizza box. Ed believes his chicken costume makes him a babe magnet. “Girls look at me and they think ”massive cock”. Which they likely do, but not in the way he thinks.
There are three people frying the food and serving the customers.
Amara (Mandeep Dhillon) really couldn’t care less about her job, and doesn’t even bother trying to hide it. She’s usually texting on her phone. She didn’t even want the job in the first place, she tried to make sure she wouldn’t get hired in the interview, but got it because Seriously Fried Chicken will hire pretty much anyone. She somehow manages to make chicken nuggets that are burned on the outside and raw on the inside.
The very grumpy and no-nonsense Shontal (Lorna Gayle) isn’t the type to say “have a nice day” to customers, more likely she’ll say “shut your face”. Even when she delivers compliments, there is a sting. She tells Mary she’s the best boss she’s ever had… because Shontal turns up late and goes home early and Mary never has the guts to tell her off. She tells Joe she likes him, because she knows at least there’s someone who’s even more of a loser than her “dickhead son”.
Joe (William Melling) is the most sympathetic character. He’s quite sweet, geeky and nervous with an unrequited crush on Amara, who just sees him as a friend. He gets put through a lot while working at Seriously Fried Chicken, being held up with a knife three times in ‘Hold Up’, gets coins thrown out him from performing outside to advertise the shop in ‘Poulet Etc’, and getting a nosebleed from a ball to the nose with ‘In The Beginning’. His catchphrase is “I really need to get a new job”. He generally means well though, going out of his way to help Amara and Mary keep their jobs on separate occasions.
Also occasionally appearing is the emotionless regional manager Clive Bagshawe (Jonathan Watson).
The first episode ‘Carlos From Spain’ is funny, and introduces the shop and characters well, they all get a moment to show themselves. It’s main storyline is Mary finding out someone has been sending complaints about her to Head Office, so she goes undercover disguised as a Spanish man named Carlos. It fools absolutely nobody except Derek, which luckily for Mary is the one who is sending complaints about her. Meanwhile Ed meets a girl in a crocodile costume and wonders if they’d end up having half-chicken, half-crocodile babies with feathers and big teeth. (So a bit like velociraptors really!)
‘Hold Up’ the second episode is a remake of last year’s pilot. It’s the weakest episode, which perhaps is a good thing, as it shows that things have improved since the pilot. In that the Seriously Fried Chicken store gets robbed by a thug, though he wants chicken nuggets rather than money. Joe has to deal with it while Mary locks herself in the freezer. As Shontal puts it when Mary calls a meeting the next day, “What you giving us advice for? You ran and hid in the damn freezer. We nearly had to defrost your cowardly arse”. Mary then arranges a fake robbery so she gain respect from her staff (it doesn’t go well) while Derek keeps sending gifts to Clive Bagshawe hoping he’ll be given Mary’s job.
‘Poulet Etc’ sees a rival chicken shop park a van just outside Seriously Fried Chicken, taking away all their customers. Poulet Etc is a lot classier and the food is tastier. Ed gets a free cap from going there after eating 20 of their burgers in just three days.
One of the workers there, JoJo (Erin Armstrong) starts to go out with Joe. She’s pretty, and seems smiley and sweet natured at first, and Joe thinks it’s too good to be true… which of course, it turns out to be. JoJo steals money from another customer’s purse to pay for a dinner she and Joe are having, also steals from her own work till, yells at a poster of Ben Fogle, threatens Amara and smashes Joe’s guitar. Going out with JoJo does make Amara temporarily attracted to Joe however.
Mary ultimately decides to burn down the Poulet Etc. van. She’d had a rivalry with the manager Margot (Katrina Bryan) throughout the episode. Margot tells her she got a big insurance payout, so they could buy a new store in a permanent location in a better area, before being picked up by her doctor husband in a convertible to take her on a spa weekend.
In episode 4 ‘The Second Coming’ Ed finds a chicken nugget with a face that looks like Jesus. He found it under the bin and had already been there a while. He displays it as “Chicken Jesus” in the restaurant for a few days charging 5 quid for people to worship it. Nobody pays for it though, so he puts the now mouldy chicken nugget back in the deep fat fryer!
Amara and Joe’s arc goes through a well worn path. It’s a standard “dorky boy fancies cool, pretty girl” story which we’ve all probably seen at some point. Amara wants to date a busker, seeing him as rebellious bad boy who her dad will hate. Joe is in the friendzone, but he loves Amara and wants her to be happy even if it’s with someone else and tells her this, saying he’d like to still be friends. But his timing couldn’t be worse. Immediately after saying that, Amara finds out the busker is quite respectable and from a well off family, so Amara dumps him!
Episode 5 ‘The Chicken Awards’, deals with the Seriously Fried Chicken Awards, with Mary hoping to win the Most Improved Restaurant Award. At the ceremony there are a lot of boring speeches, and we meet Mary’s often mentioned ex Gareth (James Bachman) for the first time. He is there because, as he puts, there has been a merger between Seriously Fried Chicken and the company he works for, but what he really means is that the stationary shop he’s working for is doing the printing. Gareth is incredibly smug and likes laughing at his own awful jokes, but Mary is still desperate to get back with him. Ed suggests that she makes Gareth jealous by getting off with Clive Bagshawe. However it turns out Clive is gay, and is seeing Gareth! This revelation wasn’t much of a shock, it was heavily signposted with Mary mentioning Gareth liked her to dress up as a man and that he “always admired” Clive. Gareth mean-spiritedly then tells Mary he’s grateful he was with her and not someone “younger, more attractive, more intelligent”, as he might not have come out as quickly. “You’re mediocrity gave me wings”. Mary knees him in the knackers, just as it’s announced they’ve won the Most Improved Restaurant. By this point she is hopelessly drunk and while accepting the award the bitterness at devoting her life to work spills out of her mouth… along with vomit.
Meanwhile Joe and Amara are locked in a freezer by Ed who then closes and locks the shop, hoping they will get together. They huddle together for warmth. Amara laments at how badly guys treat her, and Joe tells her he doesn’t understand why any guy who is with Amara would cheat on her. “That’s sweet Joe.” Amara replies. “What’s less sweet is you getting a boner while you’re hugging me”. Joe thinks Amira smells like apples, but it actually is apples. Why on earth Mary would be keeping apples in a freezer is one thing, it turns out that Mary was trying it out as a side dish in an attempt to win an award. It also blocked the emergency door release.
Worried at how long they’ll be stuck in the freezer, (Amara says she keeps thinking of everything she hasn’t done yet “Like that nail appointment I had at the weekend”) they open up to each other and we find out both of them are virgins. They kiss, but it doesn’t go much further as Ed lets them out of the freezer. Amara tells Joe she loves him…. as a friend. Mary is back from the awards and she and Joe share a bottle of tequila… and the next day Joe wakes up in Mary’s bed, having slept with her 3 times last night!
‘The Chicken Awards’ advances a few storylines and there are a lot of revelations, so it’s odd that it is the end of the series in a way. There is an episode after that, but strangely it is a flashback titled ‘In The Beginning’, before Mary got the job.
It opens with a Star Wars style intro. The former manager Tony is a drug addict who pisses in the deep fat fryer, shits in a burger bap and drops condoms in the food, so he got sacked. Mary was sent as a temporary replacement, so Derek began sucking up to her in hope she’d recommend him for the manager’s job, even though he hates her pretty much from the off.
After Amara finds out her current boyfriend is cheating on her, Ed advises Joe to be Amara’s shoulder to cry on and then she might go with him soon after. Then when Joe sees Amara has a text from the boyfriend asking for another chance, Ed advises Joe to delete it.
All of this comes out when Mary holds a team building session…. at 1 in the morning after the shop is closed. Mary becomes upset at what a disaster her attempt at being a manager has become, so Joe, feeling sorry for her, decides to get everyone to make sure they give excellent customer service the next day, resulting in this branch of Seriously Fried Chicken getting no complaints for the first time ever. Amara likes that Joe tried to help Mary, and forgives him for deleting the text, but says she doesn’t want to go out with him as he isn’t her type.
Mary goes back to Head Office to be informed that the HR department runs better without her, and she’s doing so well at the chicken shop Clive wants her to stay on as the permanent manager. “This isn’t a demotion. It’s just a lower ranking job which you’ll be paid less”. The big question with this episode is, why wasn’t this the first one? It’s decent enough, but it doesn’t really reveal anything we didn’t already know. If they repeat this series, I think they should put this one at the beginning rather than the end.
I quite like Fried. It is a bit predictable and clichéd, but it is quite funny and easy to watch, and it has a good cast. The sitcom it reminds me most of is Channel 4’s Phone Shop, which also dealt with a shop in a town centre high street. It’s not known if Fried will continue with the future of BBC Three itself being uncertain at the moment, but it would be nice if there was a second series.