Nathan Barley is a Channel 4 sitcom written by Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris, starring Nicholas Burns, Julian Barratt, Charlie Condou and Claire Keelan. The series of six weekly episodes began broadcasting on 11 February 2005 on Channel 4. Described by his creator as a “meaningless strutting cadaver-in-waiting”, the character originated on Brooker’s TVGoHome – a website parodying television listings – as the focus of a fly-on-the-wall documentary called Cunt.
Nathan Barley played by Nicholas Burns is a webmaster, guerrilla filmmaker, screenwriter, DJ and in his own words, a “self-facilitating media node”. He is convinced he is the epitome of urban cool, and therefore secretly terrified he might not be, which is why he reads Sugar Ape magazine, his bible of cool. Sugar Ape has been described as a spoof of Dazed & Confused and Vice, although Brooker has stated that “the SugarApe “Vice” issue from Ep5 wasn’t an assault on Vice magazine — I think it just (understandably) ended up looking that way”.
The website consists of stupid pranks caught on camera, photos of him with attractive women and famous figures (some of them digitally edited to insert himself), and photos of him standing on street corners in major cities around the world.
The humour derives from the rapid rise of both the Internet and digital television, and the assumption by publishers and broadcasters that almost any such work is worthy of attention. Barley and his peers are often hired ahead of actual journalists and talented writers trying to make intelligent points, such as the earnest documentary film maker Claire Ashcroft, and her brother Dan Ashcroft, a jaded, opinionated and apathetic hack who, having written an article for Sugar Ape entitled “The Rise of the Idiots”, is appalled to find that “the idiots” in question – Nathan and his contemporaries – have adopted him as their spiritual leader, failing to see that they are the very people he was criticising.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: