Created by Benjamin Kuffuor & Levi David Addai
When I saw E4 advertise their latest teen drama I would be lying if I said I wasn’t hesitant. Creating a believable teen drama is extremely difficult and if you haven’t got gross out comedy as seen in The Inbetweeners or a renowned reputation seen with Skins it will prove difficult to achieve anything above average. With Youngers being a pre-watershed fixture I was slowly losing confidence in a series which could prove fruitful and inspiring for the youths of today. However, I gave the series a go and I am glad to say it was extremely impressive, with many debut/unknown actors and using the urban city surroundings of London, the series captured me from beginning to end and creators Benjamin Kuffuor and Levi David Addai produced a bold and engaging 8 part series that they should be proud of.
The story follows two best mates Jay (Calvin Demba) and Yemi (Ade Oyefeso) who aspire to be successful in the music industry. Both find liberation in music and they produce their own rap music in the realms of Yemi’s bedroom in a multi-storey flat in the heart of London. Yemi, who is a talented producer, is extremely clever. His family take his schoolwork very seriously and the first episodes witnesses Yemi recieving his GCSE results which he passes with flying colours scoring A’s across the board. On the other hand there is Jay. He is egotistic, cocky and some would say charming. Not caring much for his schoolwork and with little pressure from his Dad, who promises him a job in the family business (plumbing), he glides through life without caring for any consequences his actions might result in.
As the series runs its course, Yemi finds Davina (Shavani Seth) at his new college. She is an exceptional singer and as the two form a close bond and introductions to the gang take place ‘Youngers’ the rap group is born and they begin their musical endeavours. With the help of Ashley (Arinze Kene), a notorious and respected resident of their London estate, they slowly start to make a name for themselves in a city where teenagers can be the harshest of critics.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Youngers series was Calvin Demba’s performance as Jay. Having only featured in Hollyoaks and Casualty prior to his casting his performance is impeccable. He undertakes the character Jay with uncompromising ease and improved with every episode as his character became more layered than any other around him. Reminiscent of Jack O’Connell’s character, Cook in the Skins series, he carries that air of authority as he engages differently with every character around him. With his womanizing antics and ‘jack the lad’ attitude it was highly satisfying seeing Demba’s character evolve and make Jay his own. I only hope he goes onto bigger things after the series ends.
As a summation Kuffuor and Addai should take pride in their work. The series challenges friendship groups, social classes, urban backgrounds and the lack of opportunity in the rough areas of London. Besides being a comedy drama it tackles serious issues with a comedic undertone. This works well and even though at times it is corny, especially the ‘mandem on the wall’, largely it is convincing and sincere. Its story line is not so outlandish it edges towards impossibility but conservative and resilient focusing on the smaller struggles within the Youngers social group as they all aspire towards one thing, success.
Catch it on 4oD here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/youngers/4od