Belfast Telegraph

Clichéd, yes, but student drama still does enough to pass the test

By Joe Nawaz

"Why're you watching Brookside?" asked an out of touch mate last night when he found me fixated on the opening episode of the second series of Six Degrees.

His embarrassing lack of cultural awareness aside (Brookside is soooo 1990s), it got me thinking. Firstly, rammed with slightly-too-old 'yoots', and bunged up with more social awareness than an Oxfam ad campaign, Six Degrees was actually much more like Hollyoaks than Brookie.

Secondly, Hollyoaks and Brookside splurged forth from the same televisual brain – that of Phil Redmond, one time punkish creator of Grange Hill and now highly esteemed TV pioneer.

Point is, for every naff cliché that student drama Six Degrees peddles, it compensates with a decent shot at trying to capture the scuzz and the buzz of being young and unleashed.

This not-at-all bad show about youthful experimentation, and tentative first solo steps into life's rich pageant, are only slightly marred by having a cast who look old and world weary enough to have re-sat their A-Levels a few times before.

But let's suspend all niggling disbelief for the sake of properly looking at what was a rather entertaining opening episode, as we joined Jess, Danny, Conor, Sandie, Leech and Eva in their new digs. They've evolved from completely green first years to spunky sophomores in the, um, nearly two years since they were last on screen, yet thankfully still with enough secrets, lies and attendant agonies to sink the Quarter they all study in.

"Hunky" Conor was still struggling with being the only GAAy in the football team – but now has the added unwelcome worry of bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Kev in Coronation Street. Little Leech lamented love's labours lost by doggedly insisting on being a whacky, huggable, slappable archetype. The 'feisty' culchie one got a solid 6.9 for predictability by losing the rag at being called a culchie and smashed up an innocent old woman's porch.

And perhaps, most puzzlingly of all, the "English rose one" Jess reignited centuries of colonial ambiguity and a potential series-worth of local passions in every man with a carefully crafted hairstyle from postcodes BT7 through 9.

There was even enough scope here to feature a storyline with "wet Sandie who loves the secret gay one" getting the come-on from a fictional volunteer at that very real creepy Christian Coffee station in Shaftesbury Square. Anybody who's had a drink or three in the city of a weekend will vouch for the authenticity of the blonde, clean-cut ruggedness of said Christian coffee wooer. It's those little details that make all the difference in a drama ...

There's plenty of murky emotional turmoil bubbling under the surface of Six Degrees. And with a few sturdy tropes from the Redmond school of dramatic reality there seems to be the making of a local series that might actually run. Well, at least until the inevitable graduation day massacre.

Belfast Telegraph


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