Idris Elba’s new 8-episode “manny” series “Turn Up Charlie” hits Netflix on March 15. Love me some Idris, but I’m not really feeling this one, mostly because disrespectful, cursing, entitled kids played for laughs are my pet peeve.
This series goes way over the top with its 11-year-old terror, Gabby (Frankie Hervey). Elba plays a DJ has-been who becomes her manny … a) because he’s broke, and b) she’s the daughter of his wealthy best friend who initially needed someone to watch her so he could go on an audition. The one time turns into a steady gig that benefits all involved, in more ways than any of them expected.
The justification for Gabby’s bad behavior? The child has been neglected for years by her self-involved parents Sara and David (Piper Perabo and JJ Feild). I get it. Gabby’s need for a good old-school ass-whupping is poured on thick so that her eventual turnaround will be more dramatic and heartwarming. I just don’t have the patience for this overused arc anymore. I get enough of these types of kids on my favorite Bravo reality shows, so I’m good.
Plus, this was giving me uncomfortable “The Toy” vibes. Remember (fellow Gen-Xers) the 1982 film where a broke Richard Pryor is hired by a rich white man to be his son’s playmate?
Side Note: Another pet peeve is when writers put sophisticated adult dialogue into the mouths of children for laughs. “Black-ish” used to do this with the twins, and “Modern Family” does it in every episode (first with Lily, now with Joe). It’s neither cute, nor funny, and “Turn Up Charlie” uses this device a lot.
In a nutshell, Charlie is literally and figuratively an analog man forced to adapt to today’s digital world if he wants any kind of turn-up in his life. He’s living with his Nigerian Aunt Lydia (a loud, energetic, bossy archetype) and going the extra mile to keep his parents in the dark about being single and broke. Meanwhile, one of Gabby’s destructive tantrums in a nightclub (she’s 11 and was somehow allowed inside) finally jolts her parents into recognizing their part in her lashing out, and they spend the latter four episodes trying to do better.
Oh, Sara happens to be a DJ as well, and way more successful than Charlie. Their inevitable collaboration is another source of drama adding to the overall issue of fame vs. family. The last four episodes focus less on Gabby and more on a shirtless Elba trying to get his priorities straight, including an annoying friends-with-benefits relationship with Sara’s sex-crazed manager, Astrid.
My point is, what we have to put up with in order to get to Shirtless Elba is an exercise in patience, and more monotonous than that EDM music he’s pumping.