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Big Boys review: ‘The sophomore series soars higher and further than the first’

Big Boys
Dylan Llewellyn, Izuka Hoyle, Jon Pointing, and Olisa Odele (Image: Channel 4)

With the first series of Big Boys being such a big hit for Channel 4, there would justifiably be questions as to whether a second series could live up to the heights of its predecessor. Thankfully, the sophomore series soars higher and further than the first with gags aplenty and moments of pathos to balance it out.

The second series picks up right where we left off last time, at Jack’s (Dylan Llewellyn) late dad’s 60th birthday. Freshly out of the closet to his family Jack wastes no time in experimenting in the local gay culture only for reality to give him a sharp poke (quite literally) in the eye.

From there we embark on Jack’s second year at Brent University. Along with his straight best pal, Danny (Jon Pointing), Corinne (Izuka Hoyle), and Yemi (Olisa Odele) Jack continues on his journey into full adulthood with all the trials and tribulations that come with that.

ASL ice bucket challenges, gay marriage, Conchita Wurst, and more set us firmly in 2014. Writer and creator Jack Rooke has peppered the series with plenty of references and gags authentic to the period. Among the best are those concerning Hermes delivery drivers and Girls Aloud member Cheryl’s surname.

Big Boys
Dylan Llewelyn (L) and Jon Pointing (R) as Jack and Danny in Big Boys (Image: Channel 4)

As well as a continuation of the top-notch comedy, handled brilliantly by everyone, series two most notably builds on the first by giving its actors more to play with on the serious side. Llewellyn shines as a more confident version of Jack. Having come out he’s freer to be there for his friends and family and Llewellyn is effortlessly charming throughout. The BAFTA-nominated Pointing excels particularly with a meatier backstory and character development in the shape of flashbacks and our first encounters with family members only mentioned by name in series one.

Similarly, Hoyle gets more to play with, delivering some of the best comic lines and one of the series’ most emotional and poignant moments to date. Odele is a master of comedy, particularly when it comes to delivery. He also gets to impart a valuable lesson to the public on the ownership of one’s sexuality. Hopefully, people take heed of the advice. Camille Coduri and Harriet Webb form a remarkable and extremely comical double act as Jack’s mum, Peggy, and cousin Shannon. Annette Badland chimes in periodically as the formidable Nanny Bingo and is also given some emotional moments to play with.

Big Boys
Jon Pointing, Dylan Llewellyn, Olisa Odele, Izuka Hoyle, and Katy Wix in Big Boys (Image: Channel 4)

There is very little to fault with Big Boys series two. Much like the first, it’s well-written and well-balanced meaning audiences can be laughing one moment and welling up with tears the next. Rooke sensitively treads the line between the two as he continues to tell a relatable and heartwarming story about grief as well as love, friendship, and family. True to Rooke’s desire, Big Boys now feels less like a “gay coming-of-age story” and more like a story that has queerness at its heart. It is the very example of what people have wanted to see for a long time – queer characters represented on screen as real, three-dimensional, and flawed beings who also experience joy and love.

With the standard university degree lasting three years, there is hope for a third (and maybe final) series of this laugh-out-loud comedy. Given the response to series one and the development we get here, we’ve got our fingers crossed for a series three announcement shortly.

Big Boys is streaming now.

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