The daftness of the social media influencer has only become more inflated since the first series of zany short-form comedy Pls Like aired in 2017. While Charlie South, Millipede, DumpGhost and HoneyDew are indeed preposterous, they’re hardly more so than the real thing. The chief pleasure lies once again in the despairing performance of gruff comedian Liam Williams, the series’ writer, as he gets to grips with the phenomenon. Virgil to his Dante through this narcissistic inferno is James Wirm (Tim Key), the self-appointed “Influencer Czar” and head of talent agency Beam Industries.
“I must become an influencer,” Liam announces at the start of series three, with all the enthusiasm of a serious film-maker forced to go slumming in order to raise money for his latest dour masterpiece. Covid put his time-travel saga about the coal industry on hold, so, armed only with his social distancing stick, Liam must complete a series of challenges set by Wirm in order to raise his profile by gaining those crucial “likes”.
So pivotal are YouTubers to Britain’s GDP that there’s now a Minister for Influencers, dapper Mungo Slate (Graham Dickson), looking to recruit them for rebranding Northern towns and other projects. Returning vlogger Millipede (Emma Sidi) is attempting to knock 10 years off her age by creating content with the latest TikTok sensation, 19-year-old HoneyDew (Eleanor Nawal, inspired), who came up with pitiful viral dance the Lockdown Lemon. Liam, a “greying millennial”, is beneath #Honeeedeww’s notice, but Millipede reassures him: “She’s shy IRL.”
Liam’s food and drink challenge involves becoming “the Gordon Ramsay of the digital era” by making a naff caff appeal to younger diners. For the sport and fitness challenge, he must commentate on a hyped boxing match between two feuding YouTubers. Cleaning influencers and minimalists are also worthy targets. Things take a darker turn when a drunken Liam joins the rabid “I’m calling you out” culture, and amiable but clueless Charlie South (Jonathan Pointing) is cancelled by activists for misusing a food bank. The crisis is so dire, Wirm has to call on the services of an “uncancellation consultant”. It’s all about optics, she explains. You only have to look like you care about the poor and underprivileged.
As Liam struggles to stay afloat in an echo world with no irony and no depth — his attempt to outline the myth of Sisyphus to Wirm is as futile as it is funny — he acts as a conduit for our own smugness towards this vacuous crew. However, in a neat reversal, one influencer mounts a surprising and spirited counter-attack. After all, being snide about the young is never a good look. It’s all about optics.
On BBC3 and BBC iPlayer from January 24 at 6am
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