Apple TV has become the unofficial home of the thinking person’s sci-fi epic, courtesy of shows such as Foundation and Silo. But the streamer has also emerged as a production line for quietly affecting sitcoms which cast a wry eye at contemporary life.
It hit the laconic bulls-eye with Trying, a gently downcast comedy about a London couple attempting to conceive. We return to London and the sadder side of the modern condition with Still Up – a charmingly unflinching portrayal of platonic friendship between two chronic insomniacs.
Danny (Craig Roberts) is an unemployed music journalist – top marks for realism – hiding in his apartment to avoid a prying neighbour. As he hunkers down in his man-cave, his only contact is Lisa (Antonia Thomas), his non-romantic best pal and fellow insomniac with whom he communicates via nightly video call.
In the best way possible, it’s the opposite of Apple’s shouty and overhyped Ted Lasso – a comedy constructed entirely of fake positivity and sign-posted belly laughs. Still Up – co-created by Steve Burge and Natalie Walter – is much bleaker, its jokes built atop a withering take on 21st-century life. Danny and Lisa are both aware that they’re drifting through their 30s and that their insomnia is a symptom of a deeper malaise. But rather than confront their problems, they’re perfectly happy to bury their woes beneath landslides of nightly banter.
There’s not much plot, which also feels true to life. But episode by episode, the series fills in the blanks on the unhappiness fuelling the sleep deprivation of both Danny and Lisa. Each has had their romantic ups and downs – though, recently, it’s primarily downs. Danny’s feelings were shredded at a wedding several years previously. Lisa’s relationship with her boyfriend Veggie (Blake Harrison) is meanwhile going from staid to rocky. She wouldn’t mind if he proposed – he doesn’t seem inclined to.