What’s The Show?
Premiering March 15th, Turn Up Charlie stars a warm, genuine Idris Elba as Charlie, a DJ and producer struggling to make ends meet as he tries to reignite the flame of a one-hit wonder career.
Charlie lives in England in a small house with his no-nonsense Aunt Lydia, played by a scene-stealing Jocelyn Jee Esien. Under pressure from his family, Charlie wants to do right but misses his playboy style past. As the show goes on, we learn that Charlie sends all the royalties from his past success to his parents who live back in his childhood home.
Charlie is confident and mostly kind, neither totally likeable or hateable in the beginning. It seems the writers could have leaned harder towards one end of the spectrum, however this complaint is quickly forgotten as the show picks up. Charlie plays “gigs” for friends and relatives; weddings and birthdays for apathetic crowds. One night, after playing a friend’s wedding, Charlie kindly refuses the payment his friend offers, though he does so mostly to avoid looking pathetic in front of his other friend, movie star David, played by JJ Field.
It’s when David asks Charlie to act as stand-in nanny for his daughter Gabrielle (Frankie Hervey) that Charlie finds a route to success. By working with David and his music producer wife Sara (Piper Perabo), Charlie can lay some track in the family studio and rekindle his long-lost fame.
As you can probably guess, Charlie ends up enjoying his time with “Gabs” and the two become begrudgingly close. Yes, this story has been told before. The party boy is forced to take on a responsibility that he didn’t expect, everyone learns something in the end and we all go home as better friends, right? Right.
However, it’s the chemistry that sets this show apart. The way that Elba and Hervey talk to one another pulls you in. It’s the banter between Aunt Lydia, Charlie, and the silly but loyal best friend Del (Gus Khan) that makes it so easy to let Netflix serve up the next episode.
Turn Up The Soundtrack
When he isn’t playing the all-seeing, sword-wielding Odin-serving Heimdall in the MCU, Elba is a real-life DJ. Right away I could tell this wasn’t some actor pretending to care about music. Elba’s DJ experience and genuine love for sound shines through. The show pairs some gorgeous shots of Ibiza with songs by Lupe Fiasco, Kool & The Gang, and Elba himself.
If you’re not sold on the cushy plot, at least come for the beautiful locales and awesome music. In the Turn Up Charlie universe, the smash hit that once propelled Charlie into the spotlight is a club favorite called “L.U.V.” You can listen to L.U.V. on Spotify in real life for an instant wave of electronic, reggae-rap. Click here for a link to the full soundtrack of each episode.
As much as the show is about Charlie doing right by others, it’s also about whether or not he can do right by himself, and break out of his old pattern of eat, sleep, rave, repeat. Within the challenge of remixing his old hit song, “L.U.V,” Charlie meets the even bigger challenge of remixing his old ways. gasp!
Turn Up Charlie‘s first season garnered less-than-stellar reviews from critic sites, but everywhere I’ve looked, actual audience members like it. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 47% rating but an audience score of 92%. Maybe Elba’s first stab at a sitcom won’t earn him an award, but his charming performance and the solid supporting cast makes this a fun show that’s worth a quick binge.
If nothing else, it’ll get you thinking about the beach more than you already do, just in time for the first week of spring.