TV Review: Spent, BBC Two

Tv Preview: Spent, BBC Two

Michelle De Swarte has already been building up an impressive head of celebrity steam with appearances in the Katherine Ryan comedy The Duchess and in her own horror comedy vehicle The Baby. But it’s her new series Spent that is really going to establish this assertive Londoner as a comic force to be reckoned with.

They say write about what you know and that is precisely what Michelle De Swarte does here, creating a role that draws on her own successful modelling career and the subsequent fallout when things went pear-shaped. She plays Mia, a hit in New York but now hitting her thirties and with a serious spending addiction. When she realises she is broke she heads back to south London – her old stomping ground of Brixton – to kick start her life again. The working title for the series was ‘High-End Homeless’.

This is pretty much what happened in real life, which is maybe why it feels so true, though De Swarte has suggested in interviews it is maybe only 20% true. In the first episode we see her really struggling. She hooks up with an agent who gets her a job only for it to be more dog-sitting and less cat walking.

One of the many surprises in the series is the actor who plays her agent. Matt King is best known as Super Hans in Peep Show and here is almost unrecognisable as he appears to help Mia over a champagne lunch only to land her with a duff job and also the bill. De Swarte is superb and has to suck up the indignity, trying to keep up the pretence of not being down on her luck, while also being homeless and constantly dragging her wheelie case behind her while trying to look as glamorous as possible. She has a difficult relationship with her mum so can’t go back there and her father, who drifts in and out, appears to have mental health problems.

The series manages to get the balance of serious issues – drugs, abuse in the fashion world, poverty – and comedy just about right. Sometimes you can see the gag approaching, such as when she is lost late at night and thinks he has found some friendly help only to have stumbled upon a dogging group instead, but De Swarte’s personality keeps you hooked. As a south Londoner myself the location has a real feel of authenticity. The only thing that upstages the Brixton setting is De Swarte herself. 

Spent, Mondays, 10pm, BBC Two from July 8. 


Picture: BBC



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