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TV Review: Gap Year (Series 1, Episode 1)

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Gap years. They’re ever popular, and the art of taking time out to find oneself in a foreign climate has become some sort of a rite of passage now for the interesting, adventurous - or more often, affluent - young adult.

It makes sense then, that E4 have chosen gap years as the topic for their latest comedy drama, which debuted tonight.

Channel 4 have got a long history of choosing shows that strike a chord with their younger audience - Skins, Fresh Meat and The Inbetweeners were all massive hits for the channel and Gap Year looks like it’s about to join that list.

Penned by the man behind Plebs and Fresh Meat, comedian and writer Tom Basden, the series is an eight-part exploration of South East Asia. Starting in China, the characters (and the cast and crew) move on to Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The programme centres around two best friends who decide to throw wind to the likes of Zante and Malia, and decide China is the best place for a lads holiday... sorry, gap year. Model-cum-actor Anders Hayward is great as the lovelorn and desperate (if not a tad pathetic) Dylan who drags his good friend Sean - played by BAFTA-nominated Ade Oyefeso - to the Far East.

Oyefeso is especially funny, playing a character who’s definitely three dimensional. The two have some great chemistry, and the dynamic between them offers Gap Year some unexpected gravitas and really moves the show past comedy and into drama.

They are joined by American Ashley (Brittney Wilson) and square student May (Alice Lee), who embarks on a sort of ‘home-coming’ trip to really get to grips with her Chinese-American heritage.

The group is completed by the award-winning comic Tim Key, who offers a hysterical performance as Greg, a character in the early midst of a mid-life crisis. He knits the cast together and creates a large portion of the show's obvious humour.

I’ll confess, I didn’t expect to enjoy the first episode as much as I did. Too often it seems that shows about students, or for students, miss the mark. There’s a fine line between relatability and patronisation. Watch the majority of teen films, and you’ll see what I mean.

The creators of Gap Year seem to have not only negotiated this tightrope, but they’ve also landed spectacularly on the other side. Perhaps it works so well because it’s self contained - just when the gags begin to produce smirks rather than giggles, the episode ends.

Or maybe it is the way the creators are open to realistic suggestions from the younger cast. There’s a real touch of Basden’s Fresh Meat humour throughout the first episode, but the new characters, new story, and new ideas keep it, well, fresh.

The next seven episodes will see the characters explore new locations, gain new cultural experiences, and make new relationships and I can’t wait to watch them as they do so.

Gap Year airs on Thursdays at 9pm on E4.

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