Chances are you have no idea who or what Big Narstie is, why he spells his name that way, and what he’s done to earn a spot on Channel 4’s Friday night schedule (unless you’ve seen one of his priceless guest appearances on shows like Celebrity Crystal Maze).
The short answer is: he’s a grime MC and unlikely (social) media sensation.
Within the first 30 seconds, Narstie proves why this new show is a dollop of madness tinged with genius as he starts, by laying in to his C4 benefactors for being daft enough to give him his own show when he’s not even a TV presenter.
From then on, anyone over the age of 21 residing outside Lambeth will probably struggle to understand more than 30% of what he says. Luckily, Channel 4 have foreseen this slight hiccup and signed up a co-presenter - the coleslaw to Narstie’s Nando’s - in the shape of stand up comedian Mo Gilligan. Mo ends up doing most of the heavy lifting, taking on the role of interpreter and minder, keeping everything on track as Narstie freestyles his way through the show.
Having labelled themselves the black Ant and Dec - they’ve even got a L’il Narstie and a L’il Mo! - the rapid fire banter hit draws attention to an awkward truth about the spectacularly unrepresentative range of talk show hosts and guests on the major broadcast channels.
Perhaps uniquely, The Big Narstie Show offers a view of the world rarely glimpsed on TV, in which clean cut pop icon Ed Sheeran is unlikely besties with grime artist Narstie (godfather to the rapper’s daughter, no less).
But forget bog standard box ticking - Narstie’s five guests range from global superstar Sheeran to Sherrie Silver, the Rwandan South London choreographer behind the afrocentric dance moves in Childish Gambino’s viral hit, ‘This is America’.
Digging beneath the generic ‘black urban’ culture, the Big Narstie show both celebrates and mocks Nigerian, Rwandan and Jamaican heritage - casually highlighting each of these vibrant cultures with an ease that would elude most shows.
The format is actually pretty standard for a studio talk show - a sofa full of guests, some musical performances and pre-taped segments. The end product is uneven, but not terrible - just a little rough around the edges. Narstie in particular apparently forgets that he is presenting. He may be the only person who truly knows what he’s talking about 100% of the time, but it’s almost impossible to resist being carried along by his buoyant personality.
The show works best when it goes off script (comedian Mo being the only one who seems comfortable with the concept of a script and a teleprompter), the pre-taped segments proving more awkward than amusing. A mixed bag then, but with more tricks than treats, a long line of decent guests, warm (if incomprehensible) hosting from the titular rapper and slick co-hosting from the blithely comical Mo. The Big Narstie show might yet turn into a deliciously bonkers Friday night treat.
- Watched on C4. 29/06/2018