Following in the footsteps of Human Traffic and It’s All Gone Pete Tong, Turn Up Charlie is Netflix’s attempt at clutching the turntables and grabbing DJ fame. With a charismatic Idris Elba at the helm and an easy-to-binge length, Turn Up Charlie attempts, but ultimately fails, to emulate the same enthusiasm and charm Idris Elba exudes onto this comedy series.
Split across 8 episodes at a little over 20 minutes long, the story revolves around Charlie, a struggling DJ who finds himself going through the motions. Living at his Aunt’s and dreaming of the high-life, Charlie finds a route back into the business again through becoming a Manny for his best friend’s daughter, Gabby. What follows is a story that sees Charlie better himself as a person through working as a Manny whilst progressing back into the music industry again. All the while juggling a myriad of subplots between the supporting cast that bubble up and spill over into the climactic final episode.
For the most part, Turn Up Charlie is an inoffensive, charming little comedy that’s as pleasant to watch as it is ultimately forgettable. It fails to ignite the same charm previous entries into this field have achieved and beyond Charlie and his relationship with Gabby, there isn’t an awful lot else going on here. The series does feel a little overlong too although it thankfully bows out just in time before things become a little too tedious. The relationship between these two characters is ultimately the glue that holds everything together, polished with an eclectic soundtrack running throughout the series.
Predictably, for a series about music and DJing there’s a great selection here from various different genres. From commercial garage and pop through to electro and synth-driven techno, Turn Up Charlie does an excellent job with its soundtrack, which shines through every part of the show. The final 10 minutes really typify this too, as Charlie bows out with one final hoorah at a party, slickly mixing Losing It by Fisher with Right Here, Right Now by Fatboy Slim. Now, having said that, It’s All Gone Pete Tong does a far better job with this and if you haven’t already, I strongly recommend checking out the finale to that film for a much better depiction of emotionally-charged, realistic DJing.
While there isn’t anything particularly bad about Turn Up Charlie, there isn’t anything particularly outstanding or endearing here either. Idris Elba is really the stand out star and this comedy really feels like a project made specifically for him. There are some stand out moments though and for the soundtrack alone, Turn Up Charlie is a fascinating blend of influences and genres worth experiencing. It works really well to keep things moving at a consistent pace but beyond this, and the two main characters, Turn Up Charlie fails to turn up the heat on this lukewarm offering.