Sean Lock’s 15 Storeys high: A funny and unusual comedy
There are a few things that can bring us some hope after the death of any great icon. One is the opportunity to discover their forgotten works. The sudden death of Sean Lock sparked a flood of emotions so real and widespread it felt like the country lost a family member. This was due to the comic’s extraordinary ability to be so brilliantly esoteric yet so easily accessible.
The lock was renowned for his panel show talent. He was a man who could constantly churn ideas of unique ingenuity, voice, and comedy and was a one-person comedy factory full of invention and humor. However, 15 Storeys High is the comedy that Lock most remembers. This sitcom, which was filmed in Surrey, is the comedian’s greatest comedy legacy. It’s an intimate, bespoke piece that shows so much of his brilliant comic mind and his deep understanding of British culture.
Sean Lock’s 15 Minutes Of Misery was originally a BBC4 Radio 4 show. Sean Lock:15 Storeys High later rebranded it. The show had moderate success, but one can still feel a creation struggling to find its true voice and best iteration. When 15 Storeys was revived on BBC3, the studio laughter, the clunking sound from the lift that took us to the next floor of the show’s fictional tower block, and the horrible intro music were all gone. Peter Serafinowicz, Vince’s sidekick, was replaced by a young Benedict Wong, who plays the submissive, naive whipping boys.
The show’s transition to a more mainstream and visual format increased its comedy arsenal. A grey filter and quirky camera positions heightened the feeling of urban claustrophobia. Sadly, it failed to find the mainstream traction which contemporary sitcoms such as The Office and Phoenix Nights had enjoyed, with co-creator Mark Lamarr recently stating that his dearly departed friend was despondent at the lack of widespread attention his first full sitcom had achieved. Even though it is not well-known, 15 Storeys high deserves the same praise and admiration as the great shows that cemented the legacy of Kay, Merchant, Gervais, and Kay.
15 Storeys high is, like all great works of art, about the pursuit and realization of a vision. Sitcoms are always on the lookout for their final destination. Every beat is designed to bring its characters and storylines together in a comic-dissatisfying finale. 15 Storeys is a loosely plotted show. It’s more interested in examining characters than it is in racing to a particular destination. The show is less concerned with creating a narrative and instead focuses on the everyday details of British life.
While Vince and Errol’s stories still anchor proceedings. However, 15 Storeys High owes gratitude to the vignette-rich patchwork of tower block life inherited from its radio predecessor. It occasionally focuses its view on the lives of other residents who live within the cramped confines of the looming structure. These perfectly pitched vignettes demonstrate Lock’s understanding of comedy as much as dialogue and narrative. Each is a deeply surreal window into South London life.