15 Storeys High (2002-2004) is comedian Sean Lock’s sitcom. It ran for two seasons, totaling 12 episodes. It stars Sean Lock and Benedict Wong. It’s based on Sean Lock’s radio show. There is a DVD box set in region 2/PAL.
Sometimes, when you think you’ve seen a horse in your neighbor’s 15th storey apartment while you were spying on them through binoculars in the middle of the night because you couldn’t sleep after drinking so much rat-energy drink, it turns out to actually in fact be a horse. You will, naturally, end up knocked unconscious and forced to imitate your neighbor’s ex-wife while he hides the aggressive pony in your flatmate’s bedroom to keep it from the government. This is the sort of everyday absurdity that happens 15 storeys up that the rest of the world is immune to.
But Vince (Sean Lock) likes living on the 15th floor. He can make bicyclists fall over by shouting at them through from his balcony, for one thing. A life guard and swimming instructor at the local in-door pool, Vince is the sort of manly bloke who doesn’t like people touching him, a guy who holds a grudge forever, a guy who avoids idle chat with neighbors at all costs. He probably sounds like a lot of people you know…until you discover his quirks. Vince is also the sort of bloke who has a panic attack if too many people are touching him, re-tells exaggerated stories as if they’re his own anecdotes back to the people who told them to him, will seek revenge on someone just for dialing a wrong number, and sends horrible letters in the mail to people he doesn’t like. Unfortunately, he needs a roommate, and regrets choosing Errol (Benedict Wong) almost immediately after he arrives.
Errol is a nice guy, but as he has 11 siblings, he’s not bothered by human interaction, and simply sitting next to Vince on the sofa causes Vince to sell the sofa and buy two separate chairs. But Errol isn’t without his eccentricities either. He has a habit of peeling off other people’s wallpaper, and he’s immensely gullible. He is influenced by everyone around him, whether it’s Vince telling him to ignore his neighbors, his co-workers telling him to kiss the shark butcher, his neighbor turning him onto Gandhi, or the landlord telling him to pour syrup on the lobby floor so that no one slips and sues the building.
The series includes small asides of other people who live on the 15th floor, usually just silly sketches by comedy actors such as Toby Jones, Michael Smiley, and Peter Serafinowicz (who played Errol in the radio version).
Sean Lock keeps a clever balance between a Bernard Blackesque misanthropy the audience relates to and self-destructive predicaments the audience enjoys watching Vince suffer. Despite Errol’s naivety and Vince’s dickishness, both are likable characters.
Everybody knows smoking is bad for you, but what happens when you fall over in the street and all you have for band-aids are a stranger’s nicotine patches? 15 Storeys High suggests that you then will get addicted to cigarettes, causing your flatmate to superglue your hands to the fish tank to keep you away from them. Knowing you are an animal lover, he’ll buy a fish for the tank because you wouldn’t dare dump out the water. You’ll have to resort to lighting your cigs with the toaster and spitting the butts into the fish tank. This is the sort of everyday absurdity that happens 15 storeys up that the rest of the world is immune to.
Vince (Lock) and Errol (Wong) are back. Okay, so they never left. In season 2, they’re still living together in the same 15 storey flat, getting up to the same absurd, surreal trouble. This season, Vince makes friends with a nutso priest, competes in ping-pong against his obnoxious neighbors, gets into a fight with the airport staff, and takes a bath…or seven. Errol gets a new job, takes up smoking, and becomes a sexual icon to all the ladies. Guest stars this season include Bill Bailey playing guitar, Kevin Eldon as a smoking addict, and H2G2’s Geoffrey McGivern as Vince’s nudist father. When Vince learns that Errol has a secret girlfriend and demands to meet her, Errol finally stands up to Vince and gives him an earful of exactly the kind of person he is and what it’s like to live with him. Vince promises to start being nicer, but it lasts all of five seconds, and we leave the series in the satisfaction that Vince will continue on in his selfish, rude, misanthropic bubble.
Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. She is smitten with 15 Storeys High. Follow her on Twitter.
Originally posted June 20, 2014 / July 7, 2016