‘White Gold’ review – episode 1: ‘Salesmen are like Vampires’

White Gold BBC

Here’s our review of White Gold episode 1 – subtitled ‘Salesmen are like Vampires’.

Ed Westwick looks like he was born to wear that suit.

As his character, Vincent, preens himself and gives his opening monologue to camera, establishing himself as the narrator of this opening episode, he sets the scene for White Gold perfectly. Laura Branigan’s Gloria blasts out, we see his vandalised sportscar, we meet his cohorts – former Inbetweeners James Buckley and Joe Thomas as Fitzpatrick and Lavender – and the tenor of what’s to follow is established. That’d be: coarse language, posing, and shenanigans.

These are pretty reprehensible characters, everything that typifies how we now see the 80s (and inspired by writer/director Damon Beesley’s memories of visiting his father’s windows business as a child); Vincent revels in his willingness to step over anybody for a buck, Fitzpatrick is an amoral scammer/master salesman who mercilessly ridicules Lavender, the least awful – and consequently least successful – of the trio. They may seem like they’re on each other’s backs, but by the end of the episode we are in no doubt they are thick-as-thieves. A gang.  

During the mundane action of the first 20 minutes, Vincent’s monologues are the only thing that keep things moving. Cheeky asides to the camera guide us into his world, his thinking, what’s bought him to Cachet Windows – around which the comedy is situated – and how his world was changed by a former schoolmate’s eulogy to ’white gold’ while on a cocaine bender. The music and moustaches set the scene, the scope for humour builds slowly.

We see all of them doing what they do. Vincent charming everyone in sight, while laughing behind their backs; Fitzpatrick lying and boasting his way to a comeuppance; Lavender guilty by association, if not action.

It’s fairly pedestrian in the comic sense. There are no set pieces or ornate comic flourishes, though you can feel them coming in the post – indeed, the script, for now, carries the same smirk its main character rather than trying to make us laugh. A few nice directorial tricks are employed as part of this exposition, and the visuals are great, though.  

‘Salesmen are like Vampires’ is all about setting the scene and understanding the caricatures we’ll be following. Hopefully there’s a pay-off to this, beyond five more episodes of admiring Westwick’s smarmy shoulder-swaying turn and the 80s set dressing.

While much of the hype around White Gold has surrounded the reuniting of two Inbetweeners with the man behind the show, this episode is almost completely Westwick’s. He is the alpha, and rules over events here. Vincent is pretty horrible, though, and his constant talking to the camera – as well as the slight plot regarding his interactions with a well-meaning former colleague and his wife – just reinforces this impression of him.

Will we care what happens? Can he have a redeeming feature, backstory, or event through which we can come to like him… Don’t count on it. He seems pretty set in his ways.

However, without something like that, White Gold is in danger of becoming as superficial as the version of the 80s it visually parodies so well. All surface and nothing to back it up.

It’s hard to see the joy in watching three hours of awful people being awful, but it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve been asked to do just that. Here’s hoping the groundwork done here was worth it, and that’s not the case this time.