It's easy to think that a series like Boarders is very much for the teenage viewer – it's set in a school, after all – but actually, the new BBC comedy-drama has flecks of relatability that make it a show you definitely shouldn't overlook.


Centring on a group of five Black students as they navigate life at a prestigious boarding school, we follow Jaheim (Josh Tedeku), Leah (Jodie Campbell), Toby (Sekou Diaby), Femi (Aruna Jalloh) and Omar (Myles Kamwendo) as they make the journey from regular London life to navigating the world of St Gilbert's.

They're selected as part of a new batch of scholarships for the school, a purely performative act done in order to rescue St Gilbert's reputation after a controversial video involving some of their students not only surfaces, but goes viral.

The boys in the video – who are seen assaulting a homeless man as a 'joke' – must be protected at all costs, so what better way to quell questions about the elitism of institution than to diversify St Gilbert's?

Boarders isn't a show that deals in the grey area and leans on the subtlety of things. It urges you to take notice of the themes, quips and observations crafted into the scripts. But most of all, Boarders is a fun series that will almost certainly leave you giggling and/or shaking your head in despair at the audacity of the group's new peers.

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Josh Tedeku as Jaheim, Sekou Diaby as Toby, and Myles Kamwendo as Omar in Boarders standing on a gravel driveway wearing purple uniforms and backpacks.
Josh Tedeku as Jaheim, Sekou Diaby as Toby, and Myles Kamwendo as Omar in Boarders. BBC/Studio Lambert Media Ltd,Jonathan Birch

Our five boarders go from excelling in their own schools to being thrown into an environment that doesn't care how talented they may be – they're instantly treated like outsiders because of the colour of their skin. The balance of comedy in any case, but especially in a series that could easily (and arguably, rightfully) feel heavy, is so no easy feat, but I implore you to watch Boarders without a grin on your face.

It's no secret that boarding schools aren't the image of diversity but series creator Daniel Lawrence Taylor manages to lean heavily on comedy to dig into larger issues that educate and inform, while never feeling try-hard or heavy-handed.

While we may follow Jaheim, Toby, Leah, Femi and Omar in this sixth form, look past their school uniforms and you'll see that Boarders is such a relevant tale for any person who has entered an environment in which they've immediately felt othered.

Undoubtedly for many people, myself included, watching the series will bring back memories of university, where many inner city London kids are pulled from their diverse pockets of the capital to navigating environments that are majority white and middle or upper class.

I know, I know – talking about class is taboo! How dare I? And that's what you may think going into Boarders – but lighten up, you couldn't have a series like this without interrogating the class system embedded within the UK.

In centring on the microcosm of St Gilbert's, Boarders examines the unequal treatment of our group opposite the privilege at play for characters like series antagonist Rupert (Harry Gilby) and his girlfriend, Florence (Rosie Graham).

Boarders never feels boring and, much like the way shows like Sex Education, Waterloo Road or even Gossip Girl are all set in schools, they still manage to tell a range of stories but just use a school setting as its background.

The addictive pull of Boarders, though, is the sheer amount of personalities at play within the series. It's not easy to navigate an entire sixth form full of characters, but the series never feels rushed, it's more of a joy to find out small things about sideline characters as well as seeing what kind of experience our main group of boarders are facing.

Jodie Campbell as Leah in Boarders.
Jodie Campbell as Leah in Boarders. BBC/Studio Lambert,Korsshan Schlauer

The students of St Gilbert's are so out-of-touch with the real world that many of them simply make for a good laugh but it's our main character's journeys that are the most delightful thing to see unfold in this series.

Each of our five boarders are navigating a life and St Gilbert's journey of their own. Jaheim is an engineering mastermind who is struggling with the pull of his south London comfortability and trying to better himself for the sake of his family; Leah's personal mission is getting an offensive portrait removed from the school, starting a campaign for her cause that makes her a thorn in the headmaster's (Derek Riddell) side.

Toby is an aspiring polyglot but relies on his street smarts and laugh-out-loud witty humour, while Femi is confused about who he actually is, and is also trying to avoid being sent to Nigeria by his parents if he fails his year at St Gilbert's.

Finally, Omar's the kind, somewhat awkward character that sees the best in everyone but also wants nothing more than to uncover St Gilbert's secret society.

The cast of rising talent is exactly that, and it likely won't be long before we see many of them in other productions, each bringing an effortless humour and charm to the role that keeps you engaged with each starkly different character.

The series brings up the question around whether historically elite institutions – a boarding school like St Gilbert's, for example – are ever willing to change. Sure, it's a big question to answer but in exploring that, Boarders remains light, fun and a fresh addition to an often monotonous TV schedule that could do with some shake ups.

Boarders will air on BBC Three on Tuesday 20th February at 9pm, with episodes available to stream in full on BBC iPlayer from 6am that day. Check out more of our Comedy coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide for more to watch.


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