AUNTIE’S FIRST tryst with alternative comedy, very much a first-date-down-the-park affair with dependable chaperone RICHARD STILGOE initially on hand to becalm bemused Home Counties viewers. In fact, what with ROGER SLOMAN and MIRIAM MARGOYLES also in attendance, it was really only the presence of RIK MAYALL as Brummie investigative reporter Kevin Turvey to mark proceedings down as in any way “alternative” (TRACEY ULLMAN dressing up doesn’t count). Second series found Stilgoe substituted for ROBBIE COLTRANE as demented Scots Orangeman Mason Boyne (doing a rendition of Deck Of Cards: “The Eight of clubs reminds me of the bacon and eggs I eight for breakfast!”), equally mad Master of Dundreich (“Let me help you out of those wet things, my dear.” “But they’re not wet.” “Bucket!” [SPLOSH!] “Let me help you out of those wet things, my dear”). Just over a million people wrote the script. Just under a million tuned in. Bequeathed LAUGH??? I NEARLY PAID MY LICENCE FEE.Read More
Posts Tagged With '1981'
“BUSH, BUSH, BUSH, BUSH, BUSH, BUSH, BUSH”. Still your best chance of getting a glimpse of a branch of Supercigs or Spud-U-Like, JOHN SULLIVAN’s uber-com – originally to be titled READIES – is alternately great and woeful. In the great bracket: “It’s Barratt’s!”, the Peckham Pouncer, “Cwying!”, ‘The Longest Night’ (best episode ever) and – yeah – we’ll say it: the Batman and Robin bit. And as for the woeful? ‘If They Could See Us Now’ (worst episode ever), Raquel, that one with the bottled water, all the Omen stuff and the clunky pop cultural references (“Have you ever spent a night with Trigger? It’s like holding a seance with Mr Bean”). But, to be fair, anything up until Cassandra arrives is top, and a different opening and closing theme is bonus points in anyone’s book – particularly when there’s the none-more-eighties line: “Ball games, gold chains, whassa-names, and at a push, some Trevor Francis tracksuits”.Read More
Ever felt this country was a bit like a big, knackered, corrupt old NHS hospital? Top left-wing master of despair Lindsay Anderson has! Britain’s king of the shrill satirical scream had put Malcolm MacDowell through his paces in the school revolution of If… (1968) and the rambling picaresque O Lucky Man! (1970), and finally dismembered him in this medical farce in which Britain becomes a crumbling, strike-hit state health establishment, coping with terrorist bombs, a workers’ walkout and anti-capitalist demonstrations on the day of a royal visit. This much-derided comedy gleefully nicks the mantle of just about every popular British film genre from Carry On rudery to Hammer horror (the latter complete with spooky wibbly sounds straight from the school percussion cupboard).
MacDowell, admittedly, doesn’t get to do much aside from snoop about in a window cleaner’s cradle (oh, and get bodily torn limb from limb), but the choicest satirical morsels are shared out among a reliably burgeoning all-star cast: Leonard Rossiter’s harassed financial director; Joan Plowright’s confident NUPE chief; the ever-brilliant Graham Crowden’s maniacally amoral, brain-liquidising research scientist, complete with documentary film crew in permanent tow; Robin Askwith’s bolshy but easily-bought kitchen staff head (“that’s a gesture my lads and lasses would easily appreciate!”); Richard Griffiths’s anodyne DJ Cheerful Bernie (“those naughty bombers ‘ave just blown a fuse in the toaster!”); a stoned Mark Hamill laughing hysterically at film of battery hens; Brian Glover and Mike ‘Larry carries ladders round with ease’ Grady as neverending decorators and countless others including Robbie Coltrane, John Gordon Sinclair, Dandy Nichols, Alan Bates, Marsha Hunt, Arthur Lowe and good old Liz Smith.
Fittingly, it ends with staff and visiting dignitaries witnessing the unveiling of Crowden’s latest wheeze – a super-computer poised to take over from the worn-out human race – either the logical conclusion of the snowballing satirical shenanigans or a bit of a ‘couldn’t think of an ending’ cop-out, depending on your viewpoint. Whatever you think of the shape of the thing, it’s one of the most memorable cinematic messes ever vomited onto the screen. Delicate it ain’t. Anderson’s an angry old man, and he determinedly plays every symbolic character up for all they’re worth, and often a bit extra: he’ll make you see what he did there if it’s the last thing he does. But for those with a taste for the excessively overwrought state-of-the-nation film satire will find that, as a full-stop to that most wayward of film genres, it’s pretty hard to beat.Read More
We promised this a while back, but now they’re finally here. Three copies of NEVER THE TWAIN series 1 & 2 on DVD, courtesy – as ever – of our friends at Revelation.
How do you win one? Well, renowned as we are for loving our own pet projects, we thought we’d take this opportunity to unearth a NTT comic-strip we drew about five years ago. It’s a two-pager, but we’re only going to let you see the first. Your challenge is to come up with an ending for the story. It might be the case that you read this thing first time around back in 2004 (or whenever). Don’t let that influence you. What we want here is a pay-off that’s funny.
The closing date for the competition is Tuesday 12th October 2010, at which point we’ll get in touch with the three winners, and ask for their postal details.Read More
LANKY LACONIC Yorkshire yokel gets long-overdue opportunity for his own headlining effort outside natural habit of the ‘guest slot’. A regular sight in the musical bits of TV shows since the mid-sixties, droll folker Thackray was much beloved of audiences due to a winning combination of risque wordplay, broad social lampoonery, deft deployment of ‘thicko’ linguistic inflections, athletic feats of circumlocution, translations from the original Brassens, simultaneously highbrow and lowbrow puns, and, of course, that hangdog expression and browbeaten ‘everyman’ persona. Jake Thackray & Songs involved him performing a handful of numbers each week to an audience-ful of racuous guffawers, with rambling witty introductions which – it has to be said – were often longer than the songs themselves, while hardcore folkie pals like Maddy Prior and Alex Glasgow turned up to inject a note of more straight-faced torah-lorah-ing. Frank-talking racism satire One Of Them and abundant use of the obvious profanity in boss-berating The Bull got a few mouth-frothing letters catapulted Points Of View-wards, but apart from that it was a straightforward stroll through your Family Trees, your Brother Gorillas, your Poor Sods, your Country Buses, your Castleford Ladies’ Magic Circles and all the other favourites, and it doesn’t come much better than that.Read More
DIRTY-FACED FEISTY POWS of the fairer sex see out the Second World War in an internment camp in Malaya. The key word there being ‘camp’. Banding together under the de facto leadership of ANN BELL were rape victim STEPHANIE BEACHAM, doctor STEPHANIE COLE, nurses CLAIRE OBERMAN and JEANANNE CROWLEY and tottering old academic JEAN ANDERSON. Legendary BURT KWOUK was a camp commandant, the key word there being… oh, you get the idea. Stirring stuff and, once Michael Grade had sniffed out some post-SONGS OF PRAISE potential, a weekend hit. Last series offered up a multitude of baked bean endings by virtue of concentrating on that old dramatic stalwart, Life After Wartime, i.e. reunions with lost loves, arguments with other people’s lost loves, fights over lost loves, and lost loves staying positively lost through the small matter of, well, death. Lousy “reunion” finale in 1985 was set in 1950 and took the form of – erk – a murder mystery. At least nobody saw it coming. Unlike the end of the war.Read More
Future telly drama overlord ANDREW DAVIES was responsible for unleashing The Worst Girl in the World on an unsuspecting public. Played with perfect bubblegum-popping malevolence by CHARLOTTE COLEMAN, she made her screen debut in , an edition of Thames Television’s children’s play miscellany THEATRE BOX involving a dormobile space shuttle, moustachioed male nuns, a nodding dog and the secret of the universe.
EDUCATING MARMALADE followed in short order, a sitcom that detailed the desperate efforts of her parents (played by JOHN BIRD and LINDA’ LA PLANTE’ MARCHAL/CAROL MACREADY) and education officer Wendy Wooley (ELIZABETH ESTENSEN, who developed an increasingly elaborate nervous tick as the series progressed) to find an educational establishment that could control her. each episode revolving around “hapless” local education authority personages trying to tame her – in one instance dispatching her to the latest establishment inside a nailed-up crate. Marmalade being Marmalade, all such plans were doomed to failure – in her own words, she put herself about, driving everybody potty. Regular parodies of other existing TV shows (always a good sign) featured, eg. “Cringe Hill” and “The Kids From Shame”.
There was a sort of mini-punk sensibility to Marmalade’s disinterested brand of mayhem, reinforced by a Bad Manners theme tune. In the second series, DANGER:MARMALADE AT WORK (in which various avenues of employment failed to contain the mop-haired wastrel) Coleman herself belted out a Sid Vicious-style opener (‘Jobs! I’ve had a few/and most of them/were pretty grotty-ah!’) But she’s still firmly in the catapult-twanging tradition of Minnie the Minx et al. ‘Marmalade Atkins, you are EXPELLED!’Read More
“THE SHIRTS to watch,” boasted the endless ITV trailers. Larcernous Larsonery with sleazy wretch Thomas Sullivan Magnum (TOM SELLECK) mooching around hundreds of Hawaii islands which all looked the same in order to protect the estate of writer Robin Masters, aka The Voice Of ORSON WELLES. Hi-hi-hilarity ensues when Masters employes a stuck-up English manservant, Higgins (JOHN HILLERMAN), with whom Magnum ha-ha-has nothing in common. Numerous nubile assistants showed up along the way, and the whole thing ended with Selleck being killed and sent to heaven. But then it got recommissioned and Tom’s death became “a dream”, before second finale found Tom back in the navy and Higgins apparently the real Robin Masters. Utter preposterousness.
You might also want to see... Murder, She Wrote.
UP IN the first 11 of ITV’s all-time ITV-esque sitcoms. For which read: 1) two studio sets 2) two squabbling protagonists 3) interfering relatives 4) one-upmanship 5) it ran for bloody ages 6) every episode had the same plot and 7) it had a fantastic parping theme tune. WINDSOR DAVIES (Oliver Smallbridge) and DONALD SINDEN (Simon Peel) were your maestros of mithering, jousting for business as next-door neighbour antique salesman and raging lotharios. Both are divorced/widowed; both have one offspring who, inevitably (in the very first episode!) fall in love and want to get married. But east is east and west is west and there are 67 episodes to be eeked out of the same premise, hence the roaring, blasted red faces and all round mayhem – with priceless heirlooms thrown in for good measure – had to go on. And probably would have gone on forever had Thames not lost its licence. Oh, and HONOR BLACKMAN was the posh bit of stuff both our heroes oogled when not oogling Queen Anne’s drawers.
You might also want to see... Bagpuss.
In a nutshell: Douglas Adams’s visionary mix of 2001, PG Wodehouse and a physics A-level paper compiled by Stanley Unwin gets totally screwed in translation from radio original to TV cash in by the bloke behind Last of the Summer Wine, needlessly augmenting the Surbiton in Space mind games with clunky linking dialogue, Rentaghost costumes and Slartibartfast going down a Magrathean hillside in a tin bath.
Well, that’s how history seems to have judged it, but those of us who fell in love with the wobbly-headed BBC2 version before we knew the rest of the oeuvre are obliged to have a crack at a reasonable defence.
It’s obvious what doesn’t work – everything that was never going to work on TV anyway. The budget was beyond handsome for a situation comedy, but still might as well have been zero considering what was required of it. Plus, radio suited the style of Adams’s stuff as well as it’s scope – he could rewrite in the studio as last minute whimsies reached him from wherever that nail order company he got his ideas from was based, and producers like John Lloyd and the Radiophonic Workshop folk matched his chaotically playful working methods stroke for stroke.
On telly, spaceships had to be built, studios booked and lines treble checked. Not such a great incubator of idle, capricious inspiration, all told. And the bits everyone loves, Rod Lord Studios’ non-digital animations, were possibly the nearest in working methods to the radio episodes – made in virtual isolation from the Beeb’s time and motion men, stuffed full of extra-curricular silliness micro-whimsies, and pretty bloody fantastic in its own right to boot. (Having said that, if the Beeb’s original in-house efforts at animation, rendered on a BBC Model B of all things, exist on a 5.25-inch floppy somewhere in TV Centre, we’d love to see what in hell that was like.)
It’s true that we have it on the authority of pretty much the entire cast and crew, save for Alan JW Bell, that the entire cast and crew hated the old school Light Ent. liberties taken by the producer, Alan JW Bell. But to cut the Compo Commandant some slack, he did manage to Marshall some seriously meagre resources in at least the vague direction of Adams’s vision, was as good on the technical stuff as any other BBC staffer was likely to have been, and didn’t stick funny red noses all over the more cerebral passages nearly as much as he might have done (see the film version for details).
And, if were to be scrupulously fair for once, Adams’s original original was as infuriating as it was enjoyable. Think of all the times, especially in the second radio series, where a fine bit of digressionary folderol with Peter Jones series back into the plot, only force the mood to come crashing down with a chunk of Dr Who-esque explanatory dialogue. At numerous points you can hear the plot gears grinding out a workaday connection between one great conceit and the next. (Actually, it’s more likely the sound of the courier’s motorbike revving outside as Adams pulls yet another last second deadline.) Add to that the number of entire situations that really aren’t going anywhere interesting (the whole bird people/shoe shop invasion storyline for instance, and the bizarrely dull non-character of Roosta) and the radio series’s reputation starts to look a tad shaky.
The hitch-hiker universe is fundamentally flawed, jerry built from observational nuggets, half digested New Scientist articles and unused Who ideas. All but the most fanatical (and indeed humourless) fans acknowledge this, yet they love it in spite if itself. Why shouldn’t the same apply to the TV series? Yes, we know Sandra Dickinson was an insane casting choice, and Dave Prowse even more so, and scenes supposedly set in an alien bunker are clearly filmed in fine drizzle on a golf course, and (sigh) That Head never lived up in action to its grand unveiling by Keiran Prendiville on Tomorrow’s World.
In so many ways, the TV Hitch-Hiker’s was an improbably stupid idea. Loads of stuff that only really works when described in quizzically rambling prose had to be visualised in all its full-on silliness, and then sit there for half an hour, slowly falling apart under the studio lights. But so much does work, and in a sort of queasy, possibly even accidental way which made the original transmissions stand out from everything around them, in the way great comedy always should, even in the moments when (whisper it) it wasn’t technically being all that funny. It created its own ramshackle, immersive world in the same way the radio series did, not with found sounds and cod-medieval electronica, but fuzzy CSO matte shots, rickety Meccano-boosted animatronics and M&S blazers with bits of circuit board sewn into them.
(Oh, and we’ve missed the final deadline for rounding off this billing in a satisfactorily pithy way, so if the sub can sling in a randomly ill-chosen reference to towels, tea or sperm whales, that’d be great, ta.)Read More
“CRUMBS!” ONE-EYED cartoon white mouse (DAVID JASON) and a short-sighted mole (Penfold – TERRY SCOTT), despite having only one and a half good eyes between them, continually outwit wheezing frog BARON GREENBACK and STILETTO the mafioso crow (BRIAN TRUEMAN) before reporting to Jimmy Edwardslike Colonel K (EDWARD KELSEY). Another superlative effort from Cosgrove-Hall. English-as-hell humour, in-jokes for the parents and Pythonesque fourth wall narrator interrupting the action make this long overdue a full revival. The mystic stick (“Are you the hairy old twit with the twig thing?”), cunning plans (“Aha! Greenback wants us to think that he thinks we’ll think there isn’t a drop at all. But I know he thinks that I know he thinks there is!”), the Time Traveller’s Potting Shed – it was all here. Dangermouse. Powerhouse.Read More
THE OLD PETER SELLERS monologue about “glorious Bal-ham” is dusted down for late entry in the PLANK, etc. pantheon of Britcom support features. Directed by Michael (i.e. Mickey) Dolenz (METAL MICKEY, LUNA). Made as a spoof travelogue, with great voice-over by David De Keyser. Danny Schiller and Judy Gridley played tourists while ROBBIE COLTRANE turned up in at least 15 other parts. From an original sketch written by Frank Muir and Denis Norden.Read More
SIR FRED HARRIS makes his first proper appearance in our A-Z, here presiding over an agreeably strange maths show. In-studio chats mixed to schoolkids on location, but the best bits were the abstract animations on topics like binary notation, area and geometry, played out to the off-kilter prog-blues of seventies maverick composer RON GEESIN.Read More
A POST-TISWAS LENNY HENRY, pre-US TRACEY ULLMAN and, well, DAVID COPPERFIELD club together for a three-way averagefest of songs and sketches and jokes old and new. Henry perfected Nathaniel Westminster, Ullman did her dizzy bit and then went onto GIRLS ON TOP, while Copperfield did the old half-bride half-groom dressing up shenanigans. “GAGFAX” teletext joke section bewilderingly popular. Large chunk of show performed in ’80s LE staple of a completely white studio.Read More
BAFFLING MINI-SERIES about the discovery of a mini-society living in a cruise liner on the bottom of the sea since World War Two. CHRISTOPHER LEE, “brilliant but mad”, is in charge. Doctor JEAN MARSH wanders by, “conflicted” by euthanising policy of all officers on the ship: no-one allowed to be too old, too sick or too disabled. Hence one woman tumbles dramatically off a balcony, becomes lame, and FRANK “Riddler” GORSHIN bumps her off with a hypodermic. One scene was filmed from the perspective of a scuba diver discovering the boat, clocking the Riddler and Co, then copping a bullet in the head, right through the mask.Read More
AND BY a quirk of fuck-you fate, here’s more Mollie. This time she’s moonlighting from Grace Brothers as Ida Willis, a busy-body housekeeper working for posh CHRISTOPHER BLAKE and his missus JENNIFER LONSDALE, who treats Chris like he’s her son despite him already having his own mother, albeit an adopted one, played by CLARE RICHARDS, and with whom he rarely sees eye to rheumatic eye. Ran for ages, courtesy of a welter of plot pyrotechnics, including – whoops – a wholesale relocation from London to Yorkshire.Read More
PERENNIAL TARGET for “cuh?!” criticism, this cheapo would-be glamorous soap set on a passenger ferry on a triangular route between Felixstowe, Stockholm and Amsterdam (do you see?) invited derision pretty much from the off thanks to its fundamental flaw – the North Sea is a grey, freezing dreary wasteland, and no place for viewer-friendly shenanigans. Most-remembered scene introduced sexy ship’s purser KATE O’MARA sunbathing topless on foredeck (chest down, of course), visibly suffering from effects of 40mph wind and light drizzle. It got no better. O’Mara left after two series (nowadays it would’ve been pulled after two episodes). Also on board: MICHAEL CRAIG, LARRY LAMB, NIGEL STOCK and SCOTT FREDERICKS. DIANA COUPLAND, PAUL JERRICHO and GEORGE BAKER were drummed on board to try and pep up interest. Instead it sank, all hands, no doubt in the choppy wake of THE LOVE BOAT.Read More
DOTTY OVER-THE-HILL eponymous medieval meddler BARNARD HUGHES helps/hinders dopey teen CLARK BRANDON in meddlesome sitcommery ways. “Working in a garage isn’t exactly Camelot; now they tell me I need an apprentice!” That was the “sit”, right there. Mr Merlin accessed own magic room by tapping on the wall of his house, which would open up a doorway and staircase leading upwards to his laboratory. There was an owl, and the lovely Alexandra, a blonde spirit. But still no sign of the “com”.Read More
FLIMSY FROLIC revolving from NBC around teacher (WILLIAM KATT) getting “magical” superhero suit from ghost of an alien (or something) and being forced against will to “fight crime”. Despite title, not great.Read More
ATTENTUATED ATTEMPT to create a UK version of BIG JOHN LITTLE JOHN. Only they decided to stick it in the Victorian era, and through some barely explained magic, the lad and his father swapped places. PETER “RICHARD DE VERE” BOWLES – yes, even though he was succesful at the time – was the father; unfortunately, and inevitably, the kid was rubbish and wouldn’t have been able to pass as a child, never mind being a grown man in a child’s body.Read More