The second instalment of the ongoing series that we’ve been writing on our phone while stuck in various waiting rooms then several weeks later trying to decipher the autocorrected text subseqyuently generated .
Today’s mystery phrase: “Full on Below ski mode”.
198 Alain Degout (Paris)
Imagine if Alexei Sayle, in full on maniacal Belovski mode rather than the beardily erudite Question Time particpant mode of today, were a struggling artist loitering around Rue de la Skidpan in turn of the century Paris? Because that's kind of where the premise begins and ends in this single series offering from Linehan and Matthews, dipping their respective toes into the sitcom writing pool for the first time, following their work on the criminally ignored sketch show All New Alexei Sayle Show.
Despite suffering from largely terrible reviews at the time, when viewed as a ironic punk cover version of an unmade Blackadder Five this is actually a thunderingly enjoyable gem. It packs all the verve and energy you’d expect from full-pomp Sayle, still standing on the tail end of his imperial phase, includes a guest cast way better than the budget should allow – including Eleanor Bron and (as above) Windsor Davies, plus Neil Morrissey as a winsome foppish combination of Tony from Men Behaving Badly and a latter day Lord Percy. It probably wasn’t helped by arriving in a C4 Friday night schedule otherwise dominated by meticulously engineered US imports – the long-running Friends/Roseanne/Cheers axis – where a variety of homegrown comedy efforts were left looking unfashionable. Some unfairly so – Craig Ferguson appearing opposite Peter Cook in My Dead Dad, for example – some thoroughly deserving of scorn – Captain Butler, we’re looking at you.
But, back to Paris. No wonder a still-good NME seemed to act as sole champion of the show at the time of broadcast. Sadly, chances to reevaluate the critical kicking the series received have been almost entirely absent since first broadcast, with (as far as we're aware) a dawn-skirting 4Later repeat run as being the only chance to reappraise the show without hunting barely seeded torrents. Or, happily, YouTube.
BONUS FOOTNOTE FEATURE: The Bottom 200 Sitcom Characters of All-Time
200. The Baby from My Hero
199. Captain Butler from Captain Butler
198. David Baddiel from Baddiel’s Syndrome