E King a ! l

The scaly good guy

‘l‘llteachthose humans

; forfailingtorecognise

me. They mocked me but . nowlwillmakethemeat their words. . .‘ And with that. another 100 foot saurian muppet emerges from the deep. summoned by our vengeful scientist to wreak havoc on Tokyo and give scurrying Japanese people the screaming ab-dabs. With their high-velocity sparklers and Airfix jets. Dinky tanks and Lego barricades. the human beings are defenceless particularly when scheming aliens are on the side of the dastardly dinosaur. But look! Here‘s another scaley behemoth! Godzilla to the rescue! Hooray for Godzilla! And they all lived crappily ever after.

'I‘error ()f Mechagodzilla ( 1975) is the fifteenth starring vehicle for Godzilla. In the twenty years since he first graduated from the Tokyo branch of RADA (Royal Academy for Dinosaur Adventures). he had perfected the art of ‘method-scrapping‘. honing his battle techniques as each new filmic adventure presented him with new. more monstrous foes.

In the face ofsuch adversity. Godzilla developed a cult following that spread far beyond his Japanese origins.

Said Variety. ‘Godzilla is the perfect synthesis of wham-bam action. slapstick comic capers. and pish special effects. It has a nostalgic appeal for thirtysomcthing babyboomers and post-pub slouehers everywhere.‘

Said Channel 4. ‘lt's a bit

of late-night light relief

after the usual Christmas

I over-indulgence.‘ Said

2 Godzilla.‘Woooooaargh.‘ Which. translated from the Japanese. means. ‘I‘m pleased as punch that Channel 4 are showing this retrospective season

of my most thrilling

capers.‘ (Craig McLean.) The Godzilla season starts ' on Channel 4. Tuesday 22 : Decerribera112.5()am.

LE- .. __

78 The List 18 December-1992-‘14January1993‘

m Ernest

Torn Lappin tracks down the much-vilified John Sessions as he prepares to enter his ‘middle-aged mellow actor” phase, with a BBC2 Christmas series, Life With Eliza.

‘Smug bastard‘. ‘self-satisfied git‘. ‘too clever by half‘. ‘pretentious‘. ‘wanky‘ and ‘alleged Seot‘. Just some 2 ofthe off-the-cuffinstant reactions ' to the name John Sessions. What has . the urbane actor and comedian i (good friend of Robbie Coltrane and I Kenny Branagh) done to deserve ' such vitriol? Okay. so he mentioned Proust one too many times on Whose Line Is It Anyway). and his solo improvisation series did betray something ofa fondness for the cerebral at the expense of the amusing. But these crimes are hardly ; in the Moors Murderer league are they? The suspicion is that Sessions is a victim of that peculiarly British j trait ofabusing our performers for being too talented or having aspirations beyond the sub-literate level of most television.

Sessions with stick-on moustache and long-suffering wile.

Whoops. bit of a slip back into literary quotation there John.

Careful. He admits Life Wit/1 Eliza represents ‘me entering my middle-aged mellow acting period.‘ and the part was originally intended for the semi-divine Michael Palin. the crinkly-eyed globetrotter beloved ofhousewives from Exeter to Elgin. The series was concocted

‘The character is completely paranoid about what the neighbours think. Havingthe wrong shirt on is as bad as being caught wanking.’

by Terry Jones who wasn‘t impressed by his Python churn‘s audition and recruited Sessions instead. ‘It seemed an interesting thing to do.‘ he says. ‘and in the world ofJohn Birt. interesting things to do are going to become as rare as ospreys flying across Marks and Spencers.‘

Like plenty of Sessions‘ past work the concern is that the words may not be enough. His talent to weave long convoluted tales. packed with puns and wordplay. hasn‘t always translated well to the small screen. and Life With Eliza again substantially relies on verbal irony and arcane language.

‘Well. it does look very nice as well.‘ Sessions argues. ‘It‘s beautifully shot and lit and looks like a real house rather than one of those horrible Hovis-ad period sets. What it is I suppose is that phrase they use. “gentle comedy". I doubt you‘ll be

‘We can but fight the good t‘ight.‘ is all Sessions will say on the matter. I ‘We could all wander around making jokes about toilets but after 2000 years ofcivilisation I think we can do better than that. don‘t you'."

The first step on the long road to rehabilitation. the applause and adoration of the great British viewing public and an invitation to golfwith Tarby and Brucie is a Christmas show ofthe sort that used to be labelled ‘for all the family‘. until schedulers realised that was the kiss ofdeath.

Life With Eliza is a series of twelve ten-minute excerpts from the life of Ernest. a Pooteresque Edwardian figure who rambles on about his middle-class existence. with his long-suffering wife. ‘Diary ()fA Nobody is exactly the area.‘ says Sessions. in an educated but none-the-less-genuine Scots accent. 'It‘s got it‘s own way ofdoing things rolling on the floor. Actually “gentle but that whole genre is about the comedy“ is usually a euphemism for likeable Edwardianidiotbore.the f veryunfunny.butthisis pleasant. Jerome K. Jerome type or even atmospheric. likeable. with a Forster‘s Leonard Bast. You character that one hopes is amusing. remember that wonderful line in He gets into seances. new gadgets. Howards End. “He gave up the glory all those Edwardian petit-bourgeois ofthe animal for a tail suit and a set obsessions. He‘s completely of ideas.“ which would just as easily paranoid about what the neighbours

apply to this guy Ernest.‘ think. Having the wrong shirt on is as

bad as being caught wanking.‘

screen this year has been due to the fact that he has been working on a new solo series for BBC2. something ofa gruelling process it seems. ‘A couple ofyears ago. I did a thing called Tall Tales. and essentially this is more of them. I went up a blind alley for a while. because I started writing a series ofstand-up monologues. which I‘m just no good at. so I scrapped everything I wrote up until June and started again. The new stuffis about things like the Richard and Judy Show. Edgar

written one about a young boy obsessed with Nintendo and his sad hippy father. and the last in the series is about a dreadful fat New Zealand earth mother who travels around Thailand and eventually gets to

all this New Age horseshit. all this

long-delayed joint project with

Staffa in the spring. and written and directed by John Byrne. Sessions‘ other recurrent obsession is with

whom he is making a drama- docurnentary to tie in with the centenary ofthe writer‘s death.

His relative absence from the

Wallace. Gothic horror and Hong Kong kick-boxing movies. I‘ve

England where she comes out with

Andrea Dworkin rubbish. I think that one might annoy some people.‘ Less contentious is the

Robbie Coltrane. a dramatisation of

Boswell and Johnson‘s journey round the Hebrides. filming on

Robert Louis Stevenson. about

‘In the world of John Birt, interesting things to do are going to become as rare as

ospreys flying across Marks and Spencers.’

‘It‘ll involve going to all the weird and wonderful places he went to.‘ he 3 says. ‘Samoa and San Francisco. where we‘re hoping to get Armistead Maupin as our guide to the city. It‘s I not a connection you‘d immediately ! make.butit‘llbeinterestingtoget the doyen of modern. ostensibly veryi gay San Francisco talking about ' Stevenson. It‘s the kind of j programme I‘ve always wanted to I make. and I just love Stevenson. as a g man. and a writer. and everything i about him. Even after a century. he‘s; still an incredibly attractive i character. a great guy to be with. Apart from the fact that he was coughing his guts up most of the time ofcourse.‘ 1

Sessions himselfis less than I sanguine about the current 'I‘V climate. and realises that his more creative ideas are going to be increasingly marginalised. He anticipates problems with his solo series next year but isn‘t keen on the idea ofcompromise. ‘You just have to fight your corner.‘ he insists. ‘and there‘s no point pretending to be a different sort ofperformer.l doubtless will be pressured about this series. but it‘s up to me to fight for what I want to do. If they say no, they just want to make Trainer. then . . . fuck them.‘

Life With Eliza is on daily on B 8 C2 from 20 December at 5 . 45pm.