l I l ! l i i
Right, so you take the story oi the Creation, cram It into ten minutes at smart animation, pack it with one-liners, and get Michael Hordern to play God. That was the briel lor Punch and New Yorker cartoonist Bud Handelsman, and with 8802’s In The Beginning he seems to have made an impressive job at it.
He’s helped out rather substantially by a ‘star-studded’ cast providing the voices. Apart lrom the venerable Hordern as ‘a rather sweet benevolent slightly scatty, inexperienced God,’ we have Harry Enlield as a chirpy Adam, Janet McTeer as Eve and John Cleese as a particularly persuasive Serpent.
‘lt was just a wonderiul group,’ enthuses co-producer Anuradha Vittachi, ‘and they really brought the script to lite. We were so tamiliar with the script by the time we got to
laugh at it again, but as soon as they read it, we were in hysterics, because they were so inventive. Harry Entield
as one line where he isn’t playing Adam but a beetle who bites the apple
- as well, and he did it in a John Lennon ' voice. It wasn't until next morning that I realised the joke -John Lennon being a
Beatle.’ Those familiar with Handelsman’s cartoons will recognise the style, a
3 well-known story enlivened with
' anachronisms and urbane wit. ‘It has that slightly astringent, very . . sophisticated edge,’ says Vittachi, ‘but f ldon’t think anybody should get
ottended by it because it is a very g altectionate satire.’
It’s something ol a departure torthe
i production company Word-Pictures as
Vittachi explains. ‘We mostly do dead
' serious philosophical documentaries
lor Everyman so this is a bit oi a new
: experience lor us and a very enjoyable = one. There’s a possibility at a series in recording that we didn’t think we’d ever - .
the luture it this gets a good audience response} In The Beginning is on 8802, 24
' December at 8.20pm.
He died in a way betitting the showbiz legend he was, on stage at the Sunderland Empire on the opening night at The Mating Game. He was 63 and he was simply Sid, not the iinest actor of his generation, but one oi the
best loved, with a lecherous cackle that
will live iorever, or at least as long as the Carry On videos keep selling like hotcakes.
Sid James was never the most attractive at lilm idols, with a lace variously described as ‘an unmade bed' and a ‘route map at the Himalayas’. In sitcom and lilm roles though, he discovered a natural inclination tor the bawdy and vulgar that struck a chord with British audiences - although Sid himself was South-Alrican born, and didn’t arrive in Britain until he was in his thirties.
Atribute to Sid James is long overdue, and Channel 4 repair the omission on New Year’s Day with Seriously Seeking Sid, a prolile and salute to the-comic genius made by Sid-loverJonathan Boss’s production company Channel x and narrated by ‘Sidallke’ Arthur Smith.
James was not a willing sell-publicist, so what we know at him is mostly trom second-hand reminiscences. Notably absent trom the programme is Barbara Windsor, who wasn’t willing to repeat on camera her autobiography’s raunchy ‘kiss and
Sid at his sexiest
tell’ revelations about her attair with Sid.
The picture that emerges is oi an
‘ actor who had several more strings to ; his bow than the lovany lecherous old
git stereotype perpetuated by his Carry On roles, but relused to take himselt or his work too seriously. Unexpected discoveries include Sid as ladies’ hairdresser, boxer, chorus-line dancer and Sinatra-style crooner. There’s nothing around today which can quite match that laugh though. (Amy Druszewski)
Seriously Seeking Sid is on Channel 4, New Year’s Day at 8.30pm.
Boxing as a subject for sitcom‘.’ You have got to be joking. With assorted pugilists brain-damaged or in comas. ‘champions‘ talking about ‘the killer instinct‘ and former title-holders doing lengthy stretches for rape and
I assault. there‘s not a lot to laugh at in ' a ‘sport‘ which consists of knocking
your opponent senseless or opening up match-stopping cuts in their ﬂesh. Comic it ain‘t, ifyou knowarrimean Harry.
BBC Scotland‘s Punch Drunk looks to be on shaky canvas then. in its choice of milieu. On the other hand, as one of the series‘ stars. Kenny Ireland, points out, Punch Drunk isn‘t essentially about boxing per se. but about the characters who inhabit that world.
‘Ifit was a case of "how funny is
' this bloody nose compared with the
last bloody nose?“, then it would be dubious,‘ he admits, ‘but it isn‘t. it‘s about people who are trying to hold their lives together. It‘s not so much about boxing as about relationships.‘ And to be fair, the series doesn‘t duck and weave around the controversies surrounding boxing. Indeed the ’love interest‘ character. Vikki Brown (played by Diana Hardcastle) is at first doing research for an organisation called Doctors Against Boxing.
Ireland plays manager Vinnie Binns. ‘I'm the kind of manager who‘s too nice for the job really.‘ he says, ‘and I’m living in the shadow of my father, who’s a great boxing manager. We see this young guy in a pub (played by John Kazek) who knocks out half the pub in a fight so
i l !
John Kazek plays young bopeiul Hance Gordon.
we take him on as the great new hopef
It‘s Ireland‘s first real attempt at a sitcom. but he doesn‘t believe the
‘ format requires any drastic change in
i acting style. ‘I always believe
comedy has to be as real as possible.
I'm of the Fawlty Towers school that ’ says you can have everything as ridiculous as you like as long as the
. steps along the way are quite real.‘
Punch Drunk represents both a landmark and an additional source ofpressure for the BBC Scotland Comedy Unit and producer Colin Gilbertinthatit‘sthe first comedy to ' be commissioned directly for the BBC] network. Ireland admits that the pressure is probably on the producers rather than the stars. "I‘he Comedy Unit in Glasgow is really the star of the show. because of their reputation with Rab C. Nesbitt and stuff behind them. and the experience ofColin Gilbert. and that‘s earned them the right to go straight onto the network.‘
If Punch Drunk is a knockout success. the implications are that it could mean more network commissions and cash and subsequent expansion for the Comedy Unit. The major cloud on the horizon though is the recent departure ofBBCl Controller Jonathan Powell. the man who commissioned the series in the first place. Unpredictable old game TV. Bit like boxing in that respect. (Amy Druszewski)
Punch Drunk begins on BBC] on 4 January at 8pm.
82 The List 18 December 1992 — 14 January 1993