; comedic arrival

5 and dire, inspiring barely a titter

' diet of tacky soaps and lifestyle TV,

The Fitz BBCZ, starts Fri 4 Aug, 9.30pm.

Mere mention of the phrase 'BBC Situation Comedy' is enough to strike indifference into the heart of any discerning viewer. And while the announcement of a new should be an occasion for celebration, we ’the viewer' have simply had our expectations raised too many times to care now. Recent efforts from Starting Out to Coupling have landed somewhere between lame

between them. But just when you’re about to resign yourself to an unsatisfying

hope comes jigging out of Pandora's Box in the form of a daft little ensemble number about a large family of redheaded Irish nutters. Conceived and written by multi-talented cornedian/playwright/Chelsea fan Owen O’Neill, The Fitz takes place in a ramshackle house situated on the Irish border.

Presided over by Gianluca Vialli devotee Ma (Ruth McCabe) and budding artist Da (Eamon Morrissey), the Fitzgerald family offspring are all named after members of another dysfunctional Irish family. There's a pair of warring brothers (Bobby and John E), a drag artist par excellence (Kennedy) and a directionless drifter (Teddy). Joe and Jackie are the bairns of the brood while, er, Damien is a star striker for Chelsea FC.

On paper, this all sounds absurd to say the least. In practice, each episode of The Fitz consists of a series of random happenings held together by a very loose narrative. Some hit and some miss by miles but O’Neill's vision is so warm and silly as to be pretty irresistible. ’One of my Edinburgh shows had lots of stories about

This man is not a neo-anarchist crusty-rocker

Hope comes jigging out of this Pandora's Box

my ginger haired family,’ says O’Neill. ’It was (producer) Claudia Lloyd who suggested I condense those into a half-hour sitcom.’

As O’Neill reveals, the writing process was extremely enjoyable. ’I went away and wrote one episode and decided to make it as mad as I could. I wrote it completely for myself, the kind of sitcom I wanted to see. I thought it would be binned immediately, but Claudia rang me and said, "Owen, I love it and I want another five". I told her if I did it she could buy me a season ticket for Chelsea.’

Happily, both sides of the bargain were reciprocated, and O'Neill will begin work on a second series of The Fitz in the autumn. ‘I think sitcoms are getting better,’ he says, generous as ever. ’People tend to look at old sitcoms nostalgically and talk about the "golden age" in the 705 and 805 when there was just as much bollocks around as there is now.’ (Allan Radcliffe)

Within the armed bastions of patriarchal white tradition. And it's also a great name when you consider both its irony and the (probany unWIttingl reference to the neo-anarchist Bradford crusty-rockers.

Following on from the Commission For RaCIal Equality's damning report into discrimination Within the Armed Forces, part one 'One Of The Famrly?’ -- looks at the Household Cavalry and the fortunes of the magnificently- named Marcelous Pusey. The cameras have followed the twenty-year-old Brummie recrUIt over a period of eighteen months as he attempts to pursue his dream of becoming one of the Royal Family’s personal mounted guards. And making his dear old ma prOUd.

’He's my speCial boy,’ she gushes on seeing him off at the gates of his

DOCUMENTARY SERIES New Model Army Channel 4, starts Tue 8 Aug, 9pm.

When you think of military organisations and raCism, you may instantly come up with Glory, the depiction of life for the black fighting unit during the American Civil War. Or

54 TllELIST 3—10 Aug 2000

maybe you’d consider the unusually high proportion of black soldiers sent to save the USA’s fading soul in Vietnam. Yet, the United Kingdom is far from spotless when it comes to instances of bigotry Within the Army's ranks.

New Model Army is a four-part series looking at the Current state of play

training centre. ’1 hope they treat him well.’ Whether we Will actually see any overly-harsh treatment is dOubtfuI considering the presence of a camera crew but hats off to the military machine for letting those subversive Channel 4 types behind its closed doors in the first place.

(Brian Donaldson)

TV times

We put TV celebs on the couch. This issue: Michael Barrymore

Born Michael Keiran Parker was born on 4 May 1952 in Bermondsey, London.

Big break Cutting his showbiz teeth as a warm-up comedian for the likes of Jim DaVidson, Barrymore and his relentless catchphrase ’Awight?’ were unleashed on an unsuspecting Saturday night audience with his self- titled variety show in 1991.

Finest hour Barrymore's My Kind Of People, which involved trawling the nation’s shopping centres in search of new Singing talent but generally ended up humiliating starstruck pensioners, scoring a mind-boggling thirteen million Viewers at its peak. However, his antics attracted almost as much attention when he turned Wish You Were Here presenter Mary Nightingale upside down at the London Restaurant awards in May, revealing a distinct absence of knickers beneath her transparent evening wear.

What's the cheeky chappie up to now? Barrymore On Broadway sees the Jumping beanpole embarking on a whirlwrnd t0ur of the world's best- known theatre district, Contributors to the three-part series include Marni Nixon, the unaccredited Broadway Singer who dubbed tone-deaf mowe stars Deborah Kerr, Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood.

Little known fact Performing is in the Barrymore genes. Michael’s mother was Margaret Parker, a 1940s song and dance entertainer.

Not so little known fact Barrymore’s 21-year marriage to his manager

Cheryl ended in 1995 when, at the

height of his popularity, a Sunday tabIOid forced him to publicly come out as gay. He currently lives With new partner Shaun and their lovely home was the SUbJE’CI of an OK! feature last year.

No relation to Drew Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore.

(Allan Radcliffe)

a: Barrymore On Broadway, BBC 1, starts Fri 4 Aug, 9.30pm.