“I bet that’ll be good,” I said, twenty years ago when I heard they were making this. I hadn’t seen much of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer’s comedy, but I had landed about eight episodes of their demented and hilarious game show Shooting Stars a few years earlier, toward the end of my VHS tape trading days, and laughed myself stupid. If, like most people in the US, you’ve never seen Shooting Stars, you’re missing out. Any time I see the name “Daws” anywhere, I don’t think “Butler,” I think Vic and Bob screaming bloody murder at Matt Lucas, dressed like a baby called George Daws and ignoring them.
So anyway, I had heard that the two comedians were doing a remake of the classic Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and traditionalists cringed and wept. There are probably still eight or nine people on rec.arts.tv.uk bashing their keyboards in horror. Charlie Higson, who’d been writing for as well as performing small parts in Reeves and Mortimer’s various programs throughout the nineties, produced and co-wrote most of the episodes. The BBC commissioned two short series made by Working Title which aired in 2000 and 2001, and our heroes, who are played sort-of straight with a few gags, are joined by Emilia Fox as Jeannie and by a host of recognizable faces. The first episode alone has Charles Dance, David Tennant, and Mark Gatiss, and I understand we’ll be meeting a very interesting recurring character pretty soon.
I thought it was good, if not groundbreaking. This Randall and Hopkirk are typical late nineties lads. They’ve got a PlayStation in the office, and nobody should find that surprising. This Jeannie is far more resourceful than the original, and she and Marty hadn’t tied the knot yet. In this version, Marty is killed the night before their wedding.
So while the first episode didn’t rise anywhere near the original at its best, our son adored it and had some great laughs, and I found a lot to enjoy as well. I think Higson must have had a ball writing the script and filling it with moments where the audience gets to ask “Is THIS it? Is this where Marty dies?” only to fake us out about four times. Anybody who doesn’t smile when Vic raises his arms in imitation of Kenneth Cope, only to not get run over, has a heart three sizes too small.
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