1 9 8 9 (UK)
4 x 20 minute episodes
These four 20-minute comedy dramas were two-handers starring the old Oxbridge firm of Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones.
20 minutes is a strange length to begin with, and the shows were nothing like sitcoms. They were also much more ambitious than sketch comedy, and far removed from full-length drama. Rather they were short stories with a twist in the tail (or tale).
Smith and Jones’ own Talkback company made the series as an experiment instead of doing a Christmas special. It was an interesting idea because if the one-act offering failed to appeal then the evening wasn’t entirely wasted and it was no disaster. In fact, it was ideal viewing to accompany a bedtime drink and biscuit.
Their familiar sketch work and nose-to-nose dialogue were gone and the emphasis was on acting and fleshing out characters.
The opening story (‘The Whole Hog’ written by Graeme Garden, late of The Goodies ) was the best of the quartet. It had Smith cast as a toy manufacturer – whose big seller was the ‘My Little Darling’ doll – about to merge with an American company known for its macho Doom-Hunk toy.
Maurice (Jones), the American boss, arrives and a spluttering Smith is amazed to find that he was married to him once – when Maurice was called “Monica” and hadn’t had the sex-change operation. That was ten years ago.
Smith’s fleshy round face twists in disbelief as lines like “when we were married” and “it was a mug’s game being a woman” are exchanged. He protests that Monica-turned-Maurice isn’t a real man despite that expensive surgery in Brazil. However, Maurice – all smiles and confident assurance – replies he hasn’t had any complaints from females . . . and it’s the first nine inches that count.
To which Mel can only snarl “you bitch”.
The whole playlet is good for a laugh and entertaining with a payoff that has the Doom Hunk having sexual high jinks with the Darling doll.
In subsequent comedy shorts (each shot in 48 hours), Mel and Griff appeared as two poor boating types, as two would-be suicides arguing over who jumps first, and as contrasting vicars.
The Whole Hog | The Boat People | Second Thoughts | The Waiting Room