Swiss Toni (BBC3, 2003-2004)
Swiss Toni (played by Charlie Higson) became known as one of the most successful characters in the final series of the classic sketch show The Fast Show, but he actually first appeared in the second series of The Smell Of Reeves And Mortimer.
Swiss is a smartly-dressed middle-aged used car salesman who thinks of himself as something of a ladies’ man and a smoothie, but he has a rather old-fashioned outlook on life, thinking that all women need to make them happy are “fine wines and Belgian chocolates”, and he likens almost everything to being like “making love to a beautiful woman”. It seems that there was potential with the character to be a success so after The Fast Show ended he returned in a spin-off sitcom format and some more characters were added.
Paul is the junior salesman. He is very eager and does enjoy working with Swiss but he often gets the blame for a lot of the mistakes that happen and he is very frustrated that he can’t get a promotion.
Miranda is the secretary. She is rather feisty and does find her job boring, Paul is interested in her but she isn’t interested in him, and she does find Swiss’s antics and opinions rather embarrassing. Also featuring in the show are Swiss’s wife Ruth and his long-suffering mother.
An impressive list of guest stars also appeared in the show and put in good performances, including Tom Baker, Steve Davis, Mark Heap, Phill Jupitus, Paul Whitehouse, Simon Greenall and the award-winning Olivia Colman.
Swiss Toni ran for two series on BBC3, with the first series launching in the same month that channel came on air. I do feel that it was good enough to appear on BBC2, but it never did, so it is something of a lost gem. There are lots of good moments in the show and as the series went by there were some interesting ideas, such as an episode telling the same story from three different perspectives which was very creative. The additional characters were great and added a lot to the show.
One of my favourite episodes is series two’s “Mumblejackets”. One day Miranda’s sister Bernie and her son Jason turn up, claiming to have been thrown out by her husband. She is an aspiring children’s writer and is working on a terrible Harry Potter-style story. All three of Swiss, Geoff and Paul try to take advantage and go on a date with her, but without success. I particularly like this exchange: Geoff: “if I did throw my hat in the ring you two bozos won’t stand a chance.” Swiss: “ah, I bet you haven’t even got a hat!”.
That’s just one of the very funny moments on the show. All 16 episodes of Swiss Toni have been released on DVD and a over decade on it’s still a great watch, it’s a sitcom that I definitely recommend.