Time Gentlemen Please (Sky One, 2000-2002)
At the start of 2000, Sky One decided to make some home-grown comedy shows for the first time, beginning with the science-fiction sitcom The Strangerers. Later that year on the same day, they launched two more shows, Harry Enfield’s new sketch show (which I will review soon), and another sitcom which was called Time Gentlemen Please which starred Al Murray (who I remember previously seeing on TV in Harry Hill’s show) as his The Pub Landlord character.
This character had become popular when he was taken on tour, even eventually doing a show at the O2, so the decision was taken to transfer him into a sitcom format. Co-written by Richard Herring (who featured in a few episodes playing a postman), Time Gentlemen Please was set in a rundown pub called The Cowshed, where Murray was the loudmouthed old-fashioned landlord (“back off, Brussels!”) who could be rather erratic as he was still getting over his wife and child leaving him to go to France “I miss my boy, that’s all!”. There were also a group of regular characters who appeared alongside him.
The pub only ever seemed to have about three regular customers. These were the revolting resident drunk Terry (Phil Daniels) who was rather flatulent and would drink anything, someone nicknamed “The Professor” who was rather brainy and also creepy, and their eldest customer who seemed to have been a regular for an awfully long time. Also helping out was Steve the barman but he was rather useless and lived in the basement. Rebecca Front also appeared playing the brewery representative Mrs Jackson “COW!” which is nice. Alexander Armstrong was in an episode too.
At the start of the first series Murray decided to take on Janet as the new barmaid (Julia Sawalha), despite her being rather foul-mouthed, constantly going on about what she would get up to with her ex-boyfriends, and an “Ozteralien” because she was just so good at what she did. At the start of the second series she was replaced by student Connie “so young… so innocent… so pure…” (Emma Pierson, an actress who seemed to be on TV a lot for a few years around this time) who seemed to have studied every subject when she was in her first year.
The first series of Time Gentlemen Please was a huge length of 22 episodes, one of the longest runs of any UK sitcom, seemingly as an attempt to sell the show to an American market where such series lengths are more commonplace (didn’t work, naturally). The show also had some memorable attempts at catchphrases from Murray including “I’m not confused!”, “ooh, it’s been a year!” and “I do not have a fat head!”.
The second and final series was a slightly shorter 15 episodes. One thing that disappointed me about this run was that the final episode was shown on the day that ITV Digital went off air (1 May 2002) so I couldn’t see it, but thankfully in more recent years the whole series was released on DVD. Time Gentlemen Please was something of a flop, but compared to Murray’s other Pub Landlord TV shows Happy Hour, Fact Hunt and Compete For The Meat I would say that it’s not that bad really.