Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes (BBC2, 1999)
Matt Lucas and David Walliams appeared in a lot of TV comedy shows together in the 90s before they hit the big time with Little Britain. I have already reviewed some of these, including Barking and Rock Profile, and here’s another one. Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes was a series consisting of six ten-minute episodes that were written by and starred Lucas and Walliams.
Lucas starred as Sir Bernard Chumley, one of his oldest comedy characters (I think he was playing Sir Bernard even before his first appearance as George Dawes on BBC2’s Shooting Stars in the mid-90s), and he would eventually turn up in Little Britain. Sir Bernard is a rather bitter and rude veteran actor who is always causing awkward situations, even Count Arthur Strong is shy and retiring compared to this guy!
Sir Bernard is making a documentary about stately homes and visits a different one in every episode (continuing Lucas and Walliams’ enjoyment of randomly referencing old TV shows, all of the stately homes shared a name with a character from CBBC’s Grange Hill). In the first episode Sir Bernard meets criminal Anthony Rodgers (Walliams), a character who is even more unpleasant than he is.
The series is sponsored by Allen’s Crisps, who have hidden a golden potato at one of the homes, and whoever finds it wins free crisps for a year. Sir Bernard is determined to be the one who wins as he really loves crisps, he does. Sir Bernard decides to unite with Anthony and they travel around England together visiting various homes while trying to find the potato, although they end up causing chaos along the way. By the final episode, they do discover the potato, but have to pay a high price in return, it was certainly a bizarre experience to watch.
There was also a small supporting cast who played various characters in every episode including Paul Putner. There was only one series made of Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes, and it was shown rather late at night on BBC2. The first time I remember seeing this show was on digital channel Play UK (which was where I saw a lot of quirky late-90s/early-2000s comedy shows for the first time, and as I have said before I’ll always be grateful for that).
Two decades on, Sir Bernard’s Stately Homes has not been released on DVD, but it is another interesting part of Lucas and Walliams’ pre-Little Britain career, which also features the one-off sketch show You Are Here, and some comedy parodies that were made for Channel 4’s Sitcom Weekend including I’m Bland… Yet My Friends Are Krazy!, and I’ll try and review those soon too.