Kevin Turvey Investigates (BBC2, 1981)/The Man Behind The Green Door (BBC2, 1982)
During the alternative comedy boom of the early-80s, among the sketch shows was A Kick Up The Eighties, where a group of up-and-coming comic talents got together to perform various sketches, some being more satirical than others. This was somewhat overshadowed by the similar Not The Nine O’Clock News though, and isn’t as well remembered today.
One of the sketches in A Kick Up The Eighties were the self-contained contributions from Kevin Turvey, an anorak-wearing self-styled investigative journalist from Redditch who had some rather odd observations on life, and every week aimed to get to the truth of various subjects. He was an example of someone who thought that he knew everything, when actually, he knew nothing.
This turned out to be a character who was played by Rik Mayall, in some of his earliest TV appearances, about a year before the launch of sitcom The Young Ones, the show that really did make his name. The Turvey character must’ve made some impact with viewers though, because in November 1981, he appeared on the cover of music weekly NME.
Now my sister, who really was a fan of Mayall throughout his career, once showed me a book that contained a picture of this cover, and she seemed to be sure that this was a fake. But from what I can work out, the cover is actually real, and he really was featured, which was a sign that he attracting the interest of their readers, and was a talent worth watching.
About a year on from this, it was decided to expand the idea of this character further, and he featured in the one-off special The Man Behind The Green Door. We discovered more about his look on life, and his rather miserable existence (also appearing were Adrian Edmondson and Robbie Coltrane). I first really came across this character though much later, when I was given a VHS, which was all of his A Kick Up The Eighties appearances compiled together (and retitled Kevin Turvey Investigates).
I must admit that I wasn’t familiar with this show at the time, but I was encouraged to watch in the “go on, have a look, it’s that funny bloke off the telly isn’t it, you’ll probably like it” style. I do remember being rather baffled by all of this really, he simply sat on stage and rambled on. There is a story that some viewers thought that he was real, although I don’t know if anybody really did fall for this.
The Man Behind The Green Door was eventually released on VHS too, but I don’t think there has been a DVD release. After this, Mayall left the Turvey character behind to concentrate on further successes, including The Young Ones and many others, but it was this amusing and creative idea that was a early example of his comic ability, which is still hugely missed from the screen to this day.