The New Statesman (ITV, 1987-1992)/A B’Stard Exposed (BBC1, 1994)
This is definitely considered to be one of the better ITV sitcoms of its era. By the late-80s, Rik Mayall had established himself as one of the leading names in British comedy. And now having finally left the likes of The Young Ones behind, he wanted a new challenge, and he ended up playing another rather remarkable sitcom character.
The New Statesman (not to be confused with an earlier BBC2 sitcom that starred Windsor Davies) was created and mostly written by Marks and Gran, the double-act who would go on to score many other sitcom hits including Birds Of A Feather. Mayall starred as Alan B’Stard, who at the 1987 General Election not only becomes an MP, but he also has the biggest majority in the House Of Commons.
But he was unlike most other politicians, being greedy and nasty on a huge scale. He soon takes the opportunity to do everything that he can to further his profile, always putting himself first. Several other politicians and colleagues get caught up in his schemes, and he also flirted with just about every woman that he meets, which is something of a concern to his wife.
The New Statesman was shown by ITV in the 10pm on Sunday slot, where the likes of Spitting Image would usually be, and this equally satirical show became popular enough to be associated with the excesses of the era. Along with the four series, there was a feature-length special, and the final edition was on BBC1 and titled A B’Stard Exposed, where the MP turned interviewer Brian Walden met the man himself to look back on his spectacularly sleazy career.
This also won a Bafta, and all of the episodes have been released on DVD too. After a break, the idea was revived as a stage show, with Mayall again taking the lead role, and he also went on to play a similarly devious character in Believe Nothing, another Marks and Gran ITV sitcom (that I reviewed a while back), but this one made little impact with viewers by comparison.
And after that, there was a series on ITV where every week there was a short documentary looking back at a classic sitcom (not that they had many to choose from), followed by an episode from the archive. The New Statesman was one of these, and viewers enjoyed seeing this again. Overall this did do well, but B’Stard was an exaggerated character, and a lot has changed since then, you wouldn’t really find any MPs doing anything like him now, would you…?