The Comedy Vault – Nighty Night.

Nighty Night (BBC3, 2004-2005)

There were a lot of sitcoms tried out on digital channel BBC3 over the years, but I was never really that fond of many of them, but even though this one like most of the others was rather crude and dark I did actually enjoy it. The way I got into was rather simple really, and how I imagine most people in TV would want it to happen, I saw a trail for the first episode before it launched, thought it was rather curious, and decided to give it a watch.

Nighty Night was created and written by Julia Davis who had already appeared in a few comedy shows including the first series of BBC2’s Big Train. Along with Davis the show featured a lot of unusual characters that were played by a great cast. Davis played Jill, who might just be the most horrible and mean-spirited character to have ever appeared in a British sitcom. vlcsnap-00299

In the first series, Jill works in a salon alongside the useless Linda (a pre-Gavin And Stacey Ruth Jones), and her husband Terry (Kevin Eldon) has become ill. She then goes off to find a man and doesn’t let anything like Terry’s recovery get in the way. Jill becomes very fond of the doctor Don (Angus Deayton, in one of his earliest TV appearances after trying to get his career back on track following his embarrassing departure from Have I Got News For You). vlcsnap-00286

Jill will do anything to be with Don, who is married to Cath (Rebecca Front), who realises that something odd is happening. Jill also meets Glenn (Mark Gatiss, as a character possibly even more hideous and strange than anyone he played in The League Of Gentlemen) who is finding it hard to meet a woman, mostly because of his rather unfortunate facial tic. vlcsnap-00112

Also featuring as a couple are Sue (Felicity Montagu) and the vicar Gordon (Deayton’s old KYTV colleague Michael Fenton-Stevens). Jill practically bumps off half the cast including Glenn to try and get her man, thanks to some devious plans including poisoned Angel Delight. After this climax, it looked like there wasn’t any other direction for Nighty Night to go in, so it was something of a surprise when there was a second series a year later. vlcsnap-00289

Don and Cath were now trying to repair their marriage, but Jill and a reluctant Linda have managed to track them down in Cornwall to make their lives a misery all over again. Miranda Hart also appears in this series. I felt that this series didn’t contain as much action as the first one, but it was still rather intriguing. Both series have been released on DVD with plenty of extras (the second series is rated 18, the first BBC comedy series to receive that rating I believe I’m right in saying). vlcsnap-00285

Another thing I noticed about Nighty Night was that the soundtrack mostly consisted of mid-80s British rock groups such as Marillion and Def Leppard. As I have said before I have never really been that keen on sitcoms that critics like to describe as “it’ll make you cringe more than laugh”, but thanks to the good performances from the entertaining cast coping with the shocking moments this was one that I stayed with to the end.

Game Show Memories – Headjam.

Headjam (BBC3, 2004)

This is a game show that I don’t remember watching a huge amount of at the time, but I thought that it had an interesting enough idea to feature here. Headjam was originally shown on BBC3 and was hosted by Vernon Kay, who has gone on to become one of Britain’s most prolific game show hosts, having been in charge of more than 15 formats over the years, that’s even more than Bruce Forsyth!

One thing that attracted to me to Headjam was that it was based around the more useless information in our heads such as pop trivia, and being someone who is interested in collecting and remembering ultimately pointless facts about music, TV, and things like that made me think that this would appeal to me. It’s a surprise to realise that this is almost 15 years ago now, back in those distant days when game shows were half-an-hour long. vlcsnap-00535

Two teams of two take part. They consist of a contestant accompanied by a celebrity (of the Edith Bowman/Lauren Laverne/Claudia Winkleman variety) and they have to work together in various rounds to prove what they know, with most of the questions focusing on 80s and 90s pop culture. In the first round which was on the buzzer, a clue was given to a famous person, but the answer had to be given in the form of a spoonerism. vlcsnap-00533

In the next round the teams were given three things and they had to put them in the order that they happened. On one occasion they had to put three BBC1 clocks in the correct order, and they got it right. Then there was another buzzer round where contestants had to guess the TV theme tune. It was at this point that Vernon would often start to sing along with them. Well it made a change from him randomly bursting into “Ice Ice Baby”. vlcsnap-00566

The next round featured four years, which each concealed a question, and the teams had to pick one, the answer would often lead to a clip from the archive being shown. Then back on the buzzer they had to guess a film from its tagline that was spoken by a booming voice. Then there was Take A Gamble. The celebrity was asked a multiple choice question, and the contestant could bet up to five points on whether they would get it right or not, which could quickly change the scores. vlcsnap-00537

The final round (they really did pack the rounds in) is against the clock. For one minute questions are asked and the answers all begin with a particular letter. The letter changes every three questions, and the team take it in turns to answer, with one point for every correct answer. The highest-scoring team go in the main Headjam round to play for the star prize. vlcsnap-00539

In the final, only the contestant plays. They are asked eight fairly simple questions, but the catch is that they have to answer them after they have all been asked, so it really is a challenging test of memory. The celebrity can only help them out on one answer. If they do succeed, they win one from a choice of three prizes on offer, including a TV. This didn’t happen that often, so Vernon got very excited when there was a big winner. vlcsnap-00543

Headjam ran for about a month or two on BBC3, before some editions were repeated on BBC2 in an evening slot, but it didn’t make much of an impact with viewers and it didn’t return for a second series. It was rather fun though and I feel that it was one of the best examples of a game show where rather silly long-forgotten things would be discussed before Pointless launched.

The Comedy Vault – The Mighty Boosh.

The Mighty Boosh (BBC3, 2003-2007)

I’m fairly sure that this is my 500th blog post, so I’m very pleased to have got this far, and I’m grateful for your interest and your support, there’s now a part of my life online from post one to 500, I have clearly watched far too much TV over the years haven’t I. To celebrate this occasion, I have decided to look back at what is one of my favourite sitcoms of the 2000s decade, The Mighty Boosh, starring the double-act Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt. Here’s how I got into the show.

First of all, I don’t remember seeing the pilot episode in 2003, I remember seeing the first series being promoted and I thought I would give it a try because I always like to discover new sitcoms, yes, even the ones on BBC3. I also didn’t realise at the time that there had been a radio version in 2001 (called The Boosh) which was on BBC London and BBC Radio 4, but I eventually heard it in a repeat run on BBC7/Radio 4 Extra. vlcsnap-01135

I also didn’t realise at the time that Fielding and Barratt had worked together since the late-90s and toured with various comedy shows. Seeing the first TV series was the first time that I had come across their work and I became a fan just because I liked the look of it, I certainly wasn’t influenced by critics from The Guardian or some such newspaper gushing over the show because The Mighty Boosh was suddenly in the latest in-thing that all the trendy people liked, I can assure you that I am just about the least trendiest person that you’ll ever meet, I just enjoy surreal comedy, and I was ready to go on a journey through time and space… vlcsnap-01149

It’s difficult to pick out some highlights from the 21 episodes, but I’ll have a go. In the first series in 2004, Vince and Howard (played by Fielding and Barratt) are working at a place called Zooniverse, a zoo which doesn’t seem to have any animals, which is run by the odd Bob Fossil. Also featuring are Naboo (played by Noel’s brother Michael), a gorilla called Bollo and Dixon Bainbridge, plus Mr Susan, Tommy Nooka, and The HitcherI still remember watching the first series, quickly going from “what on earth is this”, to becoming a big fan. My favourite moments include the episodes where some mutant animals were found at the zoo, when Vince and Howard meet a mysterious hitchhiker, and when Vince joined a terrible electro band. I’d never really seen anything like it. vlcsnap-01139

Eager for more, I was delighted when there was a second series in 2005, featuring another wave of odd characters such as Old Gregg, Tony Harrison, The Betamax Bandit, Chris de Burgh and Milky Joe. Highlights included Vince and Howard being stranded on a desert island which leads to something odd happening with coconuts, and also encountering some problems with an old lady. The moon would also often add his own comments on what was happening. vlcsnap-01142

The third and final series in 2007 was now set in a shop in London called the Nabootique. We met even more crazy characters including The Crack Fox and highlights included something strange about eels, Vince and Howard taking part in a singing competition, and a party that gets rather out of hand. And Vince says “Bethnal Green” in one episode which is always going to be a winner with me. vlcsnap-01150

Another thing about The Mighty Boosh was that several other comic actors turned up who have gone on to bigger things including Rich Fulcher, Matt Berry and Richard Ayoade. While the show was running on BBC3, they went on tour again to big acclaim and a couple of stage shows have been released on DVD. The show was also briefly on BBC2, but it didn’t catch on there, partly because it was shown in various timeslots, the success of the show is mostly down to BBC3, and it suits the word “cult” more than most sitcoms. I also remember being really pleased when the DVD was released, I really looked forward to watching the show again, and there are some great DVD extras too. vlcsnap-01148

Fielding and Barratt also did well enough with younger viewers to appear on the cover of NME several times, and there was also a book released featuring some of the best bits of the TV show. I suppose that the response by viewers to The Mighty Boosh can be best described by that old phrase “a show people either love or hate”, but I know which side I’m on. I can’t believe that it’s now almost been a decade since The Mighty Boosh left the screen, there have been rumours of a film version coming but it never happened. Although they haven’t worked together for a while now, Fielding went off and made a similarly odd sketch show on his own for E4, and Barratt has appeared in a few comedies and films. Almost 15 years on I still think the show has a unique place in British comedy.

The Comedy Vault – Man Stroke Woman.

Man Stroke Woman (BBC3, 2005-2007)

Man Stroke Woman is a comedy show which featured a sextet who performed in various sketches, three male, three female. The three men were Nick Burns, Ben Crompton and Nick Frost who had appeared in various other memorable comedy shows including Nathan Barley, Ideal and Spaced. The three women were Amanda Abbington, Daisy Haggard and Meredith MacNeill. The basic theme running through the show was simply how to get through your life and interact with other people from both a male and female perspective. vlcsnap-00652

There were also a few recurring characters. In the first series there was a sketch were Abbington wore a ridiculous outfit and Burns tried to explain this, leading Abbington to always conclude “you can never just say that I look nice, can you?”. There was also a good one-off where a judge is about to deliver a sentence in a high-profile case, and then someone runs in and says “it’s snowing!”, and everyone leaves the court overexcited. vlcsnap-00636

Also featuring were someone who was mislaying his son Josh in ever more strange places, and two men who always end up doing something daft because “you said there’d be girls here!”. Every edition always ended with a sketch featuring some workers in a cosmetic shop who were rude to their customers, and in one edition the customer was played by Miranda Hart before she went on to have her own show. vlcsnap-00642

The second series introduced more regular characters including a drunk uncle played by Frost who is always setting a bad example to his 12-year-old nephew, the woman who predicts shockingly bad futures for other people’s children before concluding “or… he’ll be fine!”, the musician who reveals on stage the rather dodgy stories the inspired the song that he is about to perform, and a giggling woman who is always prank calling her policewoman flatmate with ever more ridiculous made-up emergencies. vlcsnap-00645.jpg

Man Stroke Woman was made by the same production team as The Office and it had a good cast who put in some consistently funny performances in some quirky sketches, and many of them went on to further success in TV and film. Another half-decent BBC3 comedy show, who would have thought it! If you make enough comedy shows I suppose that some of them will turn out alright and I definitely thought that this was one of the better ones. vlcsnap-00646

Man Stroke Woman ran for two series which have both been released on DVD, and they also contain some behind the scenes extras. Although I don’t recall ever hearing anyone use the show’s catchphrases and it didn’t gain a huge following, it definitely had an impact on me, although I must admit this isn’t my all-time favourite BBC3 comedy, I’ll get round to revealing what that one is soon.

The YouTube Files – Touch Me, I’m Karen Taylor.

Touch Me, I’m Karen Taylor (BBC3, 2006-2008)

Well I’m not Karen Taylor of course. One comedy show that I really enjoyed in the early-2000s was ITV1’s The Sketch Show, and after it ended, some of the cast went on to further success, such as Lee Mack and Tim Vine appearing together in the BBC1 sitcom Not Going Out. Another cast member who was Karen Taylor went on to get her own sketch show on BBC3. It seems that it hasn’t been released on DVD, but every edition seems to be on YouTube so I’ve been having a watch of the show again recently. vlcsnap-00604

Karen played a wide variety of characters throughout the show, including a divorced teacher called Miss Harper who was a little too fond of her male pupils, and young Joanna who was married to an elderly millionaire. There was also a sketch where Karen played various people who left video messages on a dating/networking site (a little similar to Smack The Pony) called (that dates the show) talking about their unusual interests. vlcsnap-00602

Another sketch I remember was when two women watched a TV programme or film that they seemingly enjoyed, and then made an odd comment about it which made it seem that they had totally misunderstood what happened. There was also a sketch throughout every show where Karen would be challenged to complete a task such as write a song or perform a dance routine and we would follow her progress over the weeks before seeing her results at the end. vlcsnap-00560

One of the most memorable sketches was Cash Cow, a parody of an interactive quiz channel. Now if you’ve ever seen any content of a real quiz channel you’ll realise that parodying this genre is almost redundant because most of the channels were beyond parody with their absurd questions, and there were a huge amount of them on TV at this time before the bubble burst. Even though this sketch was rather unflattering to them though, I bet that the team at Channel Quizzy Quiz and the like were grateful for the extra exposure. vlcsnap-00478

After a pilot, Touch Me went on to have two series, and considering that I thought that most of BBC3’s comedy output was rotten, that I still remember this show and some of its characters almost a decade after it ended means that it can’t have been that bad. Also as ever with these shows the quality of the sketches varied but Karen was a great and entertaining performer throughout. I haven’t seen her much on TV though recently, the last time I can remember seeing her was on BBC1’s Pointless a few years ago as a contestant alongside her old Sketch Show mate Tim Vine but they didn’t do very well. Oh no! vlcsnap-00612

The Comedy Vault – The Smoking Room.

The Smoking Room (BBC3, 2004-2005)

Time for another review then of a comedy DVD that I have. I was never really a big fan of comedy on BBC3, but there was the occasional gem, including Ideal and Swiss Toni which I really liked, and there was also The Smoking Room. This was a sitcom with a rather basic idea but it was much enhanced by having some good moments played out by a cast full of good comic actors. It was written by Brian Dooley who in 2005 received a Bafta for his work on the show, and the theme music was “Close To Me” by The Cure.

Room B209 is the designated and rather drab room where people come to have a smoke, and this is where the whole of the show is set. It is never really made entirely clear where these people work or what they do because there is a rule in the room that they don’t “talk shop”. The cast included the likes of Robert Webb (presumably having a day off from Peep Show), Paula Wilcox and Siobhan Redmond, and there were also one-off appearances from Mathew Horne and Dave Lamb. vlcsnap-00014

There were about a dozen regular characters in The Smoking Room, and the most memorable ones included Robin, who seemed to spend just about his whole time in the room, Barry, who only ever seemed to go there so he could have some time to do the crossword, the somewhat bossy Sharon and her assistant Janet, and the horribly grumpy Len.

17 episodes were made altogether, and although they all had good moments, there are a few that I particularly enjoyed. Firstly, there was an episode where Robin finds a box which has pictures in it of staff members that were taken in 1987, and among other things we see a picture of Barry with red-rimmed glasses and a mullet, and old-fashioned things like that always make me laugh.

There was another episode devoted to everyone in the room attending a seminar where they are encouraged to quit smoking by an overly cheery man dressed as a cigarette, and Barry says beforehand if he starts to talk about things like the illnesses that smoking can cause that he doesn’t want to hear about, he’ll just blot it out by going through the lyrics to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his head, leading to him at a random point in the episode just shouting out “Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the fandango?” and the look on the interrupted seminar host’s face is terrific. vlcsnap-00013

There was also another good one where it was April Fool’s Day so everybody played increasingly horrible pranks on one another, and there was also a tense moment when Gordon almost had a heart attack. It would have been good to see The Smoking Room continue to develop, but unfortunately there wasn’t a third series, but it couldn’t be helped. Just after the second series, there were increased restrictions on smoking in public, meaning that there would no longer be smoking rooms in workplaces, and this rendered the situation redundant.

The Comedy Vault – Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps.

Two Pints Of Lager And A Packet Of Crisps (BBC2/BBC3, 2001-2011)

The lives of five youngsters living in Runcorn were featured in this long-running sitcom which was created and written by newcomer Susan Nickson. Firstly there is the couple Janet and Jonny (Sheridan Smith and Ralf Little who also appeared in The Royle Family together), then there is the couple Donna and Gaz (Natalie Casey and Will Mellor who also appeared in Hollyoaks together), and also Louise (Kathryn Drysdale). twopints1

Janet and Jonny go through a lot throughout the series. After a while they start to drift apart and Jonny goes out with Kate for a while, but they do get back together and after Jonny was injured at the end of series four there was a viewers’ phone vote to determine whether he survived, which he did, and Janet and Jonny eventually get married and had a child called Corinthian, although Jonny finally left at the end of the sixth series. Janet also works in a bakery and Jonny was vaguely obsessed with Jammie Dodgers for some reason. vlcsnap-01530

Donna and Gaz go through a lot as well, they get together in the first episode, and they also eventually get married, but it is more difficult for them, and they consider divorce even after Gaz as an accident and briefly puts on lots of weight. We also see Donna’s mum in the first three series who is always offering her advice and seems to have a thing for Gaz herself. Gaz is also scared of sheep which makes life awkward for him. vlcsnap-01533

Louise dates various people throughout the series, and seems to enjoy squeaking a lot. One of her boyfriends is one of Janet’s old schoolmates David. Louise also tells us about her odd family including her mum and auntie Nigel. Also in later series she discovers who her real parents are, and goes on to have a girl seemingly by Donna’s younger brother called Louise Louise. vlcsnap-01531

As well as all of this, Jonny and Gaz seem to spend most of their time in the Archer pub making various observations on life and these were among some of my favourite moments in the show. My favourite character in Two Pints was actually Munch, who was Gaz’s long-lost half-brother. He was a terrific mechanic and he had some odd quirks including his favourite food being Chipsticks in brown sauce, thinking that Vimto was alcoholic, and shouting “hiya!” at everyone, but he was only in a few series. vlcsnap-01536

As the series progressed there were some other regular cast members, including Timothy Claypole (not that one) who worked in the Archer, Kelly who worked in the bakery with Janet, and Wesley Presley who flirted with Donna. By the final series only Donna and Gaz remained from the original cast with Janet and Louise having left in series eight, so they were joined by Tim’s sister Cassie, and also Billy who became mates with Gaz, but the show had ran out of steam by that point and finally ended after just over a decade and 80 episodes. vlcsnap-01535

Two Pints began on BBC2 but it soon moved to BBC3 where it did well in the ratings with younger viewers and seemed to be repeated endlessly for a while. I didn’t watch the show first time round but I saw a repeat run of series one on Play UK, the terrific digital channel, and that’s when I got into it. There were also a few variations on Two Pints, including a musical special, a horror special, a live special for the start of the seventh series, a flashback special, and also a crossover special for Comic Relief which featured the casts of the other Nickson-created sitcoms Grown Ups and Coming Of Age (which was rather awkward as Sheridan Smith also appeared in Grown Ups).

The Comedy Vault – Ideal.

Ideal (BBC3, 2005-2011)

I must admit that I have not been a big fan of a lot of the comedy programmes on BBC3, but there are a few that I do like, and this is one of them. I got into the show from the first episode which was shown at the start of 2005 when I was trying to find out what new programmes were going to be launched and the sound of this one interested me because it starred Johnny Vegas, whose outrageous antics I had enjoyed on such shows as Shooting Starsideal1

Ideal starred Johnny Vegas as Moz, a very small-time dealer in a manky Manchester flat, and most of the action is based around the various characters who come round to interact with him. He also has a girlfriend called Nicki but they are always arguing and their relationship is in trouble. ideal2

A huge amount of characters turned up in Ideal over the years as Moz’s life became ever more complicated. Among my favourites were Colin, someone who when he came round would always say “I’m on probation”. This was clearly an attempt at creating a catchphrase but I’ve never heard anyone reference it outside of the show. ideal3

There was also Brian (who was played by Graham Duff who also created the show and wrote all of the episodes) who turned up with a different man every week and he always thought that they were “scrummy” (another attempt at a catchphrase for the show there) before dumping them and he was into gossip about all of the people that Moz knew. ideal4

There were even more unusual characters though. There was also Moz’s brother Troy who liked to live in the cupboard and run his own pirate radio station when he wasn’t being electrocuted or stabbed by his wife. There was also the memorable Cartoon Head, a mute character who permanently wore a mouse mask on his face who seemed to be some sort of crazed killer. ideal5

Also among the best characters were the policeman who Moz was mates with, the rather daft Jenny who Moz eventually takes a shine to, the strange nextdoor neighbour Judith, the indie group Silicone Valets who eventually hit the big time until one of their members gets trapped in Moz’s boiler (it’s a long story), and Psycho Paul who thought of himself as a big-time gangster when he was nothing of the sort. ideal6

One of the things that made Ideal stand out as well as all of these bizarre characters and situations was the creative use of atmospheric music, with several songs from various genres being used, and the soundtrack to the first series was released on CD. Although Ideal was never a big success with viewers or critics it did gain a fanbase including myself, and eventually the show ran for seven series and over 50 episodes including a Christmas special, and also featured a few guest stars including Mark Radcliffe, Sean Lock and Janeane Garofalo. ideal7

All of Ideal has also been released on DVD and there are lots of great extras including lots of deleted scenes and funny outtakes, and some of the cast members have gone on to bigger things including Natalie Gumede and Tom Goodman-Hill. Although Ideal has now ended on TV, there were a few rumours that there might be a film version to tie up the loose ends, but nothing has been confirmed about this which is a shame as it would be a great way to conclude this underrated comedy show.

More TV Memories – Family Guy.

“It seems today that all you see is Family Guy on TV…” so the opening theme (almost) goes. But this isn’t going to necessarily be a piece about my favourite episodes or characters as such, it’s going to more be about the history of the scheduling and promotion of Family Guy when it was first shown in the UK in 1999.

There were already a lot of great animated sitcoms on TV at the time including The Simpsons, South Park and King Of The Hill. Somewhat unsurprisingly when Family Guy launched a lot of the publicity consisted of “if you think that the Simpsons are crazy, just wait until you see this lot!”, and the fact that the creator of the show and provider of some of the voices was newcomer Seth MacFarlane who was only 25 at the time. We first met the Griffin family in the UK when the first episode was shown on Sky One on 21 September 1999 at 8:30pm. fg0001

The main characters included Peter who worked at a toy factory, who some viewers complained was just a Homer Simpson clone, Brian the talking dog, and there was also the one-year-old son Stewie who has an English accent and originally was something of a nasty and matricidal character, but he has changed over time into a rather camp inventor of time machines. fg0003

I still have a few articles about the launch, including one from Melody Maker (which incorrectly refers to the show as The Family Guy throughout). I will always associate Family Guy with the animated science-fiction sitcom Futurama, because it launched in the UK on the same day. This actually gained more publicity at the time because it was the first new show created by Matt Groening, the brain behind the massive success of The Simpsonsfg0002

I still remember watching the earliest episodes, with the famous cutaways already established. It is a surprise how scruffy the animation on the early episodes is compared to now, but they still look better than the first series of The Simpsons which looks like it was drawn with crayons now. In more recent years even Family Guy referenced the launch with an episode called “Back To The Pilot” which mocked the animation mistakes, unsettled characterisation, and a different actress providing the voice of Meg. fg0004

I did like Futurama and Family Guy and watched regularly, even going as far to buy the first series when it was released on VHS. Yes, it was that long ago now. Family Guy was first shown on terrestrial television in the UK in August 2000 on Channel 4 but they really didn’t know what to do with it. For a while it was shown at 6pm (the same timeslot in which they now show The Simpsons), and after a while it oddly got moved to the afternoons, meaning it ended up being edited. vlcsnap-01335

The first episode of Family Guy was shown in America in January 1999 after the Superbowl so it attracted big ratings. After a few series though it was cancelled, but good DVD sales meant a revival, and the show continues to this day, with another new series starting in America soon. After a while Sky One and Channel 4 stopped showing Family Guy and it moved to the BBC, with BBC3 repeating episodes endlessly on an almost daily basis and the show finally gaining in popularity. fg2

After the success of Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane went on to launch a second animated sitcom, American Dad. Soon Family Guy will be shown on ITV2 for the first time, presumably they think that they are going to have success with the show. Do Sky One and Channel 4 now regret losing the show? I can’t believe that I have been a fan of Family Guy for almost 16 years now.

The Comedy Vault – Swiss Toni.

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. vlcsnap-00511

Along with Swiss there is also Geoff, the senior salesman. He is rather miserable and descending into alcoholism, and he is also having an affair with Swiss’s wife behind his back. vlcsnap-00508

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. vlcsnap-00506

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. vlcsnap-00505

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. vlcsnap-00507

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. vlcsnap-00509

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!”. vlcsnap-00510

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.