More TV Memories – Ed Stone Is Dead.

Ed Stone Is Dead (BBC Choice, 2002-2003)

This is a sitcom from the later days of BBC Choice, refreshing TV for the digital age. There seem to be no clips of this show online, and only one picture of the cast together, but as I do remember watching this, I might as well do a review. Richard Blackwood is someone who was a host on MTV in the late-90s, before going on to his own late-night stand-up comedy show on Channel 4.

He was often claimed to be the next big thing, and after a while he became popular enough to even have some hit singles (“who da man” and all that). About a year or two on from this, he was a host of Top Of The Pops, and he had the lead role in this sitcom which had an unusual idea. Ed Stone (which sounds like “headstone”, do you see, ha-ha) is fatally hit by a bus one day, which is rather disappointing for him.

But there has been a miscalculation by the Grim Reaper, and his time isn’t up just yet. So it is decided that Ed sort-of becomes half-dead, meaning that he can continue his life, although he can now not do things like taste what he eats or drinks, feel pain, and so on. Ed tries to take advantage of this, and often talks to Nigel, a Grim Reaper-type representative, who is a big Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan.

Ed’s flatmates soon realise that there is something different about him, and what a crazy bunch they are! There’s Adam and Scotty, along with Kate (who is fond of Ed, and it must’ve been an interesting moment when he explained to her that strictly speaking he isn’t alive) and Beth, the quirky American one, because you’ve got to have one of them, haven’t you.

There was only one 13-episode series of Ed Stone Is Dead, which seemed to do well for BBC Choice, and I was a regular viewer. There has been no DVD release though. Among the writers were Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, who would go on to work on Channel 4’s Peep Show, and plenty of other comedy talent turned up, including Johnny Vegas, Catherine Tate, and Robert Webb.

There was some difficulty determining who exactly the audience was for this though, whether this was aimed at teenagers, or older adults. There was a repeat run on teenage channel Trouble, and presumably edits had to be made. Some episodes were also repeated in the unlikely slot of Sunday Morning on BBC2. And a few years on, there was another repeat run, on Freeview channel FTN.

The Comedy Vault – Kath And Kim.

Kath And Kim (ABC, 2002-2005, Seven, 2007)

It is surprising to realise just how few Australian comedy shows have been shown in the UK, most of the imports have come from America. I think that there might have been one sitcom shown on Carlton Select, and maybe one or two very late at night on Channel 4, but this has got to be the most successful one of them. And well, Neighbours was never like this!

Kath And Kim was a sitcom that centred around the lives of a mother and daughter who lived in Melbourne. The show was created and written by Jane Turner and Gina Riley, who had previously worked together on other comedy shows in the 90s including Big Girl’s Blouse. The opening theme was “The Joker” (which was co-written by Anthony Newley) and sung by Riley. kk1

Kath (Turner) is the mother who likes to use exercise machines and is about to marry Kel, a butcher who is always trying to make sausages. Kim (Riley) is the daughter who is rather lazy but thinks she is stylish and describes herself as a “hornbag”. She has left her husband Brett, who works at a computer shop and moved back in with her mum. Her friend is Sharon (even though they bickered all the time), who always has an ailment, liked sausages, and played various sports, especially netball. vlcsnap-00221

The show was almost made in a documentary style, because as the episodes played out, Kath and Kim offer their thoughts on the situations in a voiceover, and most episodes ended with them discussing various events. The first series centred around the build-up of Kath’s wedding to Kel, and the second around Kim giving birth to a daughter. They also played two women who worked in a homewares store. vlcsnap-00231

The show also became famous for its rather bizarre turns of phrase, and its most popular catchphrase was Kath’s “look at moy, look at moy… now I’ve only got one word to say to you”. Kim would also often say things like “that was my last fat free Fruche!”, “I’m going to get my nails refilled”, and “what about sugared almonds?”. The popularity of Kath And Kim led to there being lots of guest star appearances in later episodes, and just about every famous Australian took part, including Barry Humphries, Kylie Minogue, and Shane Warne. vlcsnap-00274

I think that Kath And Kim was first shown in this country on Living. Then not long after, it was shown on the Freeview channel FTN, where the first two series seemed to be repeated endlessly for a while, this is where I first saw them. Then in 2005, the early series were shown on BBC2 where they finally gained a much-bigger audience. I do have a memory of the yellow “2” ident introducing an episode, which changed to the announcer appearing in-vision as Kath and Kim in character were stood behind them, I’m fairly sure I didn’t imagine that. vlcsnap-00333

There were 32 episodes in four series of Kath And Kim, and there were also two films and a short-lived American version. Only the first two series have been released on DVD (or “doy-voy-doy” as Kath would say) in this country though, which is rather frustrating. I definitely enjoyed watching it though, and it’s proof that Australian TV can do more than soaps.

More TV Memories – Bob And Margaret.

Bob And Margaret (1998-2001)

In there late-90s there were a big wave of animated comedy shows that launched on TV. Among these shows were the likes of South Park and Futurama, and these went on to be very successful, so British TV decided to have a go at making some too. One was Stressed Eric, which ran for a couple of series but I don’t remember watching that, another one that I did watch was Bob And Margaret.

In 1994 a cartoon called Bob’s Birthday won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, and the decision was made to turn this into a series. Bob and Margaret Fish are a married couple around their early-40s who live in London and don’t have any children, but they do have two stupid dogs (now there’s a good idea for a cartoon). Bob works as a dentist, while Margaret is a chiropodist, and we see them in their work and going about their daily lives interacting with family, friends and patients. vlcsnap-00728

Because Bob And Margaret was a British production, most of the early episodes were shown on Channel 4, although in a rather late timeslot, and various British comedy actors provided the voices, including Andy Hamilton who wrote TV sitcom Drop The Dead Donkey and starred in radio series Old Harry’s Game who voiced Bob, and Steve Coogan and Doon Mackichan were also among the cast. The show also had a rather distinctive animation style, with all of the cast featuring rather worryingly large noses. vlcsnap-00727Of the 52 episodes, one that stuck in my mind was called “Fly On The Wall”, where Bob was contacted by an old school friend to take part in a documentary called Cutting Lives showing his work as a dentist. Bob then gathers all his friends round to watch the show on TV. However, Bob gets stitched up when clips of him are shown out of context, such as when he shouts at a hard of hearing elderly patient “what is wrong with you?”, making it seem like he was verbally abusing them, and Bob ends up rather embarrassed. vlcsnap-00724

For the third series, there were some changes. A Canadian production company took over the making of the show so Bob and Margaret left the UK to start a new life in Toronto, and things carried on rather as they had been until the fourth and final series. Because of this, the show gained a small following of fans in the USA and Canada despite the humour being typically British. vlcsnap-00729

I remember watching Bob And Margaret when it seemed to be repeated endlessly on the now long-gone Freeview digital channel FTN about a decade ago. It was at this point that I really got into the show having not seen it first time round, there were a lot of interesting characters and memorable moments, but it now hasn’t been on the screen for a while and it hasn’t been released in full on DVD in this country, but it was a good attempt at an animated sitcom that deserves more acclaim.