The Comedy Vault – Stella Street.

Stella Street (BBC2, 1997-2001)

This is another comedy show that I didn’t see too much of at the time, although that is because this was usually shown in the post-Newsnight slot. There was then a repeat run on good old UK Play. I did see some episodes when this was repeated on the London Live channel, as have a few other sitcoms from the 90s in the past year or two. I didn’t think that channel was set up to do such things, and it is rather odd seeing these shows turn up on TV again after a long time in a slot where original programming should be.

Stella Street had a rather large cast, but the majority of them were played by only two people, Phil Cornwell (who also contributed to impressionism show Dead Ringers, along with many other quirky comedy shows), and John Sessions. The idea is that there is a street in Surrey that looks rather quiet and straightforward, but there is a big difference. Lots of famous people live there, including actors, pop stars, and many more.

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This is a place where for example pop stars Mick Jagger and Keith Richards run the corner shop together, or award-winning actors lived next door to each other, with Cornwell and Sessions both playing about a dozen characters each. One of the non-famous regulars is Mrs Huggett, a long-suffering cleaner who has to deal with all of their showbiz antics.

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One of the highlights of this show was Cornwell’s chance to show off his Michael Caine impression again. Caine is one of those people who has such a distinctive voice that everybody likes to try and attempt an impression, but his was better than most. Another notable thing is that this didn’t seem to be a big-budget show, with some of the episodes looking like they were made with camcorders, judging by the rather fuzzy picture quality (although this could be down to watching London Live on Freeview).

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There were four series of Stella Street, and the majority of the episodes were only ten minutes long, but a lot was packed into them, and as the series progressed, further famous characters were added, it got to the point where some viewers seemed to think that this was becoming more like a soap than a sitcom. This was expanded on further in a film, released in 2004. This was a show that made the best of its creative idea, and plenty of episodes have been released on DVD too.