:: The Windsors - Series 1&2 and Christmas Special
The Windsors isn't the first comedy based around the Royal family, nor, I suspect, will it be the last. They are a nice easy target, everyone can't but help knowing what all the family are doing, have done, or caught some of the gossip about what they might be doing, so a series is sure to get a reaction - except from the Royals themselves, who aren't in a position to make any comment.
Unlike political satire, where the targets have clawed their way, tooth and nail, to the positions they hold, so are more worthy of any barbs aimed at them. The Royals, on the other hand, are a ceremonial hangover that have very little voice or choice of their own and are like goldfish just looking out of their bowl. To keep the analogy, any satire is like shooting fish in a barrel - easy to get a hit, but not as rewarding as having to work for the catch.
For a series like this you also have to restrict your cast to looky-soundy-likes to make the greatest impact and, whilst there is no doubt that in this case providence has smiled, there is always the chance that there is a trade-off between the best performance and the best visual fit.
First broadcast on Channel 4 last year, there have now been two series and a Chrismtas special, and all have been released today (28 August) by Acorn Media International as a two disc set priced £24.99.
The all-star comedy line-up includes the inimitable Harry Enfield as Prince Charles, Haydn Gwynne as Camilla, Morgana Robinson as Pippa, Hugh Skinner as William, Louise Ford as Kate and Richard Goulding as Harry, with Katy Wix as Fergie.
The Windsors are divided: Prince Charles wants his son Will to show a more regal detachment but Wills wants to fly the air ambulance and mingle with the people. Kate is trying to find acceptance in the royal family, and Camilla alarmed at Wills and Kate’s popularity, is plotting to destroy them. Meanwhile, Harry is chasing Pippa Middleton’s famous arse, Prince Edward’s fallen on hard times, Fergie is partying like it’s 1982 and Beatrice and Eugenie, strapped for cash, decide to launch themselves online as make-up vloggers.
In the second series Prince Charles clashes with Theresa May and discovers he has a long-lost twin brother. Harry unveils his new girlfriend, the gaffe-prone Meghan and dabbles in the nightclub business, Wills becomes a hands-on Dad and Kate discovers she’s still married to a traveller. Meanwhile Donald Trump has an indecent proposal for Camilla and Pippa wants Harry to stop her wedding.
We join The Windsors at Sandringham for the Christmas Special and Charles has been usurped by Wills as heir to the throne but when order is restored, he is tasked with doing the Queen’s speech…Live! Paul Whitehouse makes a haunting appearance as the ghost of King George III.
Other cast include Ellie White as Beatrice, Celeste Dring as Eugenie, Tim Wallers stars as Prince Andrew and Matthew Cottle as Prince Edward. Vicki Pepperdine arrives as Princess Anne in the Christmas special and returns in series two alongside Kathryn Drysdale as Meghan Markle. Written by the co-creators of Star Stories, Bert Tyler-Moore and George Jeffrie the first series of The Windsors was the highest rating comedy series launch on Channel 4 since 2014.
Loaded is the Channel 4 comedy about a group of four friends who sell their smartphone app and become multi-millionaires overnight. Reviews have been mixed for the series, with comparisons to US and Israeli shows that predate the UK one that have far more empathy for the characters, but the Us and Israel are very different to the UK. We love the underdog, and hate those who have loads of money, especially if they arrive at it quickly, without lots of apparent hard work.
Josh, Leon, Ewan and Watto started Idyl Hands Games and were behind the app Cat Factory. They’ve sold the company to US investors for £300 million. This mega windfall doesn’t make life easier as would be expected, they suddenly have bosses to report to, and the team dynamic changes with loyalties being tested.
The series is released on DVD by Acorn Media UK tomorrow (10 July) and comes on two discs for RRP £24.99.
:: Absolute Power - The Complete Series
Released tomorrow (30th January) is the complete TV series (both series) of Absolute Power, starring Stephen Fry and John Bird as the two spin doctors, Prentiss and McCabe. A satire set in the cynical world of PR and a re-working of the radio seriees written and created by Mark Tavener (also available as a complete series.
Charles Prentiss and Martin McCabe run their own top London Public Relations consultancy, where no job is too grubby as long as the money is right and truth doesn't get in the way of, well, anything.
Whether getting celebrities in, or keeping them out, of the tabloids, aiding politicians up the greasy pole or saving them from political oblivion or making unpalatable government schemes palatable, Charles Prentiss is the master of engineering things to be seen how he wants them to be seen.
His enthusiasm is occassionally reined in buy his older, world-wearier and less amoral partner, Martin McCabe, while the Machiavelli of Prentiss McCabe is ably helped by an office of youthful executives.
Priced £19.99, this 2 DVD set is released by Netowrk Distributing and runs to over 330 minutes.
:: Morecambe and Wise: Two Of A Kind - The Complete Series
Morecambe and Wise, undoubtedly the best-loved double act that Britain has ever produced, first achieved their phenomenal television success in the early 1960s with this long-running hit series for ATV.
Morecambe and Wise: Two of a Kind – The Complete Series (PG) is released on DVD for a special limited period from 5 December 2016, RRP £79.99, courtesy of Network Distributing.
This set contains all available episodes of Two of a Kind - many unseen since their original 1960s transmission.
Showcasing their mildly anarchic humour, impeccable sense of timing and keen eye for the absurd in a feast of uproarious sketches, onstage antics and musical entertainment, Two of a Kind propelled Morecambe and Wise towards superstardom in no uncertain terms.
Each show features fast-moving skits and musical parodies, with Eric and Ernie giving us their inimitable versions of television favourites Supercar, Face to Face and Candid Camera - in addition to memorable interpretations of key scenes from Macbeth and Hamlet, Eric's ongoing battle to get his lines right in Samson and Delilah, and undoubtedly the most ambitious attempt ever seen to recreate the 'fight sequence' in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! Among the many guest stars are Roy Castle, Joe Brown, Kathy Kirby, Susan Maughan, The Bachelors and Acker Bilk.
This release is a chunky one, with over 1330 minutes on 8 discs. It covers the series and has a host of extras, and I am planning on a more comprehensive review once I have had a chance to get through it - watch this space.
:: I Didn't Know You Cared
This is a welcome re-release from Second Sight of the classic BBC series as the individual series discs have been creeping up in price over recent years.
Based on Peter Tinniswood's renowned books, this 70s comedy series charts the exploits of one of television's greatest comedy families, The Brandons. We first meet them at the graveside where Uncle Mort (Robin Bailey) is is more worried about missing the football than his late wife, and whose only lament is that the recently dug earthw ould be lovely for growing onions.
Alongside, his sharp-tongued sister Annie (Liz Smith) is keeping Mort and her husband Les (John Comer) on track and on their toes, while their laid-back son Carter (Stephen Rea) and his less laid-back (almost) fiancee (Anita Carey) look on. Making up the numbers is deaf old Uncle Staveley (Bert Palmer) with his freind's ashes in a gas-mask box around his neck and the odd cry of 'I 'eard that! Pardon'.
Funerals and weddings are stock-in-trade for Northern comedy, so it is little surprise that the first series has a couple of funerals and the family are working towards getting Carter on the road to becoming an executive before he gets married. Disc 1 contains all 7 episodes of the first series.
Series 2 starts with Carter returning from his honeymoon, but far from used to married life. Casting changes for series 3 with Keith Drinkel taking over the role of Carter and Liz Goulding that of Pat, and Uncle Morts thoughts are on his death whilst Carters are on his work. Discs 2 and 3 each contain a whole series of 6 episodes.
The fourth and final series sees The Brandons take a lodger, Uncle Mort's pending nuptuals, and Pat going on a work trip to Europe. Leslie Sarony replaces Bert Palmer as old Uncle Staveley and all 7 episodes are on disc 4.
Released tomorrow (28th November), this 4 disc set is priced £24.99.
:: Q Volume 1 - Series 1-3
What are we going to do now? What are we going to do now?
Well, me, I’m going to watch Qs 5, 6 and 7, courtesy of SimplyMedia’s latest DVD release.
For those not in the know, the Spike Milligan’s Q series was one of the most surreal sketch shows ever made, beating Monty Python’s Flying Circus, itself heavily influenced by Milligan’s humour from the Goon Show, to the pole position by 6 months.
Q, although it certainly has a similar cult following to Python, hasn’t been available in any serious form before, so whilst referenced, is rarely seen apart from the odd sketch (the Pakistani Dalek one immediately springs to mind).
As with the Goon Show, Milligan took the normal conventions and twisted and moulded them to his own ends. Q was a sketch show that defied the normal conventions of proper beginnings, middles and ends, and just got on with the job of being funny, and ending a sketch when the ideas run out and simply moving on to the next. It was a risky and novel approach, and doesn’t always succeed, but it is still fresh and raw nearly half a century later.
Series 1 doesn’t exist completely in the archives, but all the episodes that do exist are included in this set (audio of the other episodes exists outside of official archives so isn’t presented here) alongside the complete Q6 and Q7.
Comprising of 3 discs, and running to around 8 hours, it should be enough to keep anyone busy until volume 2 is announced. The RRP is £24.99 although Amazon currently have it up for £14.99 - so there really is no excuse!
:: Meet The Wife
Think of Thora Hird and the first thing that comes to mind might be Last Of The Summer Wine, Sunday evening church programmes, or any one of the Alan Bennett monologues she starred in, but in the 60s she starred in one of the BBC’s earliest domestic situation comedies, affectionately dissecting the trials and comforts of mid-life marriage after the kids have flown the nest as Mrs Thora Blacklock, the wife of Fred, played by Freddie Frinton.
A middle-aged couple in the North of England, Thora and Fred manage to make ends meet, just. Fred is an amiable, hard working plumber, which enjoys as pint after work. Thora is a social climber who wants to improve the couples lot.
Written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, the same pair that created On The Buses many years later, Meet The Wife ran for 5 series between 1963 and 1966, made the cover of the Radio Times, twice, and was immortalised in The Beatles’ ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’: ‘It’s time for tea and Meet The Wife’.
This 4 disc set contains all the remaining episodes from the 5 series, including the Comedy Playhouse pilot ‘The Bed’, running to approximately 400 minutes, and is released by SimplyMedia 24th October, priced £29.99.
:: Tandoori Nights
First broadcast July 1985, this ground-breaking Channel 4 comedy, written by Farrukh Dhondy, centres around The Jewel In The Crown Indian restaurant, the owner Jimmy Sharma (played by Saeed Jaffrey) and his wayward family.
Sharma makes a comfortable living from his upscale curry house, but his livelihood is threatened when one of his waiters leaves to open his own curry house, The Far Pavillions, a stones throw away. Sharma is the only male in the house hold, with Gran (Zohra Sehgal) and his two feisty daughters Asha (Rita Wolf) and Bubbly (Shelly King) providing support, advice, and creating additional problems.
This isn’t a laugh out loud funny sitcom, but oddly is very much in the same style as another series that started a day later on ITV, Shine on Harvey Moon – an authentic set-up with some amusing dialogue and a few funny mannerisms and face-pulling. The series takes a wry look at provocative issues around sexual and racial equality, including mixed-race relationships, politicised Asian women and grasping business methods – all still very much topical subjects.
Available via Channel 4 OnDemand, this is the first time the entire series is released by SimplyMedia on DVD 24th October. Priced at £19.99, this release contains both series, one of each of the two discs, and has a total running time of approximately 300 minutes.
What’s not to like about a comedy thriller set in the early 90s when the Berlin Wall had fallen Glasnost was well underway and the cold war had begun to thaw. David Calder’s dubious accent, definitely!
A sealed and forgotten room is re-discovered in The Kremlin, which leads to the search for two Soviet Agents, sent to England under deep cover in the mid 60s, which have been lost. Where they are and who they are now, and to what purpose they were deployed is unknown, but Major Nina Grishina (Joanna Kanska) of the KGB is determined to find out and flies to London to lead the search for them.
Where the KGB are, the CIA and MI5 are sure to be found as well, but this game of cat-and-mouse is also the blind-leading-the-blind, with incompetence and comedy stereotypes thrown in for good measure. Throughout the totally assimilated ‘sleepers’ are doing their best to avoid detection and lose their lives in the West.
Nigel Havers and Warren Clarke star as the spies who don’t want to come into the cold, accompanied by Boris, a toy monkey, and alongside Michael Gough, who plays Zorin, the man who deployed them.
This complete 4 part series was first broadcast in April 1991, and is released by SimplyMedia 24th October priced at £19.99.