I am back on the telly. Twice. If you include UK Gold and Netflix. WHICH I DO!
Up and out of my knocking shop hotel (like all the hotels) without breakfast, hoping there would be a spread on in the studio across the A40. There was a coffee and a biscuit and a few nutrigrain bars, which I had to make do with. My own fault for lying in bed since 6am watching the Young Ones which was today, actually my job as I was doing a talking head thing about the show. Now that really would blow the mind of the teenage me. You’re going to be paid for watching the Young Ones. And you’re in a hotel where at least two people are having sex. Phwooaar.
I was surprised how little I remembered about this seminal series. It had been so important to me as a teenager and I would have known it off by heart, but without prompting myself by rewatching some of it I would have found it hard to bring much of it to mind. But God those 12 episodes were packed with ideas. I watched the Bambi episode, which has very little flab on it at all and it’s amazing how much inventive stuff they chuck in and then abandon to move on to something else, in a stream of consciousness that suggests the whole thing is written in real time. This thing really was Beneltoned. But at a time when Ben Elton (and Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer’s) first draft was ripe as an exploding pillow case full of bogeys.
It was a delight to talk about my love for the show, as well as some mild criticisms. I’d loved to have seen the programme with Peter Richardson playing Mike. Mike was always the weak link in this. Christopher Ryan did his best, but I think was miscast and even back then me and my friends could all see it. Would Peter Richardson have brought this fourth wheel off the page? I am not sure. But I’d like to have seen. Ryan’s style was out of step with the others. And the other three characters are so strong (and so brilliantly performed). I was so in love with Rik at the time that I couldn’t really see how brilliant Planer and Edmondson were. Vyvian is actually the best thing in the show, I think. Whilst all the other characters are wracked with self-doubt, he does what he wants with gleeful innocence, unconcerned about the consequences to others or himself. Edmondson is just fucking awesome in this part.
It was a fun interview and I surprised myself with insights that I didn’t know I had and then surprised myself even more by becoming overcome with emotion when talking about how much Rik Mayall meant to me, and how part of the process of becoming a comedian myself was to leave him behind or at least be mildly disappointed with his subsequent work, before being reminded too late of how absolutely instrumental he has been in moulding me into the idiot that I am. I bloody cried. On TV. Like a dick, I usually only do that at something important like thinking I’m about to be knocked out of Pointless again.
I bumped into the next guest on the show, Paul Jackson, in the car park. Paul is not only a heroic figure in bringing shows like the Young Ones and Red Dwarf to the air, he has also been a huge supporter to Stew and me and is pretty much solely responsible for This Morning With Richard Not Judy being commissioned (after getting a job at the BBC and not understanding why they’d binned Fist of Fun) and also was the man at ITV who pushed for “You Can Choose Your Friends” to make it to air. So I owe him a lot, both as a comedy fan and a writer. And it’s always lovely to see him. Still looking dapper and youthful, even though he told me he is 70 now (and sadly for my career semi-retired). So that made up for not having had any breakfast.
Then I was whisked across town to Camberwell to wait in a tiny green room to do another talking heads show, but this time for a drama documentary about the fall of the Romanovs for Netflix. I was mainly there to talk about Rasputin, but was feeling pretty rusty on my knowledge and also a bit tired. And I had a three hour wait before I was needed. I had hoped to pop to a cafe, but there wasn’t much in the way of shops around, so I had a slightly sad samosa and some Frazzles from a corner shop. The crew had had a Deliveroo delivered, but it all seemed to be spoken for. I got into TV for the free Haribos.
When I finally got into the cold and weirdly dark studio - I was lit of course, but everyone else was in shadow, like I was being interrogated by the Stasi - I had to answer some quite complicated questions about Rasputin, including stuff about his rise to power, which is not heavily documented and I am not too hot on anyway. It was a long record and we seemed to ponder on the early stuff and then have to rush through the end, so I didn’t get to really talk about my alternate theories about the murder too much. I can’t imagine they will be using more than 5 minutes of this three hour chat, I felt I was Peter O’Hanrahanra-ing quite a bit of it and I didn’t really get much inkling of whether I was giving them what they wanted. But they had all been in this cold dark studio all day, so I hope they were just all getting on with their job.
It was a strange juxtaposition of two of my areas of expertise. And staying in the hotel had been a good idea probably, but as I hadn’t slept enough and Tuesday is always a difficult day after the podcasts,even without the shell-shock of the Atomic bomb that is Brian Blessed and hadn’t seen my family, only a sad man trying to get away with free parking as he visited an escort (or possibly his friend - who knows?), it made this odd disjointed day of sitting around in weird studio spaces feel more isolating than it was.
TV is not the glamour and Haribo-filled world that you and I imagine it to be. But at least I am going to be on the telly. I only want to be on the telly.