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HomeThat Reminds MeThat Reminds Me: Some comic gems you might have missed (continued)

That Reminds Me: Some comic gems you might have missed (continued)

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This is part 3 of a series. You can read the first two here and here. 

I MUST admit that the largely Scottish comedy sketch show Absolutely passed me by when shown on Channel 4 between 1989 and 1993. I was however captivated by a subsequent spin-off Mr Don and Mr George, featuring two of its main characters.

Moray Hunter played Don and Jack Docherty was George in the six-part series they wrote about two unrelated friends who share both a bizarre house and the surname McDiarmid. Don wears a tweed jacket, a bow-tie, a pair of specs with one lens at a right-angle and a lavish growth of curls atop his napper, Eraserheadstyle. 

George has slicked-back hair and sports a pinstripe suit and a supercilious manner.

To set the scene, here is an excerpt from Absolutely in which Don claims to have come across a foolproof way of making money which involves buying and selling a bizarre sculpture and a box full of disposable razors. George responds by calling him several variations on the theme of cretinousness, culminating triumphantly with ‘tabloid newspaper!’

Mr Don and Mr George kicks off with You Can Run But You Can’t Hide Your Legs, with Don returning from a trip to the shops to get the newspapers after an absence of two and a half years. He hands over a croissant covered in green mould, which his friend eats with relish. At one point George sheds a tear, which he uses to water a pot plant, saying: ‘Waste not, want not’. It immediately bursts into bloom.

When the pair finally examine the papers, they discover that Britain is at war in Iraq. George is initially cock-a-hoop, averring that wartime engenders the best radio programmes, but then it suddenly dawns on him and Don that they might be conscripted.

There follows a bizarre sequence where they try to hide in boxes when there is a knock at the door, before fleeing to a cardboard estate. And then it really does start to get weird.

I think it was a great shame that only one series of this show was made. OK, it took daftness to a whole new level, but what’s wrong with that? At times it bordered on genius. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.

You can watch all six shows for nowt on the C4 website and YouTube, but sadly they never went to DVD.

I find it hard to believe that, as recently as 2009, the BBC was still making a programme as wildly politically incorrect as Pulling. This is the story of three women who share a house, sleep with appalling men and get disgustingly drunk. Sharon Horgan plays office worker Donna, Rebekah Staton is naïve café worker Louise and Tanya Franks portrays the infant-school teacher Karen.

The escapades of Karen, in particular, are far from edifying and readers offended by bad language and extreme promiscuity might wish to go on to the next programme.

Pulling was written by Horgan and Dennis Kelly, the latter of whom told the Guardian in a 2009 interview: ‘We wanted to make sure the comedy was with the women. Even with comedies that are about women, it’s often the blokes who get the funnies. In Pulling we even err too much the other way and make the men too two-dimensional. But it was important for the women to get the funny lines.’

Pulling lasted for two series on BBC3 plus a final one-hour special after which it bit the dust. Some clues to its cancellation follow:

Series 1 episode 4: Louise goes on the internet hoping to find new friends. She completely misunderstands the nature of the seedy sites she visits and goes out on a date with a bloke only for him to take her dogging.

Series 2 episode 6: Karen, who is in an on-off relationship with Billy, a drunken good-for-nothing drug user, has a positive pregnancy test. He persuades her to keep the baby. She goes to see her GP and tells her she left the pregnancy test too long before looking at the results. She is not expecting a child but does have genital warts.

Of course the other girls have their moments but for me Tanya Franks is the main reason to watch. Here are some of Karen’s finest.

In that 2009 interview, Horgan and Kelly claimed to be baffled over why the show was cancelled. ‘Maybe our haggard old faces don’t fit on BBC3 any more,’ says Horgan. Did they try to reason with the BBC? ‘We cried. We threw ourselves at their feet,’ claims Kelly. ‘Does that count?’

Amy Raphael wrote: ‘What is perhaps most striking about Pulling is its lack of a moral centre. Horgan: “I guess there isn’t a moral centre because Dennis and I don’t have one.” Kelly: “That’s scary. We need to get a moral centre”.’

You can watch Pulling on BBC iPlayer and DVD. If you haven’t seen it, and are not easily disgusted, go ahead. You are in for a treat. Our 30-year-old daughter thinks it’s the funniest thing ever.

I know it’s hardly a hidden treasure but I could not resist a mention of The Young Ones, the anarchic early-1980s show about four students who share a house – Rik, played by Rik Mayall, Vyvyan (Adrian Edmondson), Neil (Nigel Planer) and Mike the cool person (Christopher Ryan). This amazing show took cartoon violence to new levels and here is my favourite scene, when the boys are on the train to Manchester, where they are to record University Challenge. Vyvyan looks out of the window and his head is torn off. After the communication cord is pulled, his headless body goes searching for his bonce. When he finds it, the severed head gives him a torrent of abuse and he boots it down the track like a football. In my (admittedly schoolboy) view this is one of the funniest TV moments of all time.

I will proudly present the final part of this comic gems series in a fortnight.

Old jokes’ home

As a child I had a medical condition that meant I had to eat soil three times a day to survive. Lucky my older brother told me about it, really.

A PS from PG

‘When I say “mind”,’ said the blood relation, ‘I refer to the quarter-teaspoonful of brain which you might possibly find in her head if you sank an artesian well.’

PG Wodehouse: Jeeves in the Offing

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Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth
Alan Ashworth is a former national newspaper journalist now retreated to the Ribble Valley, where he grows cacti and tramps the fells. He and his wife Margaret run a website, A-M Records , which includes their collected TCW columns plus extra features including Tracks of the Day. Requests, queries and comments can be sent to alanj126@yahoo.co.uk

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