Watching young comedians attempting to mimic their heroes is always an uncomfortable experience. A few years ago, Ant & Dec remade a classic episode of 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads' for I.T.V. Not only was it horribly unfunny, but pointless, seeing how the original still exists in the archives. Then there was the time Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer reenacted a Morecambe & Wise song ( "Exactly Like You" ) with Tom Jones. It was so bad a member of the audience - Ronnie Barker, actually - contacted the B.B.C. and asked them not to screen it. Unfortunately, they did.
In the mid-'90's, Paul Merton starred in two seasons of 'Galton & Simpsons' for I.T.V., in which he tried to step into the shoes of Hancock ( no, not Nick. 'Room 101' happened later ).
Of the 15 scripts updated, six were from 'Hancock's Half-Hour', the rest sourced from various 'Comedy Playhouse' series and 'Dawson's Weekly', a short-lived series starring the late, great Les Dawson. As expected, the Tony Hancock remakes came across as flat, partly due to overfamiliarity with the material ( the 'Hancocks' were being repeated at that time on B.B.C.-2 ), whereas the others veered from good to merely okay. Fine comedian though he undoubtedly is, Merton wasn't able to duplicate the great man's wonderful comic timing, expressive face and mannerisms. The whole experience was akin to watching a third-rate Beatles tribute band.
"I Tell You Its Burt Reynolds" was originally part of Yorkshire T.V.'s 1977 'The Galton & Simpson Playhouse', and starred the late, much-missed Leonard Rossiter as a loonie who becomes obsessed with the crazy notion that he has spotted Burt Reynolds in an old episode of 'McMillan & Wife'. Though essentially a one-joke show, it was made watchable by Rossiter's tour-de-force performance. Merton's was nowhere near it.
Two of the better episodes - 'Sealed With A Loving Kiss' and 'Lunch In The Park' - are two-handers featuring Merton and the sublime Josie Lawrence. Also worth looking at is 'Don't Dilly Dally On The Way' which is all about the problems of moving house. Perhaps if the entire series had showcased Galton & Simpson's lesser-known work ( such as the funny 'The Last Man On Earth' from 1974 ) it would have been better received.
Is the D.V.D. worth buying? Yes, provided you skip the 'Hancock' remakes ( thank goodness they did not do 'The Blood Donor ) entirely. Paul Merton fans should enjoy the collection though. He had the good fortune to appear alongside such talented actors as Sam Kelly, Brian Murphy, Lynda Baron, Rosemary Leach, Michael Jayston, Rob Brydon, David Daker and, his wife-at-the-time Caroline Quentin ( bizarrely playing the role of Sid James ). Galton and Simpson themselves can be seen in 'The Wrong Man', as part of a police line-up.
Pleasant viewing, but not as good as the originals.