Nearly ten years after Stella Street was first broadcast, the first series has finally found its way to DVD.
For those of you who know the series, this DVD is all ten episodes of the first series. There are no extra features and the menu is lifted from the series 3 DVD, which came out some years ago. There is a spelling error in the episode titles (it's 'lobotomy', not 'labotomy'!).
The basis behind the programme itself is that a host of celebrities (and Jimmy Hill) all live in one road in Surbiton. Some of the residents are Michael Caine, Al Pacino, Roger Moore, Dirk Bogarde, John Hurt, David Bowie, and Mick and Keith at the corner shop. Here, they interact with one another and some of the locals. The show is really an excuse for the superb impressions and snappy dialogue of Phil Cornwell and John Sessions, who perform nearly all the roles between them. Complex scenes are constructed with overlapping dialogue, resulting in the 10 minute shows having an energy and intensity that older half-hour material cannot match. Almost every line is quotable--how many programmes can you say that about?
Stella Street itself was trend-setting. It was one of the first comedy programmes to occupy ten-minute slots. Also, it was produced on a shoestring, being filmed on a pro-sumer Hi-8 camcorder (this was 1997!).
Peter 'Comic Strip' Richardson was behind Stella Street (and usually behind the camera itself), and you can see the foundations for this in such Comic Strip classics as GLC and The Strike, plus Glam Metal Detectives (which is in need of a DVD release). Stella Street Series 1 is probably my favourite work of Peter Richardson's, having terrific energy and not getting bogged down in plot. Later series had longer plotlines and slowed down a bit. But series 1 is where it all started and is a classic of British comedy where all the factors came together perfectly.
Some of my favourite scenes are where Al Pacino is discussing redecoration with Roger Moore ("I thought you wanted a gambling ambience." "You'll be needing a f*cking ambulance!") and Roger Moore's Zulu anniversary Monopoly Party.
Just to be clear, Marlon Brando, James Stewart, Dustbin Hoffman, Alec Guinness, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Saville, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Patrick Moore and Phil and Grant Mitchell DO NOT appear in this series, in case you've been misled by the menu sequence or Universal Playback's press release.