The Fast Show
, like Viz
comic and Private Eye
magazine, is one of those comedic institutions whose principal appeal is its utter predictability. The jokes in every episode are exactly the same, every sketch an only slightly different path to one of a few familiar punchlines ("I'll get me coat", "Where's me washboard?", "Scorchio!", "Suits you, Sir," and so on): once the viewer or reader is in with the jokes, they feel part of the club. This sort of reductive comedy is extremely easy to do badly: it is testament to the writing and acting of Paul Whitehouse and his team that not only are most of the set-pieces funny every time they reappear (the overly prurient tailors, the pub know-all, the Trevor Brooking-esque football pundit Ron Manager), but that each individual sketch is funny more than once.
This first series of The Fast Show does not include a couple of characters who became well-loved mainstays; neither the licentious car salesman Swiss Tony, for whom everything was "like making love to a beautiful woman", or the incomprehensible raconteur Rowley Birkin QC, had been developed at this stage. However, aficionados will regard this collection as indispensable for the beginning of the saga of awkward young aristocrat Ralph and his unrequited passion for his gardener, Ted: a funny yet oddly affecting rendering of love thwarted by circumstance.
On the DVD: The Fast Show--Series 1 on disc includes interviews with the cast, and English subtitles. There is an episode selector and an individual scene selector, though the latter is confusingly laid out. --Andrew Mueller
The complete first series of the popular comedy sketch show. Features Ted and Ralph, Channel 9 News, Unluck Alf, coughing Bob Fleming, Ron Manager, the 'Suits you' tailors, Tommy Cockles, The Fat Sweaty Coppers, and Professor Denzil Dexter. Paul Whitehouse stars.