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Whenever someone dies, the reviews pile in...
on 10 June 2014
The sad, unexpected death of Rik Mayall has prompted me to do a short review of this DVD which I bought nearly ten years ago when it first came out thanks to old-TV-everyone-else-seems-to-have-forgotten specialists Netwerk.
Although another reviewer has quite rightly made the connection that these films were almost like (and I'm paraphrasing here) a 'Comic Strip Lite made for an ITV audience' I'd personally give anything for ITV to return to the days when they felt brave enough to commission this kind of thing again. In fact, I seem to remember some mild fallout after the transmission of 'Mickey Love' with lots of Daily Mail letter (and it was letters then, possibly Basildon Bond) writing about the many sexual references and 'strong' language. I also think though, that these came as a shock / (unjustified) disappointment at the time to those brought up on the manic Rik of the Blackadder, Bottom, etc...
But in retrospect this might have been Riks finest hour; after all, when you discount the ensemble Comic Strips (for which there was no real solo 'Rik' outing), the Young Ones, Bottom, Filthy, Rich and Catflap, etc... all we are really left with is The New Statesman, some guest appearances, and later best forgotten vehicles such as 'Believe Nothing'.
So what are the plays actually like? Being set in a contemporary world, they have dated, but are definately worth at least a single viewing for any casual Rik Mayall or 'black comedy' fan.
'Micky Love' concerns a thinly disguised version of Hughie Green (since covered more openly by BBC4, although with even more arguments over how real it all was) who finds his downfall from the top of the TV light ent. roost. Dirty, Rich, and Catflap actually proves less of an influence than you might imagine for this one, principally as there is an air of menace and realism in this one missing from DRC. Trainspotters like me will love the fact it was filmed almost entirely on location at Granada Studios in Manchester, the only unpleasant thing about it is perhaps a record number of 'star cameos' by people who are either in prison, or would be had their crimes been proven before they died.
'Briefest Encounter' regards the slightly overlong details strangers meeting at a party then going back to one of their homes together. Not that great, although quietly competent.
'Dancing Queen' is the one people talk about the most I think. A bit like a mini Comic Strip episode (and I have to wonder how many of these were actually 'strip' rejects or Rik-led proposals that were not accepted) this concerns a man at a stag-do running away with the stripper, its a very Comic Strip style piece. I have my suspicions, in fact, the next 2 episodes fall into the same bracket...
'The Big One' regards a man who is a compulsive liar, and ends up in fear of this life after impersonating a wanted person. he goes on the run, etc...
'Dirty Old Town' features a tramp somehow mistaken for a writer just like 'that film'... But with Rik in the title role, it is very watchable and again a great example of something that might not even get commissioned these days.
'Claire De Lune' is about a runaway woman finds some unexpected help in a taxi driver, for the time being anyway. Its another one that gets talked about a fair bit outside of these reviews. Its also worth a watch.
And so it goes. Rik never did anything like that again, although a terrible quad bike accident just 3 years later could not have helped. Its just a shame not to be writing this review in nicer circumstances, as I've been meaning to do it since 2006.
Just one parting note though. Something that has pervaded Rik (and, to a larger degree, Adrian Edmonson's careers) is their lack of introspection; even now (especially now) you won't find commentaries or documentaries on the DVDs of anything they've ever been in other than the big Comic Strip box-set. This is a shame, but artistically of course their call. Just such a shame we'll now never have a chance for Rik to tell us just what was going through his mind over 20 years ago when he made these.
I wonder who will make the inevtitable documentary now about Rik's life? He wasn't particularly channel-loyal, so I wonder if there is a Kremlin style red telephone at ITV, C4 and the BBC so they can talk about such things and come to an agreement on all the clips? Probably not, as I imagine they talk all the time. "This house will become a shrine, and punks and skins and rastas will all gather round and hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader.".