I caught a few of the first series of Marion and Geoff when they aired in 10-minute late night slots on BBC2. At first, like almost everyone, and entirely as intended by writer/actor Rob Brydon and director Hugo Blick, I wasn't sure what to make of the programme. Like The Office, but before that genius programme was ever seen, it confused reality with fiction, and showed comedy and sadness in the same shot. The second Alan Partridge series combines this a little, but is a heavy caricature, and nearly always played for laughs. About 25 minutes into the story of Keith Barrett, lonely cab driver in London who longs for his children and estranged wife in Cardiff, I was brought close to tears and smiling as broadly as the River Severn. All within the space of thirty seconds. Marion and Geoff, as anyone who loves the first series knows, can turn on a knife-edge. It is a skill very few TV programmes have ever demonstrated.
Series two is packaged differently. Instead of the 10 minutes at a time in Keith's taxi, we now have 30-minute episodes. Keith has grown in the intervening few years. He still lives a pretty solitary life, but at least he's been promoted to chauffeuring duties for a film director's wife. But he still misses his little smashers. That Alun and Rhys are growing up without their dad, and in Geoff's house, is a painful fact that continually pushes at Keith, and perhaps even more so at the viewer. Despite his cheery optimism, you can taste the scurf of defeat.
But it is impossible to ignore how funny a lot of this is. The second series, perhaps even more than the first, is sad and poignant, but it is also able to make you laugh out loud, over and over. Keith's innocent relationship with the lady of the house he drives around is played comedically at first, but you begin to sense a bond between them growing. There is a joyful, touching sense of possibility in Keith's new life. He even has a substitute son, the film's director's, whom he drives to school. The boy clearly adores him, and it helps to remind you how good a dad Keith must be. Geoff can never be the man Keith is, despite his easy success in life.
It is still in Brydon's telling of a story that the fun comes. What is left unspoken is almost tangible, giving you more metres of background than a whole film. He does this in just a few words. It is a marvel of acting and a lesson in how to tell a tale. You feel as if you know everything about Keith. The bonus episode that comes on disc two of this DVD is a good demonstration of this storytelling feat. Using a full cast, and outside the car, it plays out the day that Marion ran off with Geoff. That entire hour of TV was contained in one 10-minute episode of the first series, told by Keith direct to camera. And the shorter version is infinitely more evocative than the full-cast retelling. You don't need guest appearances from Steve Coogan when you can make a person laugh, cry, cringe and smile just with the faintest movement of an eyebrow. Brydon can do this, and it is spectacular.
on 3 August 2005
I was surprised that there was a second series made of Marion & Geoff as the first instalment was as close to perfection as could be and the story was came to a satisfactory and heart-warming close. So I was cynically expecting this to be a disappointment.
However, it is noticeably different.
Due to the extended length of each episode, the stress is firmly placed in telling the story, as opposed to try to slot in jokes in Keith's monologue. And the story is one well worth telling. Keith can no longer be described as simply 'unlucky' as in this series, he represents an oasis of decency surrounded by those who are selfish, self-centred and shallow. It is fair to say that the hardships on display here are graver than before, and yet the severity of these set-backs seems to be always lessened by Keith's unswerving optimism in the 'best in people'. Only towards the very end of this series do we see his rosy view on the world fade.
My only criticisms are that the entire story is some 3 1/2 hours in length, and whilst it is more engaging if the episodes are watched back to back this can be somewhat of a large mouthful to swallow whole. There are also some elements of the story that I feel are superflous and redundant to the narrative e.g. Mr Trapaulin becoming an insurance salesman.
However, forgetting these small imperfections, this is a moving tale, told with great sensitivity and a fine acuity of human emotions. If you are interested in laughing at rubber chickens or the word 'cock' I wouldn't recommend this. However for anyone else this is a must-purchase. This restores my faith in TV programming and the future of comedy.
Buy it and you will not be disappointed.
P.S. I challenge anyone to not shed a tear at the end.
on 23 September 2004
This is a wonderful achievment from the BBC, a one-man show that tells everything without really telling anything.
Even though the feeling was that it is not sutable for a 30 minute episdoe, the show does takes you to the wonderful wierd world of Kieth, the man who little by little realizes that he can no longer disregard the truth around him - like he did on the 1st season.
To me, the 1st season is a masterpiece, because it was short, powerful and funny as hell - and some of that disappeared in the long episodes.
Still, worth watching!
on 5 January 2015
dark genius. only watchable in small doses. a theatrical experience - Brydon was brilliant in those days. a quality show but make sure you only watch a bit at a time as it's a lot to take in emotionally, at once. that's one of the things that makes it great though. who thought one guy talking to you in a car could move you so much? and make you laugh so much - but the inside sort of laugh... and give you so many feels?
why hes doing cruise ship ads now i do not know. seeing what he's capable in shows like this, Rob's his hair plugs, his light entertainment jabber - it's a crying shame...long live marion and jeff
on 6 September 2015
Better value for money than series 1 with Keith returning for a collection of longer episodes, this time he has a job as a chauffeur. Probably best to buy both series together. There is a second disc which has a 60-minute feature "A Small Summer Party", showing events from the BBQ referred to in the episodes, where Marion and Geoff get together. I found this painful viewing and not at all funny, even with help from Steve Coogan. The episodes are a mix of amusing and sad. Rob Brydon only seems to have one character whenever I see him either acting or being himself; though he is very good at being him.
on 8 February 2013
I feel so happy that Keith found Mrs. Trepaulin/Kathryn and that he got his little smashers back in the end, but I should have left a gap between the main series and A Small Summer Party on Disc 2.
The reason being that I feel so angry and so sad at those in-laws who came to the Barret residence! The poor bloke meant well and that, but it makes me so frustrated that all they're bothered about is how great Marion and the fabled Geoff are at selling. And they called him a '35 year old manchild', behind his back, which had me thinking of the Neneh Cherry song I quoted as this review's title.
I know it's only fiction but I felt as though Keith was being messed around by these horrible people.
The use of 'Doll On The Music Box' and 'Hushabye Mountain' from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on Disc 1 had me in tears - I felt he needed a Truly Scrumptious of his own. David Gilmour went on to perform 'Hushabye Mountain' on one of his concert DVDs - was he a fan of the series as well as the film?