on 17 October 2015
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Hale and Pace faced some formidable competition in the UK TV sketch show stakes: over at the BBC they were up against the likes of Fry and Laurie, French and Saunders, Smith and Jones, Alexei Sayle, Victoria Wood, and The Mary Whitehouse Experience, to name but a few. But Hale and Pace had some advantages over their other-channel rivals. First, their 10pm Sunday evening scheduling on ITV meant that they could try some borderline-bad taste material in a slightly more acceptable timeslot. The shorter ITV duration – allowing for commercial breaks, etc. – meant that they had to pack their material in, and there's none of the script verbiage and performance looseness was is too often endemic to BBC comedy shows. The running order sketches was also subtly given continuity with linking motifs that only really become apparent when re-watched on DVD. And Hale and Pace were intrinsically funny guys who instinctively understood the dynamics of their comedy style, rather than smarty-pants review performers who seemed to do comedy as a post-graduate media career option. The duo were also perfect for LWT's weekend audiences, who liked clever comedy that skirted with vulgarity. True, their material became variable as the years wore on, and they hesitated not to get cheap laughs out of puerile wordplay or clichéd nudity gags; but on their best form, Hale and Pace are among the very few sketch exponents whose very best work, in terms of surreal invention and downright silliness, is arguably comparable to Monty Python's Flying Circus (I'd nominate 'Guide Cats for the Blind' in this context). The sketch shows that followed Hale and Pace in the 1990s owe them a big debt – not least The Fast Show, which even lifted characters from H&P (e.g., Roy and Renée), and Armstrong and Miller. This DVD is thoroughly recommended.