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(Almost) Lost Classic....
on 19 June 2014
I had the great fortune to see this Mel Smith sitcom when it was first broadcast in 1988 - I loved it at the time and now consider it to be 'up there' amongst the best comedies the UK has ever produced. Right from the start of the first episode it is possible to sympathise with Colin Watkins - an intelligent, likeable chap hamstrung in life by his frustration and lack of career ambition.
Colin rants at the world, usually internally, but is generally too polite and 'British' to confront the things that cause him grief. His neuroses remind me of Basil Fawtly but Mr. Watkins is a much nicer chap and by the time a couple of episodes have gone by it's difficult not to be hoping for him to succeed. While this is Mel Smith's show the support is quality, notably from Louisa Rix as his long-serving girlfriend, Mike O'Grady (best, and perhaps only mate) and Andrew Robertson as the manipulative BR Complaints Department boss. Later on Annette Crosbie and Nicholas Ball turn up as Colin's Mum and showbusiness mentor/tormentor - both to excellent effect.
Stuck in a job that could define tedium, Colin dreams of being a horror writer but most of his efforts are eloquent yet hopelessly old-fashioned. Throughout the two series his talent and opportunities develop despite fate seeming determined to trip him up but in the meantime there are lots of laughs and - impressively - moments of real sadness and drama.
The twelve episodes tell a complete story and it's one that has stuck with me for a quarter of a century. Happily I taped them all and then transferred the onto DVD just before the tapes gave up the ghost. I've survived with the crackly, hazy image ever since and am delighted that the BBC have finally got around to releasing this properly. it's just the episodes on the DVD and the price might seem a bit steep (£30 as I write) but this is a true classic - scandalously neglected for many years but now hopefully finding a new - and doubtless appreciative - audience. It's a pity Mel isn't around to see it released - a great man of comedy who now has his defining acting role available to buy and enjoy.