Monday, December 03, 2007
Style and repeatribution
CLASSIC! David Renwick Night, BBC4, 8.00pm onwards
Repeats, repeats, repeats. Where would the multi-channel age be without them? While repeats are useful for all sorts of things, such as getting that quote from that thing you just have to transcribe onto imdb.com or use as a title heading on your blog slightly less wrong, it hasn't escaped most people's attention that the majority of repeats on the BBC's digital-only channels are the same programmes that were on four hours ago. Can't the airtime be put to better use than this? After all, the BBC has a staggering archive with a wealth of quality material that could be rediscovered, and surely there's only so many times you have to watch that episode of Spendaholics or The Real Hustle or Dog Borstal?
Well, for some time now BBC4 has been seasoning its schedule with jewels from the corporation's past - albeit mainly of the classic documentary/classic drama variety - but tonight the fourth (BBC) channel gives us a hefty dose of comedy repeats like what they used to have in the goode olde dayse as it pays tribute to the great David Renwick, Master of tight plotting, King of not particularly dislikeable characters nonetheless having quite horrible things happen to them and Secretary-General of managing to have sad bits in comedies without drowning the punchline under a tidal wave of sentiment. First up is, of course, a Classic Repeat! of a repeat of That Episode Of One Foot in the Grave Where Victor And Margaret And Mrs Warboys Spend A Bank Holiday In A Motorway Traffic Jam Staring Up A Horse's Arse. I don't believe it!, etc (sorry).
There's an Event Repeat! at 8.30pm, with the first showing of Renwick and Andrew '2point4 Children' Marshall's black comedy If You See God, Tell Him since 1993, when lowculture remembers it causing A Bit Of A Fuss for one reason or another. Richard Briers plays cheery pensioner Godfrey Spry, with Adrian Edmondson as Gordon, his long-suffering nephew, and Imelda Staunton as Gordon's wife Muriel. A nasty accident leaves Godfrey with a 30-second attention span and, as a consequence, an unshakable belief in the claims of advertisements, leading to increasingly erratic and disturbing behaviour (including a home autopsy in the final episode, but unfortunately you won't be seeing that tonight). Definitely worth tuning in for the spoof advertisements (as far as we remember), or if you're interested in seeing the sort of thing people enjoyed being offended by and complaining about fourteen years ago.
There's a Welcome Repeat! for a second series episode of Jonathan Creek at 9.15pm, from the days when Caroline Quentin was still in it and the seemingly impossible crimes hadn't quite reached the stage where they were basically being carried out with teleporters and time machines and stuff. The late, great Bob Monkhouse guest stars as an odious theatre critic who, having rubbished Jonathan's work in a scathing review of Adam Klaus's magic show, finds himself dependent on Jonathan's skills when a valuable work of art goes missing from his home. There's also a funny bit with a treehouse, if for some ridiculous reason the lure of impossible crimes and windmills and a glimpse of Caroline Quentin back when she played characters who were actually interesting isn't enough for you.
10.05pm (tidy scheduling, BBC4!) sees a Recent Repeat! of the first episode of Love Soup, Renwick's excellent/frustrating series following the separate lives of Alice (Tamsin Greig) and Gil (Michael Landes) as they repeatedly fail to find love or to cross paths at all, despite being absolutely perfect for one another. The opening episode sees Alice trying to sell her flat and Gil accidentally destroying his neighbours' marriage, with the rest of the series being repeated over the next couple of weeks in anticipation of the soon-to-be-aired brand new completely rejigged second series, apparently chopped down into half-hour chunks and, crucially, without any Michael Landes in it at all. Which sort of makes the constant trials and missed opportunities peppered throughout the first series even more depressing, really. OH WELL.
There's also a look at the career of David Renwick through the eyes (and mouth) of David Renwick at 11.05pm in Mark Lawson Talks to David Renwick, which nobody will be surprised to learn is an hour-long interview with David Renwick by none other than Newsnight Review's ringmaster Mark Lawson, and then the evening winds down with a Vintage Repeat! of an episode of Alexei Sayle's Stuff, Sayle's late 80s/early 90s sketch show, largely written by himself, Renwick and Andrew Marshall. And, conscious of the fact that the Lawson interview sticks out of the schedule like a sore thumb for being a Brand New Programme! in an ocean of (very good) Repeat!s, BBC4 do their bit for consistency and show it again at 2.35am, thus rendering it as dog-eared as the rest of the brilliant line-up. Any chance of a Steven Moffat night next month, BBC4?