A word, Timothy.

It’s review time! Regular readers may be surprised to know how long it has been since our last review. Although not half as surprised as us on learning that we have regular readers. But the astonishing fact is that we haven’t reviewed anything since, oh gosh… let’s see now… um… ever. Yes, that’s it: ever. We never reviewed anything.

Well that’s all set to change. In our tireless (and indeed tiresome) bid to stay fresh and vital we hereby introduce our new review section, a handy guide to help you the bewildered consumer weave a sure-footed path through the zeitgeisty mire of modern living. Or something. You can expect piercing insight. A bold, independent voice. You can expect informed critical opinion. Actually, you can expect spiritual epiphany and a selection of fruit chutneys if it make you happy.

But enough preamble. Onward to the amble.

Berwhale t-shirt

Whoever the wilfully demented soul behind the creation of this t-shirt is, I could kiss them. Because despite its popularity at the time, and the subsequent success of its stars, A Bit Of Fry & Laurie is now a relatively unknown and woefully under-appreciated comedy show. (This writer’s favourite, as it happens – I suppose I should declare an interest.) So the fact that this t-shirt assumes knowledge of a lesser-known sketch from an obscure TV programme simply fills me with delight. Because it’s not in the manner of typical fanboy t-shirtery (shut up, it is a word). Perhaps I’m wrong but this doesn’t come across as in-jokey self-indulgence, or some sort of geeky one-upmanship. No, it’s way beyond that. Fry & Laurie have long professed a distaste for the notion of “cool”, and the sketch is too inately silly and gently mocking to be appropriated as a badge of geek cool. If there were any doubt about the designer’s motives she/he has thoughtfully provided some explanatory text:


“When the fourth moon of Trollack rises above the Cylinder of Eyelass then Pewnack will strike. His kingdom will be numberless and darkness will blight the land, all men shall be slaves and the time of weeping will begin. So it is written in the runes of Ollerman-Goth, so it must be. Only the Chosen One can stop him, and only Berwhale, the avenger, can pierce the armour of the beast.


Now take Berwhale The Avenger and go upstairs and wash your hands for lunch!”

This, pleasingly, is entirely unhelpful to anyone not already familiar with the sketch, or aware that it even is a sketch. I still don’t quite believe this is for sale. There must be literally ones of people buying it. And amusingly it’s available in “Ladies Baby Doll” fit too. Great stuff, I live for this sort of thing.

Oh okay then, here’s the sketch for the unfamiliar.

And oh you lucky people, you can pick up A Bit Of Fry & Laurie on DVD now! Go on, do it. You know you want to. Well I want you to. Okay how about we compromise: get the first three series at least (the fourth wasn’t as good) and we’ll leave it at that. There. Good. Well done.

Soupy twist.

Whoops Apocalypse DVD release – it grabs Biff!

25 years ago, at the height of the arms race between the West and the Soviet Union, against the backdrop of the Cold War and the very real fear of imminent nuclear war, the BBC broadcast “Threads”. This landmark piece of television was a chilling drama depicting in unflinching detail the grim reality of a nuclear holocaust. After almost two hours of relentless, brutalising misery one thing was abundantly clear: nuclear war is no laughing matter.

Thankfully nobody had told this to Andrew Marshall & David Renwick who only two years previously (1982) treated the subject somewhat differently with the dementedly brilliant “Whoops Apocalypse”. Being that rarest of things, a great ITV comedy, it managed to pull off the neat trick of wringing tear-inducing laughs from the terrifying events of a world spiralling toward nuclear armageddon.

Whoops Apocalypse

It’s difficult to overstate the brilliance of this series. Whilst the plot was absurd it still packed a punch by echoing the insanity of real events as nuclear brinksmanship brought the world teetering to the edge of oblivion. It used canny parodies of contemporary political figures and had a cast to die for: Barry Morse as befuddled U.S. president Johnny Cyclops; John Barron (aka Reggie Perrin’s magnificent C.J.) as the Christian fundamentalist security advisor known as The Deacon; Peter Jones as the insane U.K. Prime Minister, Richard Griffiths as several versions of Russian Premier Dubienkin, and John Cleese (in his first TV role since Basil Fawlty) as international arms smuggler and master of disguise, Lacrobat.

But enough waffle, here’s a taster:

Until now it’s only ever been available on a much-coveted but long-deleted 137-minute Channel 5 VHS version. But finally, after a false start a couple of years ago it looks like it may finally get a DVD release:

http://www.play.com/DVD/DVD/4-/3321228/Whoops-Apocalypse-The-Complete-Apocalypse/Product.html

We can’t recommend it highly enough. And don’t be put off if you were disappointed by the vastly inferior film version.

I’ve Seen Your Art…

arturart

The peerless Arthur Smith returns to Radio 4 this evening with the first in a three-part comedy series about the history of art.

Visitors to his triumphantly silly gallery/installation “Arturart” at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2007/2008, or to his somewhat legendary “Arthur Smith Sings Andy Williams” Fringe show, will have some idea what to expect.

1. Classical Civilisation & Arturantiquities

Radio 4, Tuesday 24th March 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur considers the beginnings of art with a visit to the oldest man-made image in Britain, reveals the truth about Van Gogh’s ear and presents a guide to the unfathomable world of Dada. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice and Paul Bahn.

2. The High Summer Of The Arturart Renaissance

Radio 4, Tuesday 31st March 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur deconstructs the Renaissance and asks if it is time for a ‘Re-Renaissance’. The artist of the week is Caravaggio, who was not a very nice man. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice, Leslie Primo and Jessica Hynes.

3. Modern Arturart – Post-Modern Then Email-Modern

Radio 4, Tuesday 7th April 2009, 11pm (30 mins)

Arthur continues his journey through the history of western representation and arrives at its most glorious flowering – his own work. With contributions from Miriam Elia, Phil Nice, Arnold Brown, Ian MacPherson and Simon Munnery.

Thrumblenose heroes 1: Andrew Sachs

Andrew Sachs

It’s been a sad spectacle to witness the hysteria and subsequent witchhunt over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross’s misjudged and, let’s be honest, crass phone call to Andrew Sachs. Having a wayward granddaughter hardly makes him a deserving target for mockery, which is of course why the whole thing misfired so badly. (Well, that and the rabble-rousing Mail’s pathological hatred of the way the BBC is funded.) But throughout this lamentable episode Sachs has shown true class, accepting their belated apologies and dropping the whole matter without any needless fuss.

But enough about it, here at Thrumblenose Towers we prefer to concentrate on the good stuff. And so it was that John (m’colleague, if you will, and even if you won’t) reminded me of a wonderful but little-known gem from Sachs’ C.V.

Tales from the crypt

Tales From The Crypt was a delightfully silly radio comedy from around 1981 featuring Andrew Sachs, Rory McGrath, Griff Rhys Jones, Mel Smith and Chrissy Roberts. Sachs played the splendidly-monikered Professor Glompus Van de Hloed, a retired Belgian supernatural investigator who runs a mini-cab firm. That the bizarre plot makes little sense matters little as the cast are clearly having so much fun that the shambolically fun atmosphere is infectious.

Unfortunately reliable information about the show is sketchy at best, but it’s a lost classic and worthy of a comprehensive article of its own. So while we put that together let us tease you with a few choice lines from the show…

Sergeant Porno:
“I think he died of Dutch Elm disease, sir.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Why sergeant? Well look sir, he’s got no leaves.”

Creephole:
“We ‘ave a lot of sayings in Cornwall. Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. Minced beef and mashed potato, shepherd’s pie.”

Sergeant Porno:
“I found a little box of white pills. Thought it might be drugs, sir.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Yeah, so what did you do with it?”

Sergeant Porno:
“Well I didn’t want to take any chances, obviously, so I immediately went to the bathroom and poured the whole lot down my throat.”

Inspector Bribeeasy:
“Then what did you do?”

Sergeant Porno:
“Then I flew to Neptune on a magic swan.”

Andrew Sachs’ work on Fawlty Towers and Tales From The Crypt make him a worthy inductee as our inaugural Thrumblenose Hero!

The Blaggers Guide to Country

Last week saw the welcome return of David Quantick’s wonderful Blaggers Guide series.

Co-written with Simon Poole this is the kind of music history lesson you wish you’d had at school. Packed with weird and wonderful true stories it’s the perfect platform for Quantick’s eclectic musical knowledge, rapier wit and delightfully silly sense of humour. However much you may disagree with his iconoclastic opinions, he has that rare disarming ability (akin to P J O’Rourke) to make you laugh, because his clear love for his subject shines through.

Past series covered a diverse and seemingly scattershot selection of popular music genres, together with a short series devoted to classical music. This time around it’s country music. Yeehaw!