In the great British absurdist tradition of the Goons, Monty Python, The Goodies, The Yoiung Ones and more recently The Mighty Boosh, the irrepressible Geordie duo of Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer have been plying their particular brand of surreal humour since the late 1980’s, becoming a comedy institution unto themselves over the years without ever diluting their peculiar brand of gleefully infectious anarchism and innocence. That it has taken them so long to apply their style of humour to the creakingly archaic enterprise of the traditional British sitcom is something of a surprise but with this creaky televisual format experiencing an unlikely revival with the likes of the so bad it transcends all levels of taste Oirish drag comedy Mrs Browns Boys, it seems the timing is right. What was once old is now new again or so it seems.
As awful as Mrs Browns Boys is, it does manage to tweak the dated 70’s style paddywhackery with post-modern gaffes so that when series creator Brendan O’Carroll or one of his cast fluff a line or bump into the set, we feel as if we are peeking behind the curtain slightly and sure isn’t it all just a feckin laugh? Charming bloopers aside, O’Carroll plays his farcical shenanigans fairly straight, no hip or knowing parody, he plays to a broad audience looking for some old fashioned non pc schtick without leaving the comfort of ones home and braving the local working mans club. He knows his limitations and sticks with the tried and true whereas Reeves & Mortimer could never play it straight, no matter what the format. The sitcom formula is bent to their ridiculous and while they are using the same instrument as O’Carroll, they are playing different notes.
The premise of Reeves & Mortimers six part sitcom excursion is very simple; Vic & Bob live in a terraced house together whilst they and a coterie of strange friends and neighbours seemingly riff off a sublimely reductive twist of the standard sitcom farce plot. One episode entitled ‘The Pork Pie Affair’ sees Vic & Bobs slightly psychotic, sexed up neighbour Julie (Morgana Robinson) leaving a pork pie in their care whilst she goes on holiday for a couple of hours.Tempted by this seemingly delicious pie, Vic & Bob along with their ex con housemate Bosh ( Dan Skinner) and Jason King throwback Beef ( Matt Berry) greedily devour it and have to stealthily steal a replacement pie from a local piemaker before Julie’s return.
It doesn’t sound like much but it’s the unique Reeves & Mortimer touches that make it fly such the characters at the beginning of every episode entering the house and singing a hilariously nonsensical and tortuous intro song as if if its the most normal thing in the world or the badly timed on purpose slapstick violence which is a hallmark of Vic & Bob throughout their career. They make the absurd seem everyday and make it all seem off the cuff when of course it’s anything but. It takes smart people to make comedy this delightfully, blissfully stupid.
Anyway, if you have a BBC iplayer, you can check it out no doubt but if like me, you’re in Paddyland, then you can search on Youtube or try Project Free TV, a streaming site for the latest episodes.