Magazine article The Spectator

I Don't Understand

Magazine article The Spectator

I Don't Understand

Article excerpt

Rather excitingly, I have a new lodger lurking in my basement. His name is David, The Sinister Lodger In The Basement and I expect he'll be starring quite a lot in future columns because he is cleverer, wittier, younger, more reactionary and more TV-obsessed than me, so I'm going to be filching many of his best ideas, jokes and bons mots.

The Sinister Lodger's best bon mot this week was: 'God, the Seventies are sooo Nineties,' which may sound like trendy young person drivel, but it's actually very true and is especially relevant to Randall & Hopkirk Deceased which seems to imagine that it's achingly hip, ironic and contemporary but which, in fact, is quite sad and passe.

It's based, of course, on the classic TV series about a private detective and his ghostly partner which people of my generation used to watch on Sunday afternoons in the Seventies and then reminisce about (see also: The Persuaders; The Champions, Belle and Sebastian etc.) ad nauseam at dinner parties in the early Nineties. To do so was to demonstrate how modishly retro and post-modern and ironic and drunk you were.

But then two terrible things happened. First, people like Chris Evans discovered irony and post-modernism and introduced them to the masses on such programmes as Don't Forget Your Toothbrush, thus making both concepts terminally uncool. Second, towards the end of the Nineties, papers like the Daily Telegraph belatedly discovered that the Seventies were in, thus ensuring that they were very, very out.

And now here's prime-time Saturday night BBC 1 getting in on the game at least a decade too late and quite unable to make up its mind whether its new look Randall and Hopkirk is a homage to, a pastiche of, or just a cackhanded rip-off of the original. No surprise, then, that the viewer is left unable to decide whether to smirk, cringe or bury their face in their hands and go: 'Whatever happened to Vic and Bob?'

For Vic Reeves (Hopkirk) and Bob Mortimer (Randall), much as we love them and were dying for their latest venture to be as brilliant as, say, Shooting Stars, are one of the biggest things wrong with the programme. Being professional comics rather than actors, they're okay at the scenes that require them to mug and play the fool, but perfectly useless at the ones which call for a measure of seriousness, poignancy or credibility. Their natural instinct is for subversion but how can you possibly subvert a dramatic idea which was already so tonguein-cheek first time round? The only way it would have worked, I think, is if they'd been capable of playing it straight. …

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