|Index||3 reviews in total|
This series was also issued as a single two-and-a-half hour single
compilation programme, as reviewed herewith.
A bit of a curate's egg... good, but only in parts.
My main objection is the highly fragmented and frenetic nature of the programme - as if speaking to an audience with the attention span of a slightly concussed bee. Flick, flick, flick: two seconds of this, three seconds of that, four seconds of the other person speaking - just as you get interested, it's gone again. I must say, I find this approach to the viewer to be somewhat demeaning, not to say insulting.
However the glimpses, albeit distressingly fragmented, are nevertheless of great interest; the whole thing is well worth wading through if one is interested in the history and evolution of comedy. It contains several rarer items not easily to be found elsewhere.
Worth persevering with, on the whole.
'Heroes of Comedy' was a great series because it covered a wide range
and scope of comedians during its run: Sid James, Kenneth Williams,
Arthur Haines, Max Wall, Max Miller, Tony Hancock, the Goons,
Terry-Thomas, Frankie Howerd, and many others.
Along with the usual 'talking head' interviews there were many clips of whoever was the subject, usually well-chosen and not always the same old stuff you'd expect. It was a pleasure to watch, especially when the subject was someone who isn't seen much on TV these days.
This kind of series is what TV was made for - to celebrate the lives and careers of those who enriched the entertainment world. Heroes indeed (although I'd like to see some of the great ladies of comedy similarly honoured in the not-too-distant future!).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For some time now, the televisual highlight of my Friday evenings has
been More 4's repeats of 'Heroes Of Comedy', originally broadcast on
Channel 4 from 1995-2003. It was basically a series of profiles of
popular British comedians, using archive interviews, choice
film/television clips, radio extracts and comments from people who
either knew the subject in question or, like Roy Hudd, was simply an
admirer. The show was the creation of John Fisher, a former 'Parkinson'
( arguably the best chat-show ever to come out of Britain ) producer
who has since penned books on Tommy Cooper and Tony Hancock, both of
whom were covered in the series. Unlike recent retro programmes, there
were no 'celebs' of the June Sarpong and Jimmy Carr variety to detract
from the proceedings with inane chatter.
A wide range of comics were covered, from the wartime Arthur Askey to the Satire Boom Era Peter Cook. Frankie Howerd was the subject of the first edition, with Tommy Cooper a week later. Particularly gratifying were the editions devoted to comics whose work I was unfamiliar with, such as Joyce Grenfell and Max Miller. The Arthur Haynes one was welcome as precious little of his work is available on D.V.D. ( although it is rumoured that Network will release some of it later in the year ). The only edition I could not stand was the one about Bernard Manning. I just did not like the guy. And not because he did racist gags. He could have recited old 'Beano' material and I still would not have laughed.
There was a change of format to Season 4 as the programme switched to 'The Living Legends', such as Ronnie Barker, Eric Sykes, Thora Hird, and Norman Wisdom. The Spike Milligan edition was transmitted only three days after the great man's death, meaning it had to be amended slightly before broadcast.
We must give thanks the show was made when it was, as sadly, a lot of the contributors have since passed on, such as Bob Monkhouse, John Junkin, Henry McGee, and Barry Took.
Curiously overlooked though as subjects were Marty Feldman, Harry Worth, Graham Chapman, Dudley Moore, Dave Allen, Beryl Reid, Will Hay and Ted Ray. All are heroes of comedy in my book.
'H.o.C.' must have fallen out of favour with Channel 4 bosses because after enjoying a decent time-slot on Wednesday nights for many years, the very last edition - featuring Max Wall - was unceremoniously dumped ( with no publicity ) in a Saturday afternoon slot, a time when few would have been likely to have been watching. Fisher then claimed in an edition of 'The Stage' newspaper that he'd wanted to include the Danish comic pianist Victor Borge, but the suits had never heard of him and did not commission the programme. Very sad.
The 'Heroes Of Comedy' format was more successful at covering a comedian's life than B.B.C.-4's 'The Curse Of Comedy' plays. After the excellent Victoria Wood-produced 'Eric & Ernie', the station then descended into the gutter with a shameful attack on the life of dear Hattie Jacques. I will stick to the 'H.o.C' edition from now on.
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