The adjectives that come to mind if I was to sum up this cult masterpiece are as follows... anarchic, deranged, satirical, coarse, irreverent, insane, acerbic... I hope you get the point. 'Pets' is a much missed gem from the equally sorely missed 4Later strand, Channel 4's graveyard slot for the weird and the wonderful. Even though it is only 5 years since this programme was broadcast, I feel it is unlikely that Channel 4 would ever show it now, highlighting the channel's alarming and sudden descent into pretentious mediocrity and lowest common denominator reality television. This is because Pets is one of the most intelligent, if somewhat rudimentary and crude, comedy/satires of the last twenty years. Despite its late night slot in 2001 it reached out to a surprisingly large and loyal audience. If it had had a late night slot in 2006, it would have had its raw power and subversive streak severely diluted, which would have been criminal and a crying shame.
Pets was more than just late night surreal madness for Britain's legion of insomniacs and drug addled students. It had a sense of humour that many inferior prime time comedy acts can only dream of. It mixed genuinely hilarious situations with cheesy 'Naked Gun' like one liners that make you cross with yourself for laughing. Most episodes featured bizarre monologues and mentally unbalanced ways to alleviate boredom. For the immature 13 year old in us all, there were plenty of smutty references to body parts and masturbation to keep us sniggering well beyond double maths. 'Pets' must also be the only programme ever to make characters out of two philosophising tapeworms inside a dog's stomach. It's these little touches which give it not only the expected chaos of late night television but also the genuinely high quality that makes it one of my all time favourite programmes.
It also contains a poltergeist who gets out of answering the meaning of life (which it doesn't know) by steering the philosophical catechisms onto Australian soap operas...
Having said that, my favourite 'Pets' moment is where JP, the featherless, urine drinking Afrikaner parrot, identifies a piece of music as being a 1964 era hit by the Beatles... Then goes on to explain or at least something that sounds close enough to the Beatles so that you can immediately associate it with them but just far away enough from the genuine article to avoid legal action.
That sums up the irreverent beauty of 'Pets'. Where else has television paid homage to that little appreciated art making up generic, incidental versions of well known standards when publishing rights to use the actual recording have not been secured?
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