The New Statesman: Season 1, Episode 1

Happiness Is a Warm Gun (13 Sep. 1987)

TV Episode  -   -  Comedy
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In the first episode of this hilarious new political comedy ...

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Title: Happiness Is a Warm Gun (13 Sep 1987)

Happiness Is a Warm Gun (13 Sep 1987) on IMDb 7.3/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
Rowena Cooper ...
Norman Bormann (as R. R. Cooper)
...
Vivien Heilbron ...
Beatrice Protheroe
John Nettleton ...
Sir Stephen Baxter
...
Sidney Bliss
Michael Troughton ...
...
Sir Malachi Jellicoe
Nick Stringer ...
Crippen
John Carlin ...
Donald Nithsdale ...
Bishop
Alan Starkey ...
Mayor
Brian Horstead ...
Ginsburg
Bernard Alexander ...
House of Commons Policeman
David F. Betts ...
Policeman 1
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In the first episode of this hilarious new political comedy ...

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Comedy

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13 September 1987 (UK)  »

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Piers Fletcher-Dervish: Can I come, too, Alan?
Alan B'Stard: I don't know, Piers!
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Alan takes up his seat
25 November 2010 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

Funny how you wait years for a sitcom called 'The New Statesman' and then two appear at nearly at the same time. In 1985, Windsor Davies starred in a now-forgotten B.B.C.-2 show in which he played museum custodian 'George Vance'. The other, better-remembered 'New Statesman' debuted on I.T.V. two years later. Rik Mayall had done 'The Young Ones' and 'Filthy, Rich & Catflap' and was keen to work with Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, creators of the post-war comedy drama 'Shine On Harvey Moon', a show he admired. Looking around for ideas, they discovered a mutual hatred of Margaret Thatcher's Tory Government ( which had then been in power eight years ). They conceived a show based around a vain, arrogant Member of Parliament, a man whose contempt for voters is matched only by his desire to use his privileged position to earn as much money as possible, a kind of upper-class English 'Sergeant Bilko'.

When I first saw this, I could not believe it was a Yorkshire Television production. After years of sitcoms of the 'Rising Damp' and 'In Loving Memory' variety, what a shock to see a show with the gloss one normally associates with London Weekend Television. This could be partly down to the director - Geoffrey Sax - who had worked for L.W.T., most notably on the riotous satire show 'End Of Part One'. 'The New Statesman' was sophisticated, satirical farce, a total departure for Y.T.V. It was given a budgetary assist in that the House of Commons set was originally built for 'First Among Equals', a dreary series based on a Jeffrey Archer book.

The first episode opens in Haltemprice, North Yorkshire, where a by-election is nearing its end. A head-on car crash puts the Labour and Liberal candidates in hospital, leaving the Tory - 31 year old Alan Beresford B'Stard - to take the seat with a thumping majority of 26,738. One person knows it was B'Stard who rigged their brakes - Sir Malachi Jellicoe ( John Woodvine ), the Chief Constable for West Yorkshire, who has an imaginary friend in the shape of God Himself. In return for his silence, he wants Alan to push through a Private Members' Bill calling for the arming of the police. This is duly done. Alan makes a nice bit of cash by supplying the guns ( made out of recycled frying pans ). The trouble is they are combustible...

Like all good political satire, 'Statesman' takes what was going on in the real world and turns it to comic effect. The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester - James Anderton - had recently caused controversy with homophobic comments. He also claimed he'd been getting messages from God, prompting the playwright Dennis Potter to wonder if they'd been coming over his car radio. Anderton had his supporters and detractors, making him a perfect target for a show such as this. In addition to B'Stard, the episode also introduced Michael Troughton as dimwitted 'Piers Fletcher-Dervish' ( a sort of 'Baldrick' to Alan's 'Blackadder' ), the lovely Marsha Fitzalan as bisexual wife 'Sarah'. Both she and Alan seem rather lovey-dovey here, but that would soon change. Her current lover is Alan's political agent Beatrice Protheroe ( Vivien Heilbron ). John Nettleton ( of 'Yes Minister' ) appeared in the first two seasons as old school Tory 'Sir Stephen Baxter' and Rowena Cooper ( credited as 'R.R. Cooper' ) played 'Norman Bormann', Alan's business consultant. Norman, wanted by the police for fraud, is trying to elude justice by means of a sex change. By the end of Season 1, the transformation is complete. Lest anyone think the show politically one-sided, the writers included a comic Labour M.P. - Bob Crippen ( Nick Stringer ) - who seems to have been inspired by John Prescott. The splendid Peter Sallis is 'Sidney Bliss', ex-hangman now turned landlord.

Margaret Thatcher publicly acknowledged her liking of 'Yes Minister'. What she thought of 'The New Statesman' is not on record.

Things To Look Out For - Ginsberg ( Brian Horstead ), Jellicoe's replacement, is a dead ringer for Anderton!

Things To Listen Out For - Norman asking for 'an Archer'. Alan is appalled: "A whole Jeffrey! That's £2000!". This was a reference to the then-recent Jeffrey Archer libel trial against 'The Daily Star', which he won ( though twelve years later, it came out that he had indeed given the money to a hooker and consequently went to jail for perjury! )

Funniest moment - in the 'The Hangman's Knot' pub, Bliss tells B'Stard he is looking forward to the return of hanging. "I haven't lost the knack!", he says, and then pulls the pump as though it were a trapdoor lever!

Second funniest moment - Sir Malachi breaks into a church, intending to shoot the Archbishop, whom ( thanks to Alan ) he believes to be possessed by demonic forces. As he draws his gun, he says: "Come on Beelzebub, make my day!". At which point the 'choir boys' don police helmets, and carry him away!


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