When I wrote my I.M.D.B. review - entitled 'A Forgotten Comedy Masterpiece' - two years ago, 'The Other One' was just that - a sitcom no-one remembered or liked, not even it seems by one of its stars. Richard Briers' unhappy memories may be attributable to the critical mauling it endured, rather than the show itself. Bill Cotton's comment 'any chance of it being funny this week?' was probably a sarcastic dig at its ratings, than the show itself. It certainly was funny. Since then, other I.M.D.B. users have added their comments ( thanks, Michael! ), and - most surprisingly of all - the entire first series has been released on D.V.D. So what are my thoughts now? Has 'The Other One' aged well or were my earlier remarks misplaced?
The first episode begins at Heathrow airport. Nervous 'Brian Bryant' ( Michael Gambon ) is waiting to catch a holiday flight to Spain. He strikes up a friendly conversation with 'Ralph Tanner' ( Briers ), a tanned, mustachioed sales rep ( and an incredible bighead ). Tanner assures him that their plane will not leave without them, and orders more drinks. Needless to say, they miss their flight. Catching a later plane, they arrive at their Spanish hotel hours later to find their rooms have been reallocated. Forced to share what looks like a glorified broom closet, they try to make the best of a bad situation. Brian wants dinner at the hotel, but Ralph insists that they go to what he calls a 'gut' Spanish restaurant, one not in the travel guides. They wander into a building where people are eating and drinking, and sit down, awaiting service. It happens to be someone's house! When the owner, Rafael, returns, he finds the situation funny, and, instead of turfing them out, lets them stay. As soon as Ralph and Brian leave, Rafael and his family burst out laughing. Brian thanks Ralph for providing him with one of the best days of his life. Ralph is touched. A friendship has just been forged...
'The Other One' is a character driven piece, not a 'funny ha ha' show. There are plenty of funny moments all the same. It is also a serial, not a series. You really need to see this opening episode in order to appreciate the rest. Ralph is one of nature's confidence tricksters, who fancies that he knows everything about everything, when in fact he does not. There are similarities between him and 'Frankie Abbott' from John Esmonde and Bob Larbey's 'Please Sir!'. Brian, on the other hand, is weak and easily misled. He accepts everything Ralph says without question. According to Esmonde and Larbey, at the recording the audience were uncomfortable at the spectacle of the normally squeaky clean Briers playing an obnoxious character. Its one of his finest ever performances in my view. We have not seen Michael Gambon in much comedy, and on the evidence of this its a shame. He could easily have made Brian boring ( even though he's supposed to be ), but to his credit, makes him amusing and touching. 'Sue Bainbridge', the courier, is played by Jill Kerman, who had appeared in the third series of 'Please Sir!' as 'Penny Wheeler', Mr.Hedges' girlfriend. She susses Ralph out but does not warn Brian as he seems to enjoy his new friend's company.
My opinion has not changed one iota since 12/05. 'The Other One' may not be forgotten any longer, but its still a comedy masterpiece. And yes, it is special.
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