Picture the scene; a man is idly browsing the goods on sale at a tobacconist's kiosk. The owner ( Paul Merton ) asks: "Can I help you?". "I'm just looking!" the man says, to which the owner sarcastically replies: "You're not just looking. You're hearing as well. Now you're speaking.".
We cut to a field where over a soundtrack of bleating sheep, breaking glass and church bells, letters on telegraph wires spell out the show's title: PAUL MERTON THE SERIES.
On a busy train, Paul is amused by a fellow passenger's obvious red wig, but says nothing. A ticket inspector enters the carriage, causing Paul to panic as he remembers he forgot to buy one. 'Wiggy' is escorted to the guard's van for having a two year old ticket on his person. Relieved at not having been rumbled, Paul punches the air in triumph. In so doing, he draws attention to himself.
In a publisher's office, McNulty, the author of a new book on Alfred Lord Tennyson, is sounded out for having crudely plagiarised other works. The entire twelfth chapter comes from a book on chickens. In the heat of the row both publisher and author reveal themselves to be fake characters in 'Mission: Impossible' style masks. Several changes of identity later, they stand exposed as husband and wife. Cue emotional reunion.
Back at the kiosk, Paul ( sporting a miniature office desk on his head ) tells us: "I've got a book at home about the paranormal. I did not buy it, it just appeared in my room one night!".
I think by now you should have a fair idea of the general level of humour. Other surreal flights of fancy are set in a sauna bath, where Paul miraculously conjures up a pint and a cheese ommlette while imprisoned in a wooden box, Paul as a father who tells his lovely daughter Jennifer on her birthday she is ( wait for it ) NOT adopted, and a World War 2 P.O.W. sketch in which he covers for the escapees by carrying with him at all times a pole containing stuffed dummies designed to resemble the absent men.
Merton's influences are plain for all to see: 'At Last The 1948 Show', 'Marty', 'Not Only But Also', and yes, 'Monty Python'. He also brought back something that had been missing from television comedy for some time - visual humour.
Alas the show did not make the impact it deserved. It ran only to two seasons, and is presently unavailable on D.V.D.
Funniest moment - Paul's line: "My ambition is to ask Lee Harvey Oswald, can you remember where you were when Kennedy was assassinated?".
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