Tuesday, January 13, 2004 by

Upon hearing of the premise behind this BBC Scotland-produced comedy show it did seem as though somebody in the programme-planning department might have been having a joke with a colleague. The idea of utilising the talents of a group of familiar “stars” from the world of 1980s entertainment in a fast-moving sketch show sounds as if it could have been one of Alan Partridge’s slightly more feasible Dictaphone musings. The prospect of seeing the likes of Cannon and Ball, Gorden Kaye, Ruth Madoc and company in a modern comedy environment seemed distinctly odd and not really very appealing. It was surprising upon viewing, therefore, to find that the finished product wasn’t that bad. Granted, the show isn’t full of belly-laughs, and judging from the evidence of the first episode there is probably going to be more misses than hits, but Revolver was nevertheless a mildly diverting half an hour of television.

Like the show that immediately preceded it in the schedules (new hospital sitcom Doctors and Nurses) there is little in Revolver that justifies it having such a late post-watershed time-slot. It is the type of tame programming that surely would be more at home earlier in the evening, or even strategically placed opposite the likes of You’ve Been Framed on a Saturday night.

The sketches come thick and fast, with an incredible 29 in less than half an hour, and only one or two lasting for over a minute. And while some of the celebrities only appear once in the entire show (Stephen Lewis, John Inman, Lionel Blair), others are positively ubiquitous. Melvyn Hayes, Nicholas Smith and Roy Barraclough all get a large share of the action, with Barraclough even getting the opportunity to relive his comic past by dragging-up as a panto dame for one sketch.

The more visual ideas seem to work best, with the funniest being Roy Barraclough in a pub discussing the war accident that resulted in him having his hand replaced by a pirate-style hook. His friend also has a hook replacement; but rather than for his hand, it was for his head. Another good one had Melyvn Hayes in a jockey’s uniform being fired into the air and used as a clay pigeon, while later on there was a sketch where Janet Brown as the boss of an adoption agency tried to find her “older child” a place with a new family: the older child being Stephen “Blakey” Lewis in a school uniform and full-on gurn mode.

Overall, however it’s an uneven show. While a Two Ronnie-esque sketch full of clever half-finished sentences and implied smut could have dripped off Gerald Wiley’s pen, scenes involving Gorden Kaye as a film-obsessed farmer were unimpressive and the John Inman/Nicholas Smith Are You Being Served? reunion in an antique dealer’s was just plain odd. Plus, surely nobody wanted to see Lionel Blair dressed in his teenage daughter’s skimpy clothes?

In the final analysis Revolver isn’t challenging stuff, with the humour on offer often becoming quite comic strip. Nevertheless, there is a fascination in seeing old familiar faces back on television, who – it has to be said – do give it their all. As a result it’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that a certain percentage of the audience will stick with the series simply to find out which other careers it will it exhume. How long will it be before Duncan Norvelle and the Grumbleweeds turn up?


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