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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD region 2. Network

The Likes of SykesEric Sykes has led a fascinating career - hugely popular in the 1960's and 70's for his long-running BBC sitcom and his short, pseudo-silent films like The Plank (which were later effectively ripped off by Mr Bean), he was more or less written off in the Eighties by the alternatives, only to later to recognised as an elder statesman of comedy. This DVD collection of three less well known shows made for Thames Television are an interesting selection - two pretty entertaining specials and one that almost suggests that the new wave had a point in sweeping out the old guard.

1971's Sykes - With the Lid Off features a handful of sketches that are pretty solid - similar in feel to a lot of Morecombe and Wise shows of the era, with vaguely surreal, if not exactly edgy comedy that includes taking the studio (and home) audience into deconstructed jokes as the show plays with the formula of TV production (complete with interruptions from the floor manager and director). Regular sidekick Hattie Jacques guests, and the highlight is a sketch about the disastrous filming of a vampire movie that takes a few barbed sideswipes at pretentious actors.

The Likes of Sykes, from 1981 has a similar format, with a vague linking story about Eric wanting to stage a spectacular Broadway show but failing miserably, thanks in part to jobsworth union officials (something that would've been a familiar experience for many viewers at the time). Diana Coupland (from Bless This House) and Hugh Burden co-star, and although not as good as the first special, the show, there is still much to enjoy here.

It all goes downhill with 1982's The Eric Sykes 1990 Show. The premise here is that by 1990, TV stars will have to pay for their own shows - cue lots of skits with missing props or in black and white (because colour costs extra). There are amusing moments here, but a lot of the interaction with Sykes and co-star Tommy Cooper seems incredibly self-indulgent. The two of them are clearly having a great time, but it's rarely funny. Having said that, my parents howled with laughter throughout all three shows when I took the DVD up during my Christmas visit, so perhaps I'm being overly harsh.

In any case, the generally excellent first show and solid second make this collection well worthwhile. Let's hope some of Syke's BBC shows make their way onto DVD before too long.




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