||RANDALL AND HOPKIRK (DECEASED)
Detective agency with a difference - one of the partners is a ghost.
"No one can see me but you, Jeff."
6 episodes of 50 minute duration. BBC. 2000
Whether termed remake or revival, the resurrection of a well-loved series from the past is at best dangerous, and at worst disastrous.
However, BBC television's brand new, lavish prime-time Saturday night incarnation of the fondly remembered ITC series originally starring Kenneth Cope and the late Mike Pratt, is that most rarest of televisual beast's; the revival done right.
Retaining all the core ingredients which made the original a success, yet infusing them with a knowingly affectionate nod towards the basic absurdity of the concept, writer/producer Charlie Higson has remoulded 'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)' into a consistently amusing romp which unashamedly sets out to offer its audience light-hearted, purely escapist entertainment, which is a direct hark back to the less cynical decade that spawned the original. Unlike the original, this new version, with it's state-of-the-art special effects, became an instant hit.
In the central roles of ghost and detective respectively, comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer exhibit their inexperience as actors, but these dramatic shortcomings on the duo's part are most successfully negated by the wise decision to surround them with a plethora of seasoned guest stars. Alongside regular support from the talented Emilia Fox as Jeannie Hurst, (Marty's widow in the original, now his fiancée) and reinvented as a kick-boxing equal to her male co-stars, is the effortlessly charismatic presence of arguably the greatest incarnation of 'Doctor Who', Tom Baker, as Wyvern, Marty's spectral mentor. And as usual, Baker's performance is a delight to behold.
Now with it's second season aired, both the series, it's stars and the production team as a whole have made a massive leap forwards in terms of confidence in the ability of the series to step out of the impressive shadow cast by its sixties counterpart.
Both Reeves and Mortimer have made genuine progress in their acting ability, and have grown comfortable enough with their interpretations of the characters of Marty and Jeff to dispel unfavourable comparisons with the Cope and Pratt incarnations. Their new found relaxation and obvious enjoyment of the roles has resulted in the characters taking on a new depth and comedically humorous subtly of shading that goes a long way to making them both more believable as a team, as well as endearing for the viewer.
Another major plus point has been the deepening nascent romantic relationship between Jeff and Jeanie. Thanks to a combination of good writing and a fine rapport between Bob Mortimer and especially the highly talented Emilia Fox, the Jeff/Jeannie/Marty triangle has provided the new series with some of its most touching and human scenes. The character's awkward dilemma has proved a strong counterpoint of much needed humanity to counterbalance the innate fantasy elements of the main stories and situations themselves.
And the fantasy aspect has proved an especially enjoyable highlight to the second season, thanks especially to producer Charlie Higson's canny decision to expand the role of Marty's otherworldly mentor, Wyvern. In the expertly capable, larger-than-life hands of Tom Baker, Wyvern effortlessly dominates proceedings with the innate scene-stealing charm and ability for which the actor is well renowned. If Jeff and Jeannie provide the series with its core humanity, then it's Baker's effortlessly brilliant portrayal that grants the more overtly supernatural aspects with an enjoyment that is both full blooded and palpable in its surrealness.
Slick, glossy and with a genuine sixties feel to the supporting characters which is almost Avenger's-like in its eccentricity, the fledgling series proved an instant ratings winner for the corporation in its first season, and has succeeded in impressing even more in its second.
Unapologetically entertaining, 'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)' is a genuinely fun show and one, which it would be nice to think, Lew Grade himself would have heartily approved of.
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