Wednesday, 7 September 2011

THE FAST SHOW is back! Online. Brilliant?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Charlie Higson has revealed on Twitter that The Fast Show, the award-winning '90s sketch show that attracted guest-stars like Johnny Depp in its heyday, is returning on 14 November for an online series sponsored by Fosters. Paul Whitehouse, Simon Day, John Thomson, Caroline Ahearne and Arabella Weir are all set to return, but Mark Williams has declined the chance to return to the show that made him famous.

I'm optimistic this will venture be a success, despite it being 11 years since the show vanished from our screens after three series/specials on BBC2. The fact it's an online project may suit The Fast Show perfectly, because its unique brand of high-speed sketches fits the impatience of YouTube users down to the ground. My only real concern is that the budget of a web series is undoubtedly going to be low compared to television, so will the show feel restrained in some way?

According to Higson, all the old favourites are set to return, but I assume the sex-obsessed "Suit You" tailors will be retired, given that Williams is one half of that duo. Similarly, you can wave bye-bye to the quickie delights of "Jesse's Diets" and "You Ain't Seen Me, Right?" But hey, chin up, Arabella Weir's back, so we can look forward to all the classic characters she played, like... um, the "Does My Bum Look Big In This?" lady and.... oh.

Will the 53-year-old Paul Whitehouse look ridiculous playing the teenager who thinks everything was "Brilliant!"? To be positive, he's almost age appropriate to play mumbling squire Ted these days. Maybe Chris The Crafty Cockney will have been embroiled in the London riots?

At the very least it'll be interesting to see which characters are revived, how they're perhaps updated, and which ones are dropped because they're no longer relevant or feel too old-hat. Do Unlucky Alf, Bob Fleming, and Ron Manager have a future? To be honest, The Fast Show was so ahead of its time that all of its characters could be brought back and nothing would look especially outmoded. A surprising amount of characters were based on old-fashioned ideas and stereotypes from British culture that have lasted decades (a drunken upper-class twit, the randy spiv, a grumpy old man), so none of that will really date.

Provided the quality of writing's still there, this should be worth seeing. The original show was such a radical departure from every sketch show that came before it. I remember how fresh, bracing and unusual it felt when it burst onto our screens with a digitally-elasticized Whitehouse singing Englebert Humperdink's "Release Me" in a sparkling suit. Can't wait to see if the magic's still there. Scorchio!

And now, a classic Ted & Ralph sketch...