Those of you who still don’t roll over and pretend to be asleep when I mention my Patreon campaign will know that patrons of a certain level (Okay, it’s 3 bucks a month. We’re not talking high finance, here) get to determine which 5 for Friday posts will be among those I blog each month. Thanks to patron Narrelle M Harris, this week I’ll be discussing five TV comedies that have influenced my writing, my performing, and my approach to art.

I grew up in a time when an episode of a TV show was shown once, at a specific time, and if you missed it, well, you might just never see it. As I grew into a teen, and then a comedy obsessed young adult, the list of shows I obsessed over grew and grew into, well, an obsession. One I should have followed all the way to a PhD thesis, but that’s a story for another time. I compulsively purchased books of sketch scripts, and spent hours picking apart and analysing Beyond the Fringe, The Goon Show, Round the Horne, I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again, A Show Called Fred, Steptoe and Son, Hancock’s Half Hour…… the list is enormous, and largely British. I recorded scripts on tape– sometimes with friends, sometimes solo– playing with voice, and timing, and pitch. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I collected LPs– and did up until my second marriage. And I watched: over and over, episodes of every show I could find: first on TV, and then, when video cassettes became available, on tape, then disc. I am a fan. I could easily have become an historian. Here are five shows that changed the way my brains works.



Apparently, the BBC will be announcing the new Doctor this Sunday. To be honest, I’m not that fussed: the British churn out so many excellent actors that you could throw a ping pong ball into any green room in the country and hit half a dozen candidates who would do an excellent job of playing a character whose main job qualifications these days appear to be “must be able to wear silly jacket, run while shouting, and express sorrow for stuff”; and secondly, Doctor Who’s been little better than average for the last few years and just simply isn’t as exciting, innovative, and satisfying as it used to be.

Also: get off my lawn you bloody kids!

So, while talk of Peter Capaldi and Russel Tovey and that bloke from Dirk Gently and will it be a woman and please god anybody but Dawn French yadda yadda is all well and good, I’m going to admit something– there’s a part of me that really hopes they announce that they’ve decided to go back and do Colin Baker properly.

That would be worth a laugh.


Two iconical television SF actors died during the week: you can take your pick as to whether Ricardo Montalban was best known to SF fans for his role as Mr Roarke in the fantasy sitcom Fantasy Island or his turn as Khan in the TV and film versions of Star Trek. I never watched Fantasy Island, and am no fan of Star Trek, so his impact on my own fandom was nil, but it can’t be denied that both shows have large and attentive fan bases, so his passing will be noted by many.

Of greater significance to my own, personal, karass was the death of Patrick McGoohan, who played the titular character in the groundbreaking series The Prisoner, amongst other things. I first discovered The Prisoner a few years ago through friends John and Sarah Parker, and became an instant devotee, immersing myself in the twists and turns of the show to the extent that Lyn and I were able to deliver a presentation at a recent convention asserting that the show itself represents a psychological journey on the part of Number Six, and that the various Number Twos represent the varieties of ‘adult’ personality he must choose between before he makes his return to the world of responsibility.

Like all other fans of the show I’ve talked with, I’ve been waiting for McGoohan to reveal the true narrative of the show, and validate all my wild theories and second guesses. Enigmatic to the end, he revealed nothing, and we are left only with his assertion that the clues are all there, to be pieced together as we may. Forty years after screening it is, to me, still the most complex, intriguing, and bedeviling piece of television ever made. It is slightly saddening that McGoohan never again reached such heights—two Emmys (for Columbo, of all things) and a brilliant star turn as Edward I in Braveheart seem scant reward for such an iconic personality. But I am a fan, fascinated as much by the man himself as his works, and I shall miss the hope that, even at 80, there may have been some great project still to come.