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World Of Pub

Radio 4
Series One 1998 (four programmes)
Series Two 1999 (four programmes)

‘Surreal’ is probably the most overworked adjective in comedy, but there is really no alternative but to wheel it out to describe this cheery little series.  The setting was an unsuccessful pub in the East End of London, run by Garry (Peter Serafinowicz) and Barry (Phil Cornwell).  Business, as a rule, was quiet — so quiet, in fact, that the bar was full of late-night DJs and Trappist monks.  Luckily, Garry and Barry’s mate Dodgy Phil (professional Mancunian John Thompson, but here, incredibly, sounding like Phil Daniels) was on hand to change their fortunes.

Although this zappy, cartoonish quarter-hour show made some vague pretence towards masquerading as a sitcom, it was really a demonstration of writer Tony Roche’s assured grasp of the principles of internal logic.  Each week, the following things would happen: Garry and Barry would complain about the lack of trade, Dodgy Phil would come up with a scheme to rebuild the pub in some new style (‘biggest pub in the world’, ‘world’s first environmentally-friendly pub’, etc), demonstrate his unique grasp of rhyming slang and get on the dog-and-bone to some of his dodgy acquaintances, who, assisted by Edith Piaf, would complete the renovations in about three seconds.  Some unexpected comic mishap or other would then result in the pub being demolished in the final minute of the programme.  Brilliantly, the show demonstrated the complete irrelevence of its own central theme (the pub), as it included high-speed excerpts from supposed other shows (‘World of Veg’, etc) in which Dodgy Phil wreaked equally destructive improvements on various other premises.

For its second series, the programme transferred successfully from its original fifteen-minute format to a full half-hour.  This allowed space for more complex storylines, such as the timely tale of Dodgy’s plan to create the Millennium Pub Experience, powered by a supercomputer which, needless to say, inadvertantly puts the earth in danger of destruction by a colossal meteor.  Alistair McGowan took over the role of Garry in this series: oddly enough, although both McGowan and Serafinowicz are noted as impressionists, the voice of Garry now sounded quite different, which possibly raises all kinds of questions as to whether impressionists can impersonate their own or, equally, doesn’t.  World of Pub also featured appearances from Debra Stephenson and, in the first series, Kim Wall.

© JB Sumner 1998, 1999. Last modified 9/2/99