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Sorry About Last Night

Radio 4
1999 (five episodes)

Alexei Sayle's first radio series (as writer) could safely be described as 'different'.  OK, in plan, it was a standard-issue sitcom about a married couple's standard-issue rocky relationship.  Sayle being Sayle, however, there were various additional factors to take on board.  She, Julie (Siobhan Redmond) was a high-flying liberal lawyer with an unbelievably messy flat and a tendency to invite Tony and Cherie Blair round for dinner; he, Andy (Sayle) was an ex-soldier, not flying at any particular height, meticulously tidy but prone to attracting the company of paranoid assassins.  With hilarious consequences.  The regular cast of characters was rounded out by Andy's father and brother (Harry Towb and Gary Bleasedale) and, uniquely, a trio of political refugees (Adjoa Andoh, Nadim Sawalha and Chris Pavlo) whom Julie had got to know in the course of her regular work on asylum applications.  Mrs Abasanjo, Mr Hamad and Mr Lukic were constantly inquisitive as to the intimate details of Julie and Andy's relationship, acting as something between a blatant narrative device and a Greek chorus. 

Then there were the weird features.  The occasional eight-hour Special Branch interrogation and a honeymoon deliberately spent at Heathrow Airport were as nothing compared to a selection of serious flights into fantasy.  These mostly occurred during Andy and Julie's various house-viewings -- although married (just about), they had not yet progressed to living together -- which brought them into contact with a perfect simulated 'show family', a ravening monster of undefined aspect, and a couple of frustrated Daleks with predictable views on the immigration issue.  Additional complications ensued when the government computer in charge of processing refugee applications developed not only a conscience, but also a gender identity and a TV sitcom pilot... 

In short, this was one of the most innovative series of recent years (despite being undertaken without the greatest degree of enthusiasm ever displayed in the history of comedy, if we are to take at face value certain comments, regarding the trajectory of Sayle's career, dropped into the script with the subtlety of your average housebrick).  The supporting cast included Doon MacKichan and Simon Greenall in a variety of roles. 

© JB Sumner 2000. File created 10/3/00