Friday, 17 February 2017

Seven Richard Curtis Things I'd Much Rather See A Sequel To Than Love Actually

Trump. Brexit. Trousers.

I dont know what any of these mean as I never watch the news but I'm led to believe by several of the Prosecco fangroups I'm in on Facebook that Richard Curtis has decided to mount a mini-sequel to his 2003 hit movie "Love Actually" on Red Nose Day's big fund-raising programme this March 24th. To say I'm excited would be an understatement! I wish I could say which of the awful characters I couldn't give a damn about I'm most looking forward to returning. I hope Andrew Lincoln is back with his fucking signs.

And then Rachel gets punched in the face.
Yeah, its fair to say I don't like "Love Actually" very much. That’s not to say there aren’t good things in it - Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in particular are a master-class in the acting of pain - but they all seem from different films entirely with no real through-line binding any of it together. Even Curtis' unspeakably twee previous film - 1999's "Notting Hill" - is a proper MOVIE about actual thought out characters, which "Love Actually" never feels like. It wants to be Robert Altman but its more a sketch movie with pretensions of grandeur.

Still, its no surprise he fancies a sequel considering the original came out in a year when the world's highest grossing films included "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", "The Matrix Reloaded", "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines", "The Matrix Revolutions", "X-Men 2" and "Bad Boys II". Its no wonder that first "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie seemed so fresh and exciting back then... sigh....

Whether the follow up to the ITV2 staple will be a spoof or a genuine return to the characters will be revealed in next month's telethon and it can't be denied its a brilliant tease to get people watching on the night. But probably not me I'm afraid.

Here's "Seven Richard Curtis Things I'd Much Rather See A Sequel To"...

The Tall Guy

Huge at the time and particularly infamous for a over-the-top sex scene during which a house is trashed, it is strange how little people talk about 1989's "The Tall Guy" today, Curtis' full-length big-screen screen bow (not to mention directing d├ębut of former "Not The Nine O'Clock News" colleague Mel Smith) in favour of starting the Curtis success story with "Four Weddings And A Funeral". Naturally this is is a huge shame as "The Tall Guy" is a smart, very funny romantic comedy based on Curtis' own time as the straight man to Rowan Atkinson. Here, because its the movies, he has been upgraded to the handsome and extremely bankable Jeff Goldblum while the smarmy, dominating Rowan Atkinson role is taken, Rowan Atkinson.

There's no real window for a sequel left in the film itself but I'm sure for its fans, people would be happy to see what Dexter and Kate were up to now, plus more chance for Curtis and musical director Peter Brewis to tear apart the current West End, like this film's terrific "Elephant!" in which the story of The Elephant Man gets its very own distinctly Lloyd-Webber-esque musical take. The biggest tragedy now being the loss of the magnificent Mel Smith who even gets a brilliant cameo.

Comic Relief Comic

In 1991, a rather brilliant thing turned up in my local newsagents for about five seconds. Thankfully I managed to grab one in that brief period and its as such that the solitary issue of "Comic Relief Comic" is still a much-loved possession of mine. Published by Fleetway (at the time home to 2000AD, Buster, Crisis and increasingly little else thanks to endless comics mergers), it was an incredibly exciting coming together of comic artists and writers from all over the strip spectrum - DC Thomson, Marvel, DC, even Viz - such as Garth Ennis, Jamie Hewlett, Dave Gibbons, Mark Millar, Hunt Emerson and Bryan Talbot. More importantly for this article, it was "conceived, plotted and edited" by Neil Gaiman, Richard Curtis, Grant Morrison and Peter K. Hogan. Just take a second to think about that creative line-up. Now change your underwear.

The whole comic is both issues-led and sensitively addresses why Comic Relief exists whilst also being magnificently bonkers anthology of incredibly talented people being happy to raise money for charity. There's a sort-of central story that sees the third live telethon going ahead in its pages and going smoothly...except Griff Rhys Jones has been replaced by an evil being called a House Head and the world is doomed unless everyone in the UK donates to Comic Relief, including Britain's meanest man Edmund Blackadder. There are fun cameos from lots of celebrities, a section where Dawn French and Ben Elton mutate into superheroes, Desperate Dan's charity car wash, we learn what goes into the gunge tank, Theophilous P Wildebeeste's hitherto unseen alter ego Love Man, a trip to a very pissed off Africa and lots of other thoughtful but very well done material. And it all looks wonderful.

Jamie Hewlett having a bit of a revel there.
So why don't they reprint it every year and make more money? Well, it seems DC were arseholes over the whole experience and legal issues now prevent any more than the existing 40,000 appearing. But a proper follow up feels smart and long overdue. For now you'll just have to read the whole thing at my friend Ryan's blog. And give him a subscribe while you're there.

Bernard And The Genie

Curtis' second full length feature was produced for BBC One shortly after Blackadder came to an end (Incidentally I wont be campaigning for that to come back because its been too long, would spoil the legacy and besides, Back and Forth was bloody awful) and despite only being shown the two times on TV (with no British DVD) remains a much beloved favourite of those whose who saw it. A charming comic fantasy starring a pre-megafame (even pre-Air Scotia) Alan Cumming as a down on his luck art dealer and an absolute peak-of-fame (this was the year of his flop Hollywood movie “True Identity”) Lenny Henry as a pissed off and pleasingly over the top genie. Rowan Atkinson, a staple in many of these entries, is also very much present, once again as the bastard of the piece. Direction came from the reliable Paul Weiland, making his first feature since the baffling Bill Cosby vehicle "Leonard Part 6" in 1987.

Long been mooted for a Hollywood remake (at one point with a script by Father Ted's Linehan and Mathews), Curtis told the Radio Times his reason for writing it: "My family and I had just watched an Agatha Christie during which two people were stabbed and one was forcibly injected with heroin. By the end of it we were totally miserable." This has always remained quite an elusive despite its clear potential to be a holiday staple with sequel hook gold. Well, we can wish can't we...?

Odysseus the Greatest Hero of Them All

Tony Robinson got his "hey kids, here's history but its not boring like those squares at school!" start with this retelling of the, co-written with Curtis when the two were collaborating on the higher profile Blackadder and made into a popular Children's BBC series. This ones a bit of a cheat as there actually was a follow up book but some new kids material would be rather nice. Can you imagine their take on Horrible Histories? Cor...

The Atkinson People

A Radio 3 comedy programme. Yes, these exist! Someone should write a book about them. Four episodes of these dry but wonderful profiles into fictional characters (all played by Rowan Atkinson) were put out in 1979 just as Rowan's star was in the ascendant, likely explaining why there were no more. Written by the star and Curtis, the four folk profiled - phenomenally tedious actor Sir Corin Basin, typically unpleasant French philosopher George Dupont, all-rounder Sir Benjamin Fletcher and hero of the charts and self-proclaimed "Pope of Pop" Barry Good - are all engaging, funny characters that Atkinson would never use again.

With everyone getting much older now (and how long can a Maigret take to do?), maybe its time to go back to the radio for both men. They could even rope in its original producer - a chap called Griffith Rhys Jones - whose sister was going out with a chap named John Lloyd who was about to make the stars of his new show very famous indeed...

Lufthansa Terminal

One of the 80s greatest fake pop groups, Lufthansa Terminal will always be remembered for their annoyingly catchy February 1982 synthpop classic "Nice Video Shame About The Song". Taken from the final series of that programme John Lloyd went off to do with Sean Hardie, "Not The Nine O'Clock News" was where Curtis first found real success writing both sketches and song lyrics (usually with Howard Goodall.) These include the brutal Game For A Laugh parody, ABBA spoof "Supa Dupa", the bad language debate ("Part and parcel and pubes of everyday conversation"), "I Like Trucking" (which even got a single release), "Not The Parrot Sketch" and of course the above nice video...

Pretty much every song on NOT! is a winner through all four series but there's something especially intriguing about this one which has always made me think it could've been a proper smash hit, especially in the US where MTV had only just launched. Its an era of pop often parodied both contemporaneously and today but rarely does anyone get the sound right of that 'post-punk into pop' era that saw Japan, The Cure and Bauhaus move into the mainstream. Likewise the video catches so many of those editing tricks, effects and set-ups before we even knew they were cliches. So yeah, I want more of the Terminal! What would their album have been like? And the cover?! And the other videos...

The Spirit Of Comic Relief 1988

My partner was in Comic Relief HQ recently and confirmed to me just how much good they do with the money. From those early live shows at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1986 to next month's live telethon, they've come a very long way and in the process have raised over a billion pounds. That cannot be overlooked and they should feel extremely proud of what has been accomplished out of a few comedy types doing their bit to initially help fundraising for Ethiopia and the Sudan. So what comes next is not a slight on them or the work they do but...fuck me, when did the TV programme become so utterly dull?

I remember, aged seven years old, how excited I was for the first Red Nose Day. An entire night of comedy on the telly! When I finally got chance to see everything it was well worth the wait, from Fry and Laurie running the gunk tank to Stavros getting on Peter Davison's tits in the Telecom Tower via "Blackadder - the Cavalier Years", a briefly reunited Goodies and Michael Palin doing a bit of new Vercotti. Beautiful.

This enthusiasm continued through the next few Red Nose Days until something suddenly just started feeling off. The comedians were slowly being replaced by TV hosts, the singles became drearier and it slowly morphed into by a slick shiny floor show that, charity appeals aside, could be any Saturday night modern variety series. I know its about spreading the message as far as possible and it was always going to enter the mainstream after so many years but Comic Relief was always unique, a bit quirky and inspired by the alternative so while I don’t expect Paul Daniels' ghost to turn up to bugger up that milk trick again, it would be good if some of that excitement could return. Much like Curtis' own output, things have got a bit safe in recent years but there's still the potential to be incredible in the future, even if it means learning a few lessons from the past.

MARCH UPDATE: Just finished watching and I have to say this was the best one in a very long time (Bar the sound - please never use the O2 again! It sounded horrible!) Lots of good comedy people involved and some fun surprises with usually post-watershed stuff like Toast Of London, Alan Partridge (effectively doing a The Day Today style bit) and Vic and Bob doing The Stotts right up front and pre-watershed. I still don't like Love Actually though. Soz.

What do you think? Would we you like to see a return from? Let me know in the comment box below or @ThatBenBaker on Twitter. And now its time for the BBC to close down. Forever.


Find out how you can help Comic Relief on this upcoming Red Nose Day Friday March 24th by clicking here

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