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Dates refer to when review was written

Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased (11/01)
Some of you might remember the old 60s series as My Partner, The Ghost about a private detective haunted by his former partner's spirit.  Now comics Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer have teamed up with The Fast Show producer Charlie Higson to remake the series for the digital age.  Former Doctor Who Tom Baker is also on hand as a guide in the afterlife to show the new ghost Marty Hopkirk (Reeves, pretty much playing it straight except for the fart jokes) alongside amazing special effects the old series could only have dreamed about.  The show itself is an entertaining whiffle with glossy production values and various cameos by comedians, but much like Marty, mostly insubstantial. Read my feature about Reeves and Mortimer.

A Rather English Marriage (9/99)
Albert Finney plays an old duffer RAF squadron leader (who insists everyone address him as such), recently widowed, who strikes up an arrangement with another widower played by Tom Courtenay in this TV movie. Things are going just fine until Joanna Lumley enters the picture, sweeping Finney off his feet, although Courtenay is suspicious of her true motives.

The Real Bridget Jones (1/02)
A series of Channel 4 shorts that coincided with the release of the movie that gives little biographies of actual women in Britain named Bridget Jones and how they are unlike the fictional character.  A clever idea.

The Real Casino Royle (10/08)
Andrew Graham-Dixon takes a comprehensive look at the life of Ian Fleming and the factors that lead him to create James Bond in this documentary that tied in with the release of the first Daniel Craig film.

Real Women (7/98)
Three part BBC drama about five women who have been friends since school and the lead-up to one of their weddings. Even after years their lives are interconnected in ways they can't even imagine, conducting affairs, picking up men, or just coming out of the closet. Everything comes to a head on the wedding day when confrontations and revelations nearly lead to the Wedding From Hell. But like the Spice Girls said, "Friendship never ends." (Too bad it didn't work for them!)

Red Dwarf VII (3/97)
Weak offerings again, especially as the mainstay of the series (the great unsung Chris Barrie) is in only half the episodes. "Tikka To Ride" kicks off the seventh season with a time travel tale that takes the boys back to Dallas in 1963. An American series wouldn't touch the tastelessness of the plot developments with a 10-foot-pole. "Stoke Me A Clipper" is Ace Rimmer's swan song - or is it? - as Chris Barrie takes a temporary (except for flashbacks) leave of absence from the show. The pre-credits sequence highlighting Ace's latest exploit is the best part. "Ouraboros", better known as the logo from "Millennium" (as well as Scully's new tattoo if you've seen "The X-Files" lately), reintroduced Kochanski to the series with a whiny actress replacing C.P. Grogan, as well as attempting to give Lister some more backstory. "Duct Soup," done as a budget-saving episode, is probably the most pointless story ever. But Rimmer is back with a vengeance in "Blue" when Kryten goes to extreme lengths to cure Lister of his "fond" memories of his former crewmate. The musical number at the end (including a chorus of singing Rimmers) is a classic, and the highlight of the season. "Beyond a Joke," co-written by Robert Llewellyn, focuses on a crisis for Kryten when a mad symbiot (Don Henderson, slumming here) attacks the crew. An attempt is made to show just how petty Kryten's jealousy of Kochanski is (attempting to thwart a VR visit to "Jane Austin World") but it's a joke that already had run its course several episodes earlier. Finally, a two-part episode ("Epideme" and "Nanarchy") wrap up the season as Dave contracts a fatal - and intelligent - virus which requires severe measures to cure, and the final solution to the missing Red Dwarf is revealed. Norman Lovett makes a welcome return to our monitors, as does the ship itself along with its trademark horn theme, although not before the Cat makes one final very funny observation about their wayward ship. I won't spoil it here but it's a cute sight gag in a series woefully short of quality visual humor. At least Chris Barrie will be back in all eight episodes next year (and presumably Norman Lovett). Something to look forward to I hope.

Red Dwarf Extended (3/98)
The BBC attempts to milk Red Dwarf just a bit more with video releases of old episodes with extra scenes. This goes as far back as the first season which now has new special effects and the digitizing process that makes the series appear to have been shot on film. Remarkably, in the 7th season episodes, the laugh track has been removed (or perhaps forgotten), with "Tikka To Ride" having an entire 5 minute sequence at the end added. Strictly for fans, who of course will buy them all up in droves.

Red Ken Gets The Blues (9/98)
A documentary narrated by Dawn French chronicling the rise of left-winger Ken Livingstone in London politics in the 1970s. The Tories and right-wing papers hated Livingstone but his populist approach to the Greater London Council (GLC) just increased his appeal. But he eventually bit off more than he could chew and the GLC was abolished by Margaret Thatcher in an attempt to consolidate power with the central government instead of local (mostly left-wing) councils. The documentary is illustrated with examples of some of the excesses of the GLC, particularly by the Comic Strip team (of which Dawn French was a part) which spoofed his supposed reputation as doing anything to support feminist/gay/leftie causes.

Red Riding Trilogy (3/10)
In 1974 a young journalist (Andrew Garfield) uncovers corruption in darkest Yorkshire in this intense but mesmerizing three part drama with the Yorkshire Ripper murders in the backdrop.  Sean Bean, Warren Clarke and David Morrissey co-star as each part leaps several years ahead in the story.  This Channel 4 mini-series was shown theatrically in the USA and was also made available directly On Demand.

Reggie Perrin (3/10)
Martin Clunes stars in the remake of the classic Leonard Rossiter sitcom about an unhappy corporate executive, written by Simon Nye.  Alas, political correctness doesn't allow Reggie to imagine a hippopotamus whenever he sees his mother-in-law now (instead, a demolition ball smashes her off the sofa).  Perhaps those who toil in offices all day can better relate to this series, but I felt it was unnecessary, especially as it took six episodes just to get to that iconic scene of Reggie shedding the clothes and trappings of his life to walk naked into the ocean to be reborn.

The Reflecting Skin (5/94)
An American Gothic vampire story. This BBC TV movie takes place in the Great Plains during the 50s. A young boy suspects his neighbor (a widowed British woman) of being a vampire. Let's just say, a lot of people die and none of them from natural causes. Is it vampirism, or something else? Extremely well shot and directed: a farmhouse sitting in the middle of wheat fields never looked so sinister.

Remember Me? (7/99)
Chaos reigns when Robert Lindsay suddenly appears at the middle class home of old flame Imelda Staunton in this Channel 4 TV movie. Well what do you expect? Lindsay specializes in playing walking disaster areas like a one-man Marx Brothers. Here he is a broker whose clients are after him, on the run with a daft girl, hoping to cross the channel. But first he needs a some money, and thus he arrives on Staunton’s doorstep, much to the distress of her husband (Rik Mayall), though amusement of her children. Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies) and James Fleet (The Vicar of Dibley) make an appearance as houseguests who appear halfway through and are instantly thrown into the ever-increasing insanity. What’s amazing is the ending does NOT have a happy ending tying up all the loose ends, even though every cliche is set up for it. Very refreshing.

Reputations (1/00)
BBC/A&E documentary series, featuring a two-part examination of the life of Alfred Hitchcock (for his centennial last year). Denis Lawson narrates his rise from humble beginnings in Leytonstone, to his position as the most famous movie director in his time, although in the end he was trapped by his own reputation and unable to make a cutting-edge movie he wanted to in 1967.

Requiem Apache (3/95)
An Alan Bleasdale movie, this one filled with oddball characters in a drama about a former getaway-car driver trying to escape his old ties. He's gotten married and cares for his infant daughter while living in a pastoral country village. But the old gang want him to do "just one more job." Cameos by Christopher Ryan and Julie Walters.

Rescue Me (3/03)
Sally Phillips (Smack The Pony) leads this BBC ensemble series behind the scenes at a fictional trendy fashion magazine.  She's just broken up with her doctor husband, someone at work has a crush on her, and each week she has to do research on some ridiculous article.  The subplots involving the other employees help fill each hour, and Phillips is an engaging if somewhat irritating presence.

Residents (1/02)
BBC drama series about a row of houses on a street and the various interactions and stories in each.  There's the bullying ex-con with out-of-control kids, the old-age pensioners, the single mother trying to escape from the sex industry, the gay couple, and the Romeo-and-Juliet kids whose families are completely incompatible.  Some of it is a bit grim, particularly the sadism inflicted by the bully on his neighbors, but it's well-acted by a cast of unknowns and compelling without becoming an over-the-top soap opera.

Respect (5/97)
Nick Berry, Britain's answer to George Clooney, stars in this TV Movie as yet another working class mug, this time a boxer who wants to quit the ring. Quite unexpectedly he manages to avoid getting into The Big Fight at the end of the picture, something you wouldn't see in an American production.

A Respectable Trade (9/98)
The great Warren Clarke stars as a 17th Century ship owner in the slave trade working out of Bristol who takes as his bride the upper class niece of a Lord. She moves to Bristol and learns from the inside-out all about the slavery and her part in the process: teaching a group fresh off the boat from Africa to become houseslaves. Of course it slowly begins to dawn on her that they are more than "ignorant savages," particularly one she calls Moses, who it turns out can read and write. Clarke meanwhile uses his wife's connections to move up in Bristol society but he is outclassed literally and figuratively, and ultimately used and discarded by the money men who control local commerce. This four-part BBC drama is a harrowing but unflinching look at a dark period of English history, but also marks the beginning of the abolitionist movement and hope for the future.

Restless (3/13)
BBC two-part WWII espionage thriller about a Russian woman (Hayley Atwell) recruited by English spy Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewell) in pre-war France, which is crosscut with her in 1970 telling her story to her daughter (Michelle Dockery) in order to find out what happened to Romer and if he's still a threat to her. A great, tense drama which spans two eras and two generations.

The Return of 'Allo 'Allo! (10/08)
A 2007 reunion of the cast of the popular 1980s WWII French Resistance comedy in front of a live audience has Rene (good old Gordon Kaye) take the audience through the history of the series along with various cast members who appear in character to help reminisce.  Lots of clips and interviews will satisfy fans of the series.

Return to Blood River (7/94)
A South African ex-patriot (Kevin McNally--he was Lt. Hugo Lang in the Dr Who story "Twin Dilemma") returns home after 17 years just as Mandela is taking over and the Dutch Afrikaneers are making some adjustments of their own. Warren Clarke (Sleepers), who seems to be appearing in just about everything these days including House of Windsor and Moving Story (see separate listings), plays McNally's brother-in-law who has been running the family business since his father's recent death. The title refers to one of the great pride's of Dutch memory when in colonial times they scored a big victory over the natives. This BBC movie provides an insight into what is happening now in South Africa and how people are coping with the recent political changes.

Rev (10/10)
Tom Hollander and Oliva Colman star in this sitcom about an Anglican priest and his wife who is transferred to a parish in the East End of London.  It's a lot different than a typical English village but Rev. Adam Smallbone tries his best.  Amazingly, the reaction of Church of England to Hollander's portrayal and the series was mostly positive.  Rev. Adam is no cartoon character like Father Ted, but a serious, thoughtful man of god, even when faced with today's modern annoyances.  Reaction to the series was generally good and a second season has been commissioned.

The Revolution Will Be Televised (10/12)
BBC-3 subversive comedy series by Heydon Prowse and Jolyon Rubinstein that attempts to deliver political messages among the sketches and pranks they perform. I'm not sure how many people's opinions would really be changed by watching such antics, or whether they are just playing to an audience who already believes what they do.

Rex The Runt (5/99)
Aardman Animation, the Wallace and Gromit folks, get to let their hair down, so to speak, with this slightly risque series of clay-animated shorts for the BBC about a family of dogs who get into adventures. Celebrity voices such as Paul Merton, Eddie Izzard, and Antoine de Caunes are part of the weird, wonderful world of Rex and his pals, as they travel in time, get kidnapped by aliens, or try drilling at the North Pole.

Rhinoceros (1/00)
Hunky Robson Green (Touching Evil) stars a former footballer in this ITV TV movie as an absent father of an autistic boy who hooks up with his ex-wife when the boy gets lost in Wales on a trip home. After that it's a road movie and the inevitable reignition of passion between the couple as they search for their son and help him achieve independence.

Rich Deceiver (1/96)
Leslie Dunlop (May to December) stars in this two-part drama about a working class housewife who suddenly wins £12 million in the pools. But her husband is a proud but defeated man, so instead of telling him about her winnings, she sets out to secretly invest in a company that will give him a good job and the confidence he needs. Unfortunately, his eventual success creates a monster who eventually ditches her and takes up with a bimbo, all the while unaware of his wife's newfound wealth.

Rik Mayall Presents (5/93)
Anthology series featuring the actor in a variety of different parts. Mickey Love is a tragedy of almost Shakespearean proportions as a series of misunderstandings result in the complete self-destruction of a likeable TV presenter. It's like watching a car wreck - but you can't take your eyes away. Briefest Encounter guest-stars Amanda Donohoe in a tale about The Date From Hell. And in Dancing Queen, a bachelor-party prank sends a prospective groom to Scotland aboard a train with a stripper (Helena Bonham-Carter) - but no money.

(7/95) In Dirty Old Town, he is a bum who is mistaken for a hot screenwriter and given the high life. An amusing parody of the Soho film scene. In Clair de Lune, Rik is a minicab driver who is hijacked along with his 8-year-old daughter by a woman on the run. It all ends happily. One of the episodes from two years ago, Dancing Queen is about to be remade by Disney featuring Real Stars (despite the fact that Helena Bonham Carter co-starred with Rik originally). (See profile for Rik Mayall)

The Ring Reduced (9/95)
The Reduced Shakespeare Company (all three of them) manage to perform most of Wagner's Ring Cycle in 22 minutes. A cute send-up of opera, with some funny sight-gags as well.

Riot at the Rite (4/07)
Dramatization of the creation of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" in 1913 Paris and how it shocked the world of music and dance at the time.  He was a nut to be sure, but a genius at the same time and stuck to his creative guns to produce what everyone now recognizes as a classic. 

Ripper Street (3/13)
This expensive BBC co-production is somewhat similar to "Copper," another 19th Century police procedural that ran on BBC America last year.  This time, Matthew Macfadyen plays the lead, Edmund Reid, a tortured detective inspector who recently lost his daughter, abetted by a loyal (if somewhat thuggish) sergeant (Jerome Flynn) as well as an American "crime surgeon" (Adam Rothenberg) with a shady past.  It's a bit "CSI: Victoria," with much of the detective work being done in the lab, with brilliant leaps of logic by Reid that would be worthy of Sherlock Holmes at times.  Alas, Jack the Ripper is a no-show in the series (his six murders have already occurred by the beginning of the show), but nevertheless his shadow looms over the proceedings.

The River (11/89)
Harmless sitcom about a river tender (lock keeper) and his romance with a ditzy Scottish girl.

The Road to Coronation Street (10/10)
I must confess that even though it's available on cable from Canada, I've never watched an episode of long-running ITV soap opera Coronation Street.  Nevertheless, I was fascinated by this BBC4 drama that brought to life the world of Granada television in Manchester in 1960.  Poor Tony Warren is failed actor who switches to scriptwriting and quickly impresses his boss, Harry Elton, a Canadian who has been brought in to help popularize commercial television.  Tony writes his pilot script called "Florizel Street" about life on a typical working class street.  Harry thinks its just the kind of show Granada should be making, a series with a distinctive Northern voice, even though his superiors don't think Britain is ready to hear regional accents on television.  A pilot is commissioned and Tony fights to cast authentic Northern actors and not ones from London putting on an accent.  It's nearly shelved but Harry arranges a company-wide test screening of the pilot and the employees, many of whom come from the backgrounds depicted in the show, are riveted.  A last minute title change to "Coronation Street" and the series is launched by Granada.  Within six months it's the most popular program in Britain and of course it's still running 50 years later.  There are interesting touches in The Road to Coronation Street, such as every office at Granada is only allowed a framed photo of P.T. Barnum, to remind the employees they are making the Greatest Shows on Earth.  Tony Warren, who is still alive and consults on Coronation Street and this drama, was obviously homosexual but the few people who take any notice, a casting secretary and one of the actresses, don't seem bothered in the least.  Maybe this is a concession to modern audiences that  the way Tony is portrayed we're supposed to know he's gay, but to everyone else in 1960 he was just considered a bit camp, like Kenneth Williams.  The Road to Coronation Street like many "making of" dramas, shows that truly original, groundbreaking programs are typically the work of a visionary who never gives up or compromises in his quest to overcome conventional thinking.

Roald Dahl's Little Red Riding Hood (7/96)
Ian Holm narrates this revisionist version of the fairy tale featuring Julie Walters and a host of actors wearing animatronic animal heads. Danny DeVito is the voice of the Big Bad Wolf who is no match for the little girl (Walters, also playing her grandmother) he intends to eat. A clever production though much of the material probably soars over the heads of younger viewers.

Robbie Coltrane B-Road Britain (1/09)
The large "Harry Potter" actor takes to the open road in a classic car, using routes not often taken, in this ITV travelogue series.

The Rob Brydon Show (10/10)
The Welsh actor, comedian and presenter gets his own eponymous series, a chat and variety series featuring various guest celebrities.  The very first guest was David Walliams from Little Britain and he and Brydon end up talking a lot about the first time they worked together, which was the TV Movie Cruise of the Gods. Brydon opens the show with a bit of stand-up and interaction with the audience, but maybe stand-up isn't his strong suit.  Don't get me wrong, he's a talented guy, and he demonstrates this when he brings out a guitar and he and Sir Tom Jones belt out some Elvis numbers together. And like Leno and Letterman, Brydon wants to introduce new stand-up acts, and lets newcomers get some exposure on BBC1.  I must confess that after a decade of Graham Norton shows as well as many others, I'm suffering a bit of chat show fatigue.  Like perhaps many of you, you'll watch when they have a guest you are particularly interested in seeing but in ordinary circumstances, I'm not going to go out of my way to watch it.

Robin Hood (1/09)
Every decade gets the Robin Hood it deserves: in the 1950s it was Richard Greene (and his famous theme song), in the 1980s it was the touchy-feely Michael Praed Robin of Sherwood, and the 21st Century brings us a young, sexy Robin Hood with high octane adventures.  In its attempt to appeal to young viewers, deliberate anachronisms abound to make it all seem more "relevant" but the action is first-rate, a rousing musical score carries us along, and a great-looking cast make it all go down smooth for those willing to suspend disbelief in the historical accuracy (as if, he's a myth in the first place!).  

Rock & Chips (8/10)
John Sullivan wrote this prequel to his popular long-running sitcom Only Fools and Horses, set in the 1960s.  Del is just a teenager (The Inbetweeners' James Buckley) whose parents move into one of those new-fangled tower blocks, but his mum catches the eye of the local gangster (Nicholas Lyndhurst--who played Rodney in Fools).  This BBC pilot will become a series, the Trotters live on!

Rock Babylon (5/99)
Graham Norton looks at the history of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll in this special. What more do you need to know?

Rock `N Roll Hotel (3/11)
Timothy Spall narrates this BBC docusoap focusing on Mark Fuller trying to open a trendy London hotel in the midst of the financial downturn.

Rock Profile (3/02)
A parody of celebrity interviews with Jamie Theakston meeting different musical acts each week all impersonated by Little Britain's Matt Lucas (Shooting Stars) and David Walliams (Attachments).  Lucas began this act during Sir Bernard's Stately Homes and he and Williams also appeared on the 2001 Comic Relief as "Elton John" and his boyfriend.  Incredibly, they run the actual group's real music videos as filler during the show accompanied by spurious crawls along the bottom highlighting various "rock facts."

Rod Hull - A Bird In The Hand (10/05)
Documentary about the popular British comedian who found lasting fame as the "owner" of Emu, a puppet that would attack celebrities at the drop of a hat (his accosting of Michael Parkinson in the 1970s is still a TV highlights staple).  Unable to find success in Britain originally, he moved to Australia in the 1960s to get involved in their fledgling TV industry.  Eventually he "found" (some allege he stole) Emu and returned to Britain in triumph, a top-rated TV series, a million pound mansion and fame.  Alas, by the time he died in 1999 (in an accident when he fell off his roof adjusting his TV aerial) he was bankrupt and worth only a few thousand pounds.  One of his last bits of fame was being impersonated by a fake Rod Hull (Kevin Eldon) on Fist of Fun which culminated in an Emu-free appearance by him on the show in 1996.

Roger and Val Have Just Got In (8/10)
Dawn French and Alfred Molina star in this low-key BBC comedy that could be equally staged as a play.  There are only two characters, the eponymous middle-aged married couple, and everything about them is revealed through dialog as they do some mundane task around the house such as searching for a warranty on their vacuum cleaner. 

Roger, Roger (1/97)
Writer John Sullivan's (Only Fools and Horses) TV movie about a mini-cab firm run by Robert Daws (Outside Edge) and the men who work there, including Neil Morrissey (Men Behaving Badly) as a would-be musician who finally gets to meet his idol - though not in circumstances he would prefer. Became a series in 1998 but without Morrissey.

Roman's Empire (10/08)
Offbeat BBC sitcom about a porn king who keeps his extended family (and their lovers) all working for him and living in the same house.  Our hero and narrator is Leo (Gavin & Stacey's Mathew Horne) who is the ex-boyfriend of one of Roman's daughters but is desperate to win her back. His best mate (The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd) is married to one of the other daughters, and they have a child neither wants.  Kelsey Grammer reportedly filmed a pilot for an American remake. 

The Romantics (4/08)
Peter Ackroyd  introduces the audience to the Romantic era and the people who embodied it by using fancy BBC graphics and big-name actors like David Tennant reading the poetry of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Ronnie Anacona & Co (10/08)
Impressionist and comedienne Anacona gets her own series featuring some of her famous characters as well as new ones like Nicole Kidman, and an overly dramatic wife at a dinnerparty. 

Room At The Top (12/12)
This long-delayed BBC remake of the famous 1957 John Braine novel stars Matthew McNulty (The ParadiseMisfits) as Joe Lampton, an ambitious young man in post-war Britain. Although he is interested in Susan Brown (Jenna-Louise Coleman), he begins an affair with the older Alice Aisgill (Maxine Peake, Silk).  Joe here is presented as a less self-serving bastard than in the 1959 film version and more sympathetic, but nevertheless he makes some poor life decisions in his quest to achieve his goals.

Room 101 (1/97)
If you remember George Orwell's 1984, Room 101 was the place where you had to face your worst fears (Winston Smith's being of course rats). In this BBC series, guests are invited on to submit the things they really hate for entry into the Room 101 Hall of Fame, explaining why on the way. You probably learn a bit too much about each of the stars who appear, but it's certainly a novel concept to see executed.

Room 101 (2/12)
The one-on-one format (originally hosted by Nick Hancock, later Paul Merton) is reimagined as more typical TV panel show with three celebrities now challenged to put their most-hated objects into Room 101 by snarky host (and arbiter) Frank Skinner. It’s a shame it’s been dumbed down to this, the original version was more like “Desert Island Discs” where the selections weren’t as important as seeing how they reflected the tastes of the guest.  Now instead it’s just a competition to come up with the most outrageous suggestions in the hopes it will be the one selected to go into the room.  More’s the pity.

Root of All Evil? (4/07)
Fascinating documentary with Oxford professor Richard Dawkings on the effect of religion on children.  And let's just say, he doesn't think it's positive.

The Rottentrolls Phenomenon (11/01)
At first I thought this was just a mockumentary about a fictitious children's puppet show and the sad fans who loved it (and the even sadder ones who made it) until they actually began running real episodes of the thing.  It's a real program!!  I still assume the documentary part was a hoax but I have discovered to my surprise that The Rottentrolls (with narration by Martin Clunes) was an actual series inflicted on the children of Britain by ITV.  Shame, I thought it was all a brilliant satire until then.

Rough Diamond (4/08)
Irish-based family drama about a family of horse trainers including Aidan, a horse-whisper who meets the son he never knew he had (who also has the touch) and their rivalry with the rich stable up the road.  Something for everyone if you like this stuff: hunky guys, romance, and horses, horses horses!

The Royal Bodyguard (2/12)
David Jason stars in this BBC1 comedy as an incompetent bodyguard to the Queen which he plays in much the same manner as Leslie Neilson’s Frank Drebin in “The Naked Gun,” although without the sight gags.  The humor is so low-brow and broad I honestly thought it might have been produced for children’s television. Although that’s an insult to children’s TV.  But no, The Royal Bodyguard is BBC1 primetime entertainment. I like David Jason a lot, his TV legacy is assured, but this is not one of his best projects.

A Royal Scandal (11/96)
BBC dramatization narrated by Ian Richardson about the 18th Century wedding of George the IV (Richard E. Grant) and Princess Caroline from Brunswick. It's hate at first sight and things only go downhill from there. Like another Royal Couple two centuries later, the Prince of Wales resents his more popular wife, and they spend decades battling each other before he tries to divorce her once and for all. Fascinating, witty, and all true, based on actual letters written at the time by the participants.

The Royle Family (1/99)
Caroline Aherne, best known in Britain as "Mrs. Merton," a gossipy older chat show host (as well as a Fast Show regular) co-wrote and stars in this BBC series about a Manchester family of couch potatoes which is presented almost as a documentary about the chronically unaware. There's no laugh track, and there aren't really any jokes per se, just a weekly look in on the Royle family as the wedding day of their daughter (Aherne) approaches, about the only diversion from their daily intake of cigarettes, fatty food, and television. There's something unsettling to me that people who are clearly better off are behind a series that seems merely to exist to mock the uneducated working class. It's like watching a car wreck: you can't turn away but at the same time you feel uncomfortable.

Ruddy Hell! It's Harry & Paul (7/08)
Harry Enfield returns to sketch comedy on the BBC with pal Paul Whitehouse as they assay various new characters including an American retired couple visiting Britain, U2 at home, Bill Gates & Steve Jobs, Laurel & Hardy's Brokeback Mountain, and Nelson Mandela shilling for various dubious products. A second series in 2008 was simply retitled Harry & Paul, along with a clever new theme song done in the style of a Soviet-era military parade. 

Run (11/13)
Four episode dramatic mini-series from Channel 4 that each week focused on a different character who were loosely connected and how they made a decision to alter their lives. The first was about Carol (Olivia Coleman) who trades in stolen phones and whose sons murder a stranger. Then Ying (Kaie Leung) who received the property from Carol tries to break free of the Chinese gangsters she's indebted to, only to involve a black barber. One of his clients, Richard (Lennie James), a former drug addict tries to get enough money to buy his estranged son a computer after stealing a car. The woman who owned the car, Katarzyna (Katherina Schuttler) turns out to be the fiancee of the dead man the boys killed and who owed a lot of money to the Russian mob. 

Russell Brand's Ponderland (1/09)
The bad boy of comedy (on both sides of the Atlantic now) does his standup in front of a small studio audience, each week pontificating on a particular topic, with video clips and often funny observations.  He's a funny guy but you have to wonder if his act has begun to wear out its welcome.  

Ruth Jones' Christmas Cracker (3/11)
Though the guests were nice, including Miranda Hart and Ricky Gervais (little known fact: Ruth Jones unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of Dawn in The Office that eventually went to Lucy Davis). But there is already a chat show glut and even for someone as appealing as Jones is, it's a completely unnecessary series.

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Written and maintained by Ryan K. Johnson (rkj@eskimo.com).
November 15, 2013