Reeves and Mortimer
Moving To BBC-1
 More of This Feature
• Page 1 Vic 'n Bob's origin
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Reeves and Mortimer: The Ultimate Website
• Unofficial Reeves and Mortimer Fan Site
• Shooting Stars
• Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased. The Anorak's Guide.

It was time to make the leap to bigger audiences and more prestige of BBC-1. With a primetime Saturday night timeslot at their disposal, they created Families At War in 1998, reinventing the game show format, this time using ordinary people as participants. Two families, each one teamed by Vic or Bob, competed with each other one by one in a series of competitions using whatever special skills each possessed, even something as mundane as bricklaying. The boys kept things interesting and unusual at every turn, but not so far out it would alienate their new mainstream audience. The finale of each episode ended with either Vic or Bob suspended in a giant glass cube as the "spider," manipulated by the winning family, trying to grab as many prizes as possible while the music counting down played faster and faster. Families At War only ran one season however. In 1999 they returned to sketch comedy for one season of Bang Bang It's Reeves and Mortimer for the BBC.

The BBC remained very high on the popular duo and for their next project gave them incredible resources to do a lavish, big-budget remake of the 1960s cult series Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased (aka My Partner, The Ghost in the U.S.). The original series was about a private detective whose partner is killed in the first episode and comes back as a white-suited ghost that only he can see. Though the original played it straight, there were bits of humor, particularly Jeff Randall's constant talking to thin air, and his ghostly partner's chance interactions with those who could sense his presence. Vic 'n Bob seemed an odd choice to take this on, particularly as they had no real acting experience and were best known as oddball comics. Nevertheless, with Charlie Higson again signed on as producer and writer, they jumped in with both feet, with Bob as mild-mannered private detective Jeff, Vic now in the white suit as his dead partner Marty, and former Doctor Who Tom Baker as Vic's otherworldly spirit guide Wyvern. Six episodes with elaborate digital effects were filmed and went out in 2000 on BBC-1. A number of big-name guest stars (including Hugh Laurie as a villainous psychiatrist), cameos by fellow comics (like The League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss and Steve Pemberton), and keeping-both-feet-on-the-ground plotting (despite the unusual premise) greatly assisted Vic 'n Bob's entry into "straight" acting. In 2000, Vic soloed with Vic Reeves Examines for the digital channel UK Play where he interviewed celebrities talking about some topic they were an expert on.

At the peak of their fame they have not resisted cashing in, doing a number of commercials for serious products but in their typical surreal style. Their unique brand of humor has attracted admirers including Monty Python's Terry Jones, himself a big influence on Bob Mortimer when he was younger. Some people think Reeves and Mortimer are the contemporary Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, who are usually cited in Britain as the "gold standard" of classic comedy double acts (their annual Christmas specials were typically the highest-rated programs each year in their heyday). Although Morecambe and Wise were not as surreal by half as Reeves and Mortimer, there are some similiarities, although Vic also claims an affinity for former Goon Spike Milligan on series like Q7.

With luck BBC America will eventually import Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased so fans of the original -- or those interested in seeing Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer first-hand -- will get a chance to watch for themselves. Currently they are working on another season of the series. After that, who knows?

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