Friday, 10 January 2014

Theme Time : Horst Jankowski - Bruiser

Horst Jankowski was a classically trained German pianist most famous for his successful career in easy listening music. His biggest hit was 1965's 'A Walk In The Black Forest' which reached number 1 in the US easy listening chart and number 12 in their billboard hot 100, and reached number 3 here in the UK. Selling over a million copies he was awarded a gold disc. 

Thirty five years later, in 2000, the song provided the now largely forgotten BBC sketch series Bruiser with its theme tune, which is why I'm posting about it today. Because this week, out January sales shopping, saw me wandering around Warrington, where I picked up for just £6 a DVD of Bruiser

Bruiser slipped a little under the radar for me when it first aired, and I'm guessing it did for the majority of us. I recall catching maybe one or two episodes - I think, though I can't be sure, it went out around 11pm on a 'school night', hardly an ideal scheduling for a brand new sketch series - but thinking little of it. Its required re-evaluation now is down to the fact that it served as a springboard for actors and performers who are now considered major TV talents, all of whom were introduced in the cheerful opening titles as ballroom dancers in a sequence to Jankowski's music...

One of the Cambridge alumni alongside co-stars Holness, Hudson, Mitchell and Webb, after Bruiser Olivia Colman would serve  an apprenticeship as a performer throughout the 00s with the latter two in both their own sketch show, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Peep Show before impressing as a serious straight actress in the films Tyrannosaur and Hyde Park On The Hudson and on TV in Broadchurch, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Run, The Thirteenth Tale and just this week, The 7.39. It's safe to say she's now a national treasure.

Matt Holness had served as VP of the Cambridge Footlights to David Mitchells' President and as the writing partner of Richard Ayoade, Holness provided many of Bruiser's sketches. A skilled character comedian he is perhaps best known for Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and Man To Man with Dean Learner, both of which he starred and co-wrote with Ayoade. Holness is also a regular collaborator with Ricky Gervais who pre-fame provided several sketches here; the character The IT Guy here serves as a dry run for a similar role he played in Gervais' The Office and he would go on to star in the film Cemetery Junction and the series Life's Too Short for Gervais.

Another former Cambridge student, Charlotte Hudson has, on paper, the more diverse career having started out on TV as a co-presenter of Watchdog alongside Anne Robinson. She would go on to host Brainiac on Sky One and co-host the Channel 5 quiz Topranko! with Tony Wilson in 2002. She's also starred in sitcoms like My Hero and Lead Balloon and dramas like Silent Witness. She is one half of the comedy duo Two Left Hands with Leila Hackett.

Martin Freeman shot to fame thanks to Bruiser sketch writer Ricky Gervais' hit sitcom The Office in 2001. Like Colman, for much of the 00s he concentrated on comedy starring post The Office in sitcoms like Hardware and The Robinsons and films like Ali G Indahouse, Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz  (and most recently, the conclusion to the Cornetto trilogy, The World's End) Confetti (with Olivia Colman and Robert Webb) Nativity! and The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. He crafted a separate continuous career as a straight actor with roles in Charles II, Breaking and Entering and the lead role of Rembrandt in Peter Greenaway's excellent Nightwatching before catapulting into the public conscious as a dramatic actor thanks to his role as Dr Watson in the modern day Sherlock, a role which led to him being cast as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit series of films, becoming one of the UK's biggest film stars.

Following Cambridge, David Mitchell and Robert Webb became a writing and performing double act with a two man show at Edinburgh Fringe which led to writing credits on sketch shows Big Train and Armstrong and Miller. Bruiser was their big break and as well as starring they wrote the majority of sketches which makes the series something of a prototype of their later series; That Mitchell and Webb Sound for radio and That Mitchell and Webb Look for TV, as well as starring in Channel 4's Peep Show, the film Magicians, and most recently for BBC2 Ambassadors.

Solo ventures have seen Webb star in the film Confetti (alongside Bruiser co-stars Olivia Colman and Martin Freeman) BBC3's sitcom The Smoking Room and Channel 4's Fresh Meat.

Meanwhile Mitchell away from the double act is largely known for his appearances on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You, QI and as a team captain on Would I Lie To You. He has also starred in the sitcoms Doctors and Nurses by Ade Edmondson and Jam and Jerusalem by Edmondson's wife Jennifer Saunders. He also performs alongside Charlie Brooker, Jimmy Carr and Lauren Laverne in Channel 4's  10 O'Clock Live.

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