Sunday, 16 March 2014

Theme Time : Mussorgsky - The New Statesman

Mr Selfridge? The Musketeers? Downton Abbey? (aka Downright Shabby)....snooze.

When I was growing up in the 80s and the early 90s, Sunday night tele was much better. Yes, there was the impending threat of school the next day, but you had the soporific televisual comfort blanket in Last Of The Summer Wine, LovejoyHowards Way or The Darling Buds Of May, followed by the last gasp of weekend excitement and fun from London's Burning, Spitting Image and The New Statesman.

The New Statesman was a favourite in our house. I was lucky to have a dad who appreciated the humour of the alternative comedy set and we'd watch anything the likes of French and Saunders, Ade Edmondson or Rik Mayall would do.

It was of course the brilliant Rik Mayall who was the star of The New Statesman, ITV's satirical comedy about a young, selfish and devious ultra right wing Tory back bencher and MP for Haltemprice. Alan B'Stard was a gift for Mayall's comic talents and he positively leapt on the chance to play the cruel, irreverent and violently slapstick material, making for one of TV's finest comic creations and love-to-hate figures. 

Written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, The New Statesman was made by Yorkshire Television and ran on ITV from 1987 to 1992.

The theme was an arrangement by veteran TV composer Alan Hawkshaw of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition.

Despite ending in 1992, B'stard remains an ongoing concern. The BBC would briefly resurrect the character for a special in 1994 before a 2006 stage show revealed B'Stard to have crossed the floor and created New Labour following Black Wednesday. Marks and Gran have penned a series of columns in the guise of B'stard in both The Sunday Telegraph and the political magazine The New Statesman which the sitcom shared its name with. Mayall returned as B'Stard in a 2011 political broadcast from NO2AV, highlighting the campaign against the introduction of AV system to UK parliamentary elections.

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