Wednesday, 20 July 2016

TV Review: Simon Callow Is...The Rebel (Without A Laugh)

This new sitcom starts tonight on Gold at 10pm, but it's been available to watch for the last few days as a preview. 

My advice? Avoid it!

Based on a cartoon strip in The Oldie, The Rebel tells the story of Henry Palmer a disgruntled 70 year old who begins to despair of modern society with its hipsterish tendencies, it's nanny state and how the bankers and big businesses seem to get away with whatever they like. In short, he feels cheated that the promises of the 1960s never came to fruition and that he's lost the rebellion he felt as a mod in his youth. Mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore, Henry reverts to his youthful, rebellious nature and spends the entire first episode attacking policemen, blowing up cashpoints and performing his own kind of ram-raiding at his local supermarket, ramming a trolley into the glass frontage.  The result being he's up before the magistrate played by Simon Williams, with only a last minute backstory from his GP (Doon Mackichan) excusing his behaviour as a symptom of depression since he has become a widower.

Simon Callow is terribly miscast as the former mod, Henry. Watching him flail about in his front room, supposedly in utter bliss, to The Jam's A Town Called Malice is totally unconvincing and quite embarrassing. In fact he's the most ludicrous example of someone claiming to be a mod since the time when Phil Collins said he wanted to meet Paul Weller to discuss The Modfather's perceived grievance with him, 'mod to mod'. It doesn't get any better for the supporting cast either; Henry's ageing hippy best friend played by Bill Paterson is the kind of stereotype last seen with Dylan the hippy rabbit in The Magic Roundabout, whilst Anita Dobson also pops up, largely to stand between the boys and look on adoringly, and Anna Crilly (Katy Wix's comedy partner) is wasted as Henry's middle-class and despairing daughter. These are great actors performing really shoddy material.

Because worst of all, it's just not funny. Not in any way, shape or kind. A case in point; when Crilly's character suggests a residential home for her dad and offers her dimwitted, weedy Asian husband (another generic stereotype in this kind of sitcom) the brochure, he misreads the home's name as 'Golden Corpses' - it is of course Golden Copse. Ho ho no.


  1. I think I knew this would be like that, and didn't bother. Nice to have my view confirmed.
    I was also appalled at Sirs McKellen & Jacobi's truly awful and just not funny series Vicious. What were they thinking? Older gays just are not as old-fashioned and out of touch as they were.

    1. Callow, Paterson and Dobson were much funnier on The One Show promoting this last night than the actual show is! I didn't realise until that interview that it was based on a comic strip, now it makes sense; it has no depth or dimension to it at all. I don't know if you are unfortunate enough to recall the Harry Enfield 'sitcom' Celebrity, which was based on the strip from Private Eye - but it's pretty much on that level.

      As for Vicious, it was like stepping back in time to the 1970s when just saying the word gay was seemingly a presumption for laughs. It was like they'd decided to make the Burton/Harrison film Staircase as an out and out sitcom. I must admit I watched both series, and did occasionally laugh whenever McKellen or Jacobi chose to swear or drop a particularly acidic barb at Frances de la Tour, but it really was panto stuff and as you say, just not representative of the times.

  2. A rebel without a cause!

    Just terrible...

    British (alleged) comedy featuring the antics of an old man and his family and friends that have to pick up the pieces...

    The idea of a man in his 70s giving society the finger before he dies is a good one so (as an old man myself) I was looking forward to this.

    I soldiered through this torture till the end and came away angry. First of all the characters are simply HORRIBLE.

    A 'pet therapist' who hates animals, her effeminate Indian husband who simply says 'Babes!' all the time, a drunk old codger who laughs for no reason and the main character... a thoroughly unpleasant piece of dirt who likes to swear and rather than 'rebel' against anything, is just filling in his life with childish antics.

    The casting is completely wrong. A middle aged frumpy woman is married to an effeminate Indian teenager. This must rate as the most mismatched couple on television ever. It's painful to watch.

    The 'classic rock' music soundtrack seems to have been selected directly from Rock FM by a child who thinks he knows what the music scene was all about half a century ago. In the context of this TV series, the songs are drab, cliche and annoying.

    Even the wonderful Simon Callow can't breathe any humanity or comedy into this stinker. The script seems to be penned by a teenage boy who has the idea that if old people swear enough then that counts as comedy.