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230. Richard E. Grant revisited

Jim Shelley has some unfinished business

Tapehead no 230

The last time Tapehead wrote about Richard E Grant – in The Scarlet Pimpernel – the big puffed-up thespian responded with an abusive phone call on Tapehead’s ansaphone describing the experience as “like being sprayed with hot shit.”

He called him “cunt features” – probably one of the nicest insults Tapehead has received.
“Shame on your head,” he continued, with a flourish, declaring rather less than chivalrously: “I hope you get some life-threatening disease, very soon.”

Let’s face it, with Tapehead’s habits, it wouldn’t be surprising.

Expectations were high then when Tapehead saw All For Love (another costume drama starring Mr Grant) in the schedules only this time to find that he was back on form. There was none of the pompous pretension, the ridiculous posturing and hackneyed,
ham-fisted over-acting that usually makes him so excruciating.

Instead, there were subtleties in the performance, a wry, wickedly witty under-playing of the social snobbery of the time. He was flamboyant but amusing; he was eccentric but entertaining. He was…oh come on, you didn’t think that was serious, did you?

Poor R.E.G. (aka Reg) has long been reduced to pantomime dame stuff and here is aptly cast as “a bumbling Major” in what purports to be a semi-farcical “romp” – ie, it’s neither funny or dramatic.

It’s a farce, but it’s a shit farce. The laboured slapstick and hor-hee-hor French accents are positively Michael Winner-esque. There is a duel within the first five minutes (“I demand satisfaction !”). The swordfights are like children’s TV. The quality of the acting is
sub-Rent-a-Ghost (except worse); worse than The Flashing Blade (which was dubbed) thanks mostly to lead Jean Marc Barr, who give Reg lessons in seduction, a prospect akin to being seduced by a giant oily fish. (By the by, in an apparent breach of her contract that demands other wise, Anna Friel mysteriously keeps her clothes on throughout.)

It is (hopefully you’re sitting down) more of an embarrassment than the recent two-partner Nantcheroo (and that was on ITV).

Reg plays Major Farquar Chevening, a sexually-confusing/confused officer, yet another in a series of Reg’s cuckolds (why is that ?) and a right big Farquar he is too. Once again, Reg appears to be playing himself (yet again, it starts with Reg admiring himself in the mirror), a self-important diletante who walks round as if he’s got the wrong end of a hairbrush up his arse; looking like a kind of started,
fat-faced turkey – about as dashing and handsome as Charles Hawtrey meets Brett Anderson with Reg Varney sideburns on.

By the time we see Reg on horseback, charging across the horizon, chanting “rumpety, rumpety, rumpety-rump/here I come on my charger…” a surge of pity sweeps across us.

All For Love is based, apparently, on an unfinished novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. Presumably, he realised how crap it was and gave up.

Speaking of things beyond parody, the difference between Silent Witness and the French and Sunders’ sketch, Witless Silence, is so minimal they had obviously had a sneak preview of this week’s juicy two-prater, A Kind Of Justice.

“The second area of major injury is the head,” the putting Amanda Burton deduces shrewdly during her autopsy of someone who has been nearly decapitated with garrote and then had the skull bashed in with a brick.

“I’d hate to assume anything,” said the F&S version, “until I’ve gone back to the scene of the crime and needlessly talked to the family and put their lives and mine, at risk.”

“If something happens to me,” warns the only witness in this one, “I want you to go and see my daughter. I’m scared.”
“Don’t be,” Burton soothes.
“Do Be!” we shout back, enjoyably.

Finally, we bid a fond a farewell to Psychos, which is surely about to be sent away, sectioned in fact, until the cast get better. As if things weren’t bad enough on the ward it’s Friday the 13th.

“It’s the end of the world. I’m telling you… Someone’s gonna die,” cries another paranoia-filled, apocalypse-addicted nerve-frayed nutter, and, for once, it’s not one of the doctors. Your heart goes out to the Scottish Tourist Board which has only just got over Trainspotting.

This week’s case is mathematician (a naked mathematician) auditing for a doctor to treat him.
“I need you to settle an argument for me. I want you to find out if I’m mad.”
Nash plumps for a “borderline manic” diagnosis.
“Interesting,” considers the patient. “The way I see it…I’,m just an eccentric.”

That’s what we all say.

All For Love 9pm Sunday, BBC1
Silent Witness 9.35pm, Tuesday & 9.30pm, Wednesday, BBC2
Psychos 10pm, Thursday, C4