Was this the greatest sitcom never seen?

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I recently tracked down copies a sitcom that seems to have been specially made for me and me alone. Which is interesting, since it was made in 1996, and I had never heard of it until a few weeks ago.

The programme was called "Asylum", and was shown only on the Paramount comedy cable channel, which might explain why I've never heard of it: no one in England has cable.

Why is it interesting? Because just about everyone associated with it has done things of interest since then. Most obviously, it stars Simon Pegg (playing a character called Simon Pegg) and Jessica Stevenson, and is directed by Edgar Wright, who went on to jointly create Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. Other patients are played by Adam Bloom and Julian Barrett (half of the Mighty Boosh/"Dan Ashcroft"). Ace comedian Norman Lovett (the original Holly from Red Dwarf, yes, but also from the lost-to-humanity sitcom I, Lovett). David Walliams pops up in a cameo [as a child, I used to think that a cameo was an item of women's underwear; although in this case it would not be so surprising] and also co-writes. Parsons and Naylor also show up in a couple of episodes. It's produced by Myfanwy Moore, who produced just about everything else you've seen. It was script edited by Bussman and Quantick who are fantastic. About the only people missing from this line up are Mitchell and Webb, and Alice Lowe, but they were probably too busy finishing their degrees to show up.

OK, here's the final proof that this show was targeted solely at me: every episode concludes with an apposite number from David Devant and His Spirit Wife. Devant is the only band that I was ever truly obsessed with, their quirky pop tunes and elaborate stage shows masking some actually quite intriguing ruminations on life, work, and all that other stuff. I saw them live twice, and would have tried to see them again and again if not for the awkward fact that they loped along in a state of almost complete indifference or hostility from the press. Their closest brush with fame came back in Summer '97 when ace single Ginger (comparing the isolation of being an outsider in society to, er, having ginger hair) was picked up by Mark Radcliffe during the few weeks he was presenting the breakfast show on Radio 1. Unfortunately, even his championing failed to propel the band to the success they clearly deserved.

So, back to Asylum: six episodes united many of my music and comedy idols. It must be ace, then? Well, obviously not. It's passably amusing, with the best parts coming when the resident stand-up comedians are allowed to break into segments of their stage acts. Generally, it's reasonable viewing, but not really anything worth watching over again. I don't think you should really expect anything else.

So that's one rarity worth seeking out, if only for curiousity value. I still have a few other things I'd love to catch up with from that era: the aforementioned "I, Lovett" and the legendary (legendarily bad, that is) "Days Like These", the British remake of That 70's show, which transplanted wholesale the plots and characters, but somehow dropped all the jokes in the transition. While the US original just limped to a conclusion (having jumped the shark when, er, Fez jumped the shark) after several hundred episodes, Days Like these lasted about three episodes, before being shunted around the schedules in an attempt to kill it off. If you have access to copies of the show, I'd love to see it.

1 comment:

Trixie said...

AHAH at David Devant. We were just talking about ginger today, apparanatly it was a massive w963 tune.

I dl it too a few months ago, only watched the first one so far, and I fell asleep midway.

But dear Hugh, I need you to help me, and help me bad. Now Veronica is over for the season, what shall I watch? What other US stuff am i missing out on. Remember I like fun, silly things. I am too vacous to deal with politics or anything intellectual

Snuggles xx