That Peter Kay Thing Review

There really isn't much to thank the concept of reality TV for. Dirt cheap programming designed for people who are distracted by the idea of watching people they imagine to be like themselves or caricatures; it's turned modern television into the equivalent of the budgie's mirror. However, without reality TV, we'd have had no programmes such as the ones 'That Peter Kay Thing' so accurately spoofs. It's a series of six pilot episodes each one of which centers around some eccentric character or institution of Bolton and this has given Peter Kayes' license to mock to run riot. The whole series is jammed full of absolutely surreal, dry, Northern humour. It falls somewhere between Coronation Street and Alan Bennet -its that good. Andrew Sachs' dry narration lends an air of authenticity and provides a 'straight man' for the eccentrics on screen to react to.

Each episode is simply structured; We see a day in the life of a Bingo Hall, Manchester Arena, An ice Cream Man, A local eccentric and so on. What Kaye has done is taken archetypes that are instinctively familiar and placed them in situations that are at once staggeringly ordinary but tinged with drama; for example, the child hating and violent ice cream man that has a run in with his rival at the Bolton Show. The tension builds and builds very subtly and eventually explodes in a shower of melted ice cream and crunchies. Elsewhere, Leonard's big day comes to a conclusion that's almost painful to watch and Marc Park, local rock star and former fruit and veg man, finds that life can be very lonely at the top.

Along the way, Peter Kay and his cast appear in a variety of guises each one a lovingly constructed caricature of some person or amalgamation of people encountered in real life. (With the exception of Keith Lard, the dog molesting fire officer who is in no way based upon Keith Laird, a real fire and safety officer based in Manchester). And that, in a nutshell, is why the series works so well, it's so real that if it wasn’t for the exceptionally well written dialogue, it could be real. The script is full of little gems, many of which are laugh out loud funny. Utah, the C&W loving bus driver - "If you want to be sick, you mop it up. There's a mop and bucket in't back. I don't want a repeat of Gladiators." The bingo hall customer care employee who hates his job states "This is the shittest job I've ever had and I've worked at Harvester." Leonard the local eccentric - "She was the first girl I ever kissed. She lives in Australia now." It's wonderful, subtle and each line is immaculately constructed and delivered with perfect timing.

This series is a lot stronger than Phoenix Nights, possibly due to the vast range of characters and situations the nature of the series allows by not tieing itself down to one location and set of characters. This disc can't be recomended highly enough to anyone who enjoys Kay's own particular brand of humour. Dry, northern and very, very funny. Attention to detail is so high that these episodes can be enjoyed over and over again.

Picture

Not the best quality picture, given it's low budget orgins. It's quite grainy at times and suffers a little from weak colours.

Sound

Nothing to get excited about, but nothing to complain about either. Any sort of a remix would be wasted, as it mainly consists of a series of monologues and interviews which are clear and strong.


Extras

The Services

An excellent extra, the original pilot episode first broadcast in 1998 that features many of the characters that end up in the main series. Very funny.

Outtakes

45 Minutes of outtakes, deleted and alternative scenes from the main series which seem to have been removed mainly because of their length, because they are just as funny as anything that made it to the series. Picture quality varies and there is some pixilation at times.

Commentary

Everything on here has a full commentary, the outtakes and The Services, but at times you might wonder why they bothered. It's not the most packed commentary you'll ever hear and whole episodes sometimes pass them by in silence as they get carried away with what they are watching. It's understandable, but doesn't make for interesting listening. There are times, however, when it suddenly laugh out loud funny with anecdotes and general piss taking of each other and the people on screen. Especially, for some reason, the episode that centers around Leonard and his life and The Services, both of which are very, very funny.

Trailers

A pointless minute and a half of trailers from Channel 4. Why they've been included is impossible to say.

Sadly, the disc contains no subtitles, either for the episodes or for any of the extras

Film
9 out of 10
Video
7 out of 10
Audio
8 out of 10
Extras
7 out of 10
Overall

9

out of 10

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