Max and Paddy's Road to Nowhere Review
Peter Kay strikes me as the kind of comedian who has a good suit for those television appearances that his mum's likely to watch. And that Kay takes the approval of his mum seriously, as though a clipped ear isn't entirely out of the question despite his age. Kay's work just feels as though the watchful eye of his mother isn't far and that his job, as a comedian, is to make people happy and not to change the world - no Bill Hicks, him. So when he appeared on Parkinson - dressed in his good suit for television - telling a story about a club back home that used the opening of new bogs to market themselves, it had a rambling, feelgood charm about it that had the audience in tears.
Peter Kay's television shows for Channel 4 - That Peter Kay Thing and two seasons of Phoenix Nights - revealed that charm still further, with Kay showing an obvious love for his characters, even the difficult Brian Potter. Even when it could be said that Kay allowed Potter his graces over two seasons of Phoenix Nights, those characters who only appeared occasionally, such as Keith Lard, the Health and Safety Officer accused, in the past, of fiddling with dogs, were also allowed moments when their prickly exteriors fell away to reveal their humanity. And when those characters were Max and Paddy, Kay took them from being the hapless doormen at the Phoenix club to potential killers but who, despite their best efforts, managed to bungle even that.
Max and Paddy were never the most endearing of characters but they make a strangely obvious choice for a spin-off from Phoenix Nights. The curious pairing of the sexually confident Paddy and the shorter, bluntly aggressive Max gives Kay the freedom to explore his world without the ties to Brian Potter's club that featured in both series of Phoenix Nights. We meet them soon after the events of the second season of Phoenix Nights, when their bungling of an assassination led them to consider leaving Bolton for a life on the run. That life, if it be called as such, is a fine one for Max and Paddy, as well as for the Peter Kay's writing, which remains as much about the meeting of farce and dashed dreams as any of his earlier work. Where Brian Potter had a dream of operating a venue where clubland never died, so Max and Paddy only want for the essentials - food, booze, friendship and love. Or just sex in Paddy's case. As such, Max And Paddy's... is a perfect scenario for a sitcom and rather than concern themselves with a search for an underlying structure, the viewer can simply relax and let the laughs flow.
There are many reasons for the success of Max And Paddy's... Firstly, and most importantly for a comedy, it is remarkably funny, at times even better than Phoenix Nights. Be it the scene in which Paddy teaches Max to dance, which nods at Footloose, Dirty Dancing and The Karate Kid, or the shadow of Paddy masturbating to Charlie's Anals that falls over a sleeping Max, the first episode alone is rich in comedy and Kay sustains this over the remaining five episodes, which, even in one sitting, flit by. Again, the laughs come in much of the details, such as knowing that plasma screens don't come with speakers, the inventiveness of the porn titles used throughout the series and Paddy's variations on, "Dink Dank Do!"
But where Max And Paddy's... shows Kay's increasing ability as a writer is in revealing a warmth that had only been hinted at previously. This comes early in the series, sometime during the second episode where Max is revealed as a dreamer in an ill-fitting pair of white shorts and Pakistan cricket top. His lovingly nurtured idea for a television show, Magnet & Steel, complete with illustrated guidebook to the characters would be enough but to follow that with a story of a love affair that ended badly may just have you crying tears of sorrow in amongst those of laughter. That this story resolves itself by the end of the series, not particularly happily for Max, demonstrates that Kay has successfully given Max a new life away from the door at the Phoenix club. He may end the series no richer than he began and Magnet & Steel may be lost forever but Kay shows that his broken heart has healed and, from what he revealed in the first episode, that's maybe enough.
Paddy...well, he ends the series much has he began but it would have been wrong to try and develop his character as much as that of Max. Max And Paddy's... needs only one hero and Max is it. Paddy works as the comedy sidekick, the squire whose needs don't go far beyond eating, drinking, sleeping and screwing. That he is successful in all four necessities of his life is a happy ending enough for Paddy and, seemingly, enough for Kay who has shown that sometimes just laughing at the absurdities of life is enough. Unlike most road trips, we learn only a little about Max and almost nothing of Paddy but even if they're only fantastically funny company, it still makes Max And Paddy's Road To Nowhere a superb release.
Episode 1 (23m51s): Max and Paddy take their motorhome and leave the Phoenix club for a life on the open road...or, rather, a caravan park. But living so close together soon causes problems, least not for Paddy who, in his own words, "has needs!" Max, however, is more than happy with the plasma screen that he's stolen from a shopping centre and installed in the motorhome. But Paddy kits them out as sailors and drags them to a nightclub, where they get lucky with a couple of girls, who are revealed as the famous Belgrano sisters...more sailors go down on them than the ill-fated Argentinean ship.
Episode 2 (23m47s): Paddy thinks that he's struck lucky when he spots an advert for male stars in the adult entertainment industry but ends up with a limp and an inability to sit for long when he's cast as the lead in the gay epic, Willie Wanker And The Chocolate Factory. As he and Max leave that behind, the motorhome breaks down and, by chance, Mick Bustin (Noddy Holder) arrives in his breakdown truck. As this turns into a night in the woods, where conversation turns to The A-Team and Max's long-dreamt-of show, Magnet & Steele, a plan is hatched to break the motorhome out of Bustin's garage.
Episode 3 (24m06s): Parking up in London, Max spots a fortieth-birthday greeting to his old friend, The Wolfster, in a local paper. Turning up at the party, Max meets Kevin 'The Wolfster' Wolfson and all of his old friends, including Tina, Max's one true love. As Max confronts Tina about their past, she reveals that she's now Mrs Wolfson but that she gave birth to Max's son ten years ago, some months after they broke up. As Max tries to come to terms with this, despite the drunken interruptions of another guest at the party (Reece Shearsmith), he wakes the next morning with a need to meet his son, which ends with their hijacking of a school bus.
Episode 4 (23m55s): Max and Paddy are in prison and with Paddy sharing a cell with a man who believes that he's Cliff Richard, Max is taking inspiration from the Shawshank Redemption and breaking out...into the next cell. A nasty incident with Pepe, Raymond the Bastard's girlfriend leads to an even nastier incident in the shower with a dropped bar of soap. But when word spreads about the prison about their notorious past as major gangland figures, respect for them blossoms and they end up on easy street. Such respect is short-lived, though, when Brian Potter shows up, first in prison and then on television, to campaign for the release of the Phoenix two.
Episode 5 (23m24s): Driving through the countryside and dreaming of a mixed grill, Paddy knocks down a cow that had wandered onto the road, killing it and damaging the front bumper on the motorhome. Finding a local farmer, who they believe owns the cow, they demand compensation, not only for the damage to their motorhome but for Paddy's increasingly sore neck. With the farmer telling them that he has no money, they take him up on his offer of a pig that will fetch £300 at market but that can be theirs for £100. Were life ever so simple, the £200 profit would be theirs but this is Max and Paddy and, soon, all that they have is a motorhome full of pig shit.
Episode 6 (23m21s): After their brief trip to the south, Max and Paddy are back in the north and plan to visit an old friend in Newcastle, Billy 'The Butcher' Shannon. Out in the pub, Max agrees to give Billy a lift to see his wife and kid but on the way, he insists that they stop for something to eat, which, in turn, leads to an armed siege at a Little Chef.
Presented anamorphically in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, this is slightly better than broadcast quality and features none of the artefacting that is present on Sky. Colours are good and the picture is stable but it's slightly soft and it has that too-bright sheen of many other recent television productions. The main criticism, though, is that the episodes have not had the break for advertisements edited out, such that each episode still breaks for a still screen.
Max And Paddy's... comes with a fairly basic stereo audio track but given the nature of the show, it doesn't demand the most dynamic of soundtracks. The show is subtitled throughout.
Surprise Audio Commentaries: We have been asked to avoid going into detail on these so to maintain the surprise but I can confidently state that they will be an unexpected...treat is the wrong word. Some are good, some are appalling but none are what you might expect.
Deleted Scenes (12m21s): Spanning all six episodes, this includes further footage of Paddy's chat-up lines, Max masturbating in the toilet of the motorhome and being interrupted by Paddy. There's also more of Max and Tina on the town as well as Reece Shearsmith's drunken guest at The Wolfster's party, including his entire rendition of The First Cut Is The Deepest.
Outtakes (23m42s): Available with or without swearing, this features the cast fluffing their lines and, depending on which option you selected, ending with either, "Oh fuck!" or "Oh
Trailers (1m25s): Two trailers are included, both of which feature highlights from the series soundtracked by The Jam's A Town Called Malice.
Picture Gallery (1m40s): There's no option to go forward or back with your remote, simply a series of stills from the series that pass by automatically.
If there's a problem with the series it's that, with only the two titular characters and their motorhome, Max And Paddy's... lacks the sense of place and continuity of the best sitcoms, much as how Phoenix Nights had its club. But that's a small oversight in a comedy of this quality.
Kay has already announced that his next show for Channel 4 will not be based around either the Phoenix Club nor the further adventures of Max and Paddy but that decision feels right. I doubt if there's much more to be said about this pairing and although the appearance of Brian Potter is a welcome one, the finale of the second series of Phoenix Nights felt like it was time to say farewell to clubland. Should Kay never return to the Phoenix club, this, then, is a splendid last hurrah. It's funny, warm and filled with enough details to make you want to return to it. After all his releases to date, Max And Paddy's... will be yet another triumph for Kay on DVD but, like the others, it will be one that's well deserved.