The World of Lee Evans Review
In this game, every release is generally given a fair crack. There are occasions, though, when one struggles, such as with the recent Dick Emery film, Ooh... You Are Awful, which had such a dreadful first half hour that it would have tested the patience of a saint. But then came along The World Of Lee Evans and there was a fight just to make it past not even the opening credits but to the actual menu on the disc. Largely because of this…
Is that a look that one would actually want to wear? A look that would imply that the reason one is sitting on the toilet is actually much bigger and will be considerably more painful than was first expected. Or that the man who has just answered the door to Evans is naked and bearing his penis in a manner that might be described as threatening. Like the look worn once upon a time by Radio 1 DJs that suggested being so cheesy as to come with a rind - shiny bomber jacket zipped up as far as the navel, teeth so white as to be blinding and forefingers pointing as if to say, “Hey you! Yes, it’s me!” - Evan’s attitude is comedy shorthand for a cripplingly dull hour-and-a-half with fewer laughs than might come with a Chlamydia test-at-home kit.
An hour-and-a-half? Purgatory surely doesn’t last as long as this nor feel as painful! What we have are six episodes full to the brim of Evans’ gurning to camera in which he lifts an everyday, humdrum affair, such as catching a train, into the kind of predicament that will see him wearing a cat on each foot in place of slippers, eating a shower attachment and causing most of southern England to separate itself from the rest of the country and disappear beneath the waves. Beginning with The Late Shift, a 15-minute tale of working in a late-night petrol station, Lee Evans, here playing a character called Lee, mans the till whilst he attempts to deal with a not-particularly-difficult customer played by John Thompson. For you or I, this would be a simple little transaction but in the world of Lee Evans, if you’ll pardon the play on the title of this DVD, it becomes a litany of misunderstood orders, a faulty microphone and, eventually, being held up at the wrong end of a double-barrelled shotgun.
Later on, he is introduced to his girlfriend’s parents in Meet The Folks, which co-stars Caroline Quentin, Tony Selby and Prunella Scales, takes a train ride with his girlfriend (Jo Unwin) in Off the Rails and may have given a life to an escaped mass-murder or just plain and simple Phil Daniels in One Late Night. Adding to these, this DVD also includes Mr Confidence and Special Delivery, the last of which – heaven forbid! – sees the hopeless character of Lee actually father a child, adding up to just over ninety minutes of physical comedy, odd expressions and being stuck, upside-down, within a fish tank. There is also the impression that there are a great many television actors and actresses slumming it in these episodes, not least amongst them Lee Evans himself.
For it is that I actually like Lee Evans, thinking of him as a fairly right-minded comedian with a decent, or family-orientated, like in gags and physical comedy. He does sterling work in lighting up the otherwise drab chatter on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and he’s turned in creditable performances in There's Something About Mary, Funny Bones and Mousehunt. But this just isn’t funny, at least not to me and doesn’t even offer the kind of insane cartoon violence that will have it appealing to children. Instead, it flatters to make a comparison to Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em but comes off like a Mr Bean instead, which is like ordering a gourmet meal and getting a still-live chicken with a healthy side-order of salmonella to eat instead. Swapping the madness of roller-skating behind a double-decker bus or hanging off a cliff with only a Morris Minor for support for a bit of aimless crashing about indoors with Evans doing much of the physical work whilst his co-stars, much like the view, reach the end of their tether.
What isn’t often understood about Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em is that it works largely because Michele Dotrice made us feel sympathetic, not only for her being married to Frank Spencer but for Frank as well. He was a good sort at heart and so long as they were together, what could be annoying was tempered by love. Unfortunately, The World Of Lee Evans surrounds Lee, being the character and not the actor, by a cast that hate him almost as much as the viewer does. When John Thompson pulls a gun on him, you urge him on to pull the trigger. When he falls out of the train carriage, my first thought was to close the window on his fingers. And when it’s thought that Phil Daniels was a mass-murderer and may end Evans’ night with the spilling of his blood, one can only think that it didn’t happen quite soon enough. Soon after the opening credits would have been fine, really.
The only advantage that this DVD has over this show’s original broadcast... no, it has no advantage. At least Sky and Freeview, regardless of having a bitrate that could probably be transmitted using two tins of beans and a length of wool, are presented anamorphically whereas this is not. No, anyone watching this on a widescreen television will either sit squinting at the small letterbox-sized image on the screen in front of them or will make good use of the ‘zoom’ function on their television. As did I, which leaves its own problem of then looking as though someone had smeared petroleum jelly over the television. Not pretty – and, given the review above, none too clever either – this is a ropey-looking release that isn’t presented as well as it was on its original broadcast, appearing to lie in the murky gap between videotape and the current iteration of digital television.
Otherwise, the sound is fine but given how much The World Of Lee Evans owes to silent comedians, there isn’t very much of it. There’s the tickety-tack of a train, a radio announcer, a lot of grumbling from Evans’ co-stars and the rain but it’s otherwise quite silent much of the time. As such, what there is on the disc is fine but simply does the job, never adding any flair when it can get away without it. Finally, there are no subtitles.
There are no extras on this DVD, which is probably for the best.
Of course, if you lived with the character of Lee, you’d have accepted a lifetime of imprisonment, dropped soap and regular beatings by a troubled cell-mate as being fair exchange for burying Lee underneath the patio. Still alive, preferably! That does not make him ideal company on this DVD and I wasn’t at all sad when it came to the sorry end of this disc. I’ll not miss Lee, hoping that Lee Evans doesn’t either.