If You See God, Tell Him Review

Godfrey Spry is a man with a cheery disposition. The rain never falls in Godfrey's world, the glass is half full and the toast always lands with the sunny side up. And it is all the result of a terrible accident. Whilst waiting in a queue at the bank, a wheelbarrow full of rubble from a building site fell off the scaffolding onto his head. Godfrey eventually dusts off the physical injuries but is left with an irreversible psychiatric condition, a blissfully short attention span that sees him spending most of his day watching television and believing the outrageous claims made by advertisers therein.

It is one of these advertisements that leads Godfrey to hire a sports car and to test if it really can accelerate as quickly as it is claimed. Unfortunately, Godfrey does so at sunset on a cliff top. Now paralysed, he takes his long-suffering wife to Hamburg for a holiday but she meets her end at the end of stones thrown by a mob of drunken football fans. Returning home, he asks his nephew to assist him with the funeral but Gordon despairs at what he sees...a sixty-six-year old man who is almost giving away the money he has scrimped and saved throughout his life. But Godfrey is happy. He believes that Banquo washing powder, with its special enzyme action, really will remove those difficult-to-shift stains, that Gas UK will bring warmth and comfort to the home and that the miserly manager at the Westward Bank really will say yes to his request for a loan of a million pounds. And where life may be grim, Godfrey simply forgets, smiles and moves on.

If that doesn't leave If You See God, Tell Him sounding quite wicked enough, there's a very black sense of humour running through the show, many of which have to do with Godfrey's hopelessly optimistic view on life. Whilst we are treated to an advertisement for, "Grootengeld's new collection of alabaster truffles" in which an attractive young woman slowly and sensually places a chocolate in her mouth, Godfrey sits beside a man in hospital who is, less seductively as it happens, popping his dentures into his mouth.

Better, though, and only a little subtler, is the vast difference between the experiences enjoyed by Godfrey and Gordon. The latter watches a stirring advertisement for Gas UK and believes its claims of being a company capable of bringing, "power and energy to your doorstep!" Mere minutes later, Gas UK arrive on Gordon's doorstep to lay a new pipeline but cut his power and phone lines, crush his car with a JCB and piss all over his shoes. Later, as Godfrey gazes happily at the smiling faces of those in the Kettering Insurance advertisement, Gordon sees their true face staring at him over the mangled metal of his face. A doughy, lumpen and unsmiling man who doesn't quite believe the tale of misfortune he's being told. This may be rather a far-fetched example but there are other, more understated ones, such as Godfrey buying bottles of washing-up liquid and marvelling at the plentiful amount of suds produced by each squirt, Gordon bemoans the lack of them in his sink.

None of this would work so well without Richard Briers as Godfrey, a man whose smile shows a happiness with the world no matter how bleak it may have become. Each day sees him bouncing back from something that you or I might consider a crisis. He loses all of his money but carries a smile throughout. After his Stock Market tips go disastrously wrong, his neighbour hangs himself and yet Godfrey assumes, in not seeing him lately, that he'd done rather well for himself and moved even further up the housing ladder. When he phones a skin care company requesting a date with Nanette Newman, who advertises their products on television, his offer ends with a string of advertising slogans, "It's perfectly safe...I'm wearing a Gossalite Superform condom so neither of us will die of ignorance!" However, with an attention span of thirty seconds, he simply goes off to watch yet another set of advertisements and, fresh from the disappointment at the hands of Nanette Newman, takes up pipe-smoking, the wearing of a new aftershave and ends up in a hotel room with a prostitute.

Even as it ends with Gordon launching a tirade against the advertisers that have plagued his and Godfrey's life, the contrast between the two men remains clear. Godfrey, no matter that his perpetual good mood was induced by a lot of building rubble falling on him, smiles throughout, with his cheery disposition ensuring that he continues to enjoy his life even when he suffers yet another crisis. Gordon grumbles at almost everything, even, and perhaps more so, at the advertisements on television. If there's anything to take from If You See God, Tell Him, it's that, like Godfrey, one should remain happy

Looked at this way, it's easy to see how Godfrey Spry might have been David Renwick's way of writing some happiness into his scripts in between series of One Foot In The Grave. Godfrey is the ever-smiling counterpoint to Victor Meldrew, who is reprised in this series by the character of Gordon, but that may also be the reason why If You See God, Tell Him failed to last beyond one series and why, with the exception of one episode on BBC4, it's never been shown again since. News editors, if not their audiences, know that good news doesn't sell. It might be that we're a nation of Victor Meldrews who turn to the news to have our grievances confirmed. Not only is Godfrey much too happy but what cynicism there is in If You See God, Tell Him may just have been too subtle, too quick to look as though it is agreeing with Government schemes, advertisements for boxes of chocolates and the privatisation of industry while it actually lances them with Renwick and Marshall's writing. It's more than deserving of a second chance on DVD.



Transfer

Presented in 1.33:1, this hasn't enjoyed the usual 2 Entertains standards on its release. The picture is fairly drab, unexciting and looks slightly washed out. The image isn't particularly still either, with there being a slight wobble to the picture that's most noticeable in still shots and which, once it's noticed, soon annoys more than any of the other problems with the DVD. While this last grumble may leave me sounding more of a Gordon than a Godfrey, the DVD is also fairly soft, with it looking as though minimal expense was spared to prepare If You See God, Tell Him for a DVD release. The DD2.0 soundtrack is simply up to the job of carrying the dialogue and no more, although, to be fair, it's usually fine. On the odd occasion that the punch of a glamourous spoof advertisement is needed, the DVD usually does well. Finally, there are English subtitles on all four episodes.



Extras

There are no extras on his DVD.

Film
7 out of 10
Video
6 out of 10
Audio
6 out of 10
Extras
0 out of 10
Overall

6

out of 10

Last updated: 18/04/2018 22:39:25

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