Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): The Complete First Series Review
Just to clarify from the start, this is a review of the recent 'remake' of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. Not that it’s really a 'remake' of the original series – more a borrowing of the central concept. I never really watched the original (and only ever saw one episode) so I can’t provide a real comparison of the two, but my initial response is that the original seemed to have more charm to it, with this remake providing better effects and more slapstick.
Anyway, the story opens with a quick introduction to the central characters. Vic Reeves plays Marty Hopkirk, careful driver, engaged to Jeannie Hurst (Emilia Fox) and co-owner of a detective agency. His work partner is Jeff Randall (Bob Mortimer), all round good-guy and general gooseberry. Neither Randall nor Hopkirk appear to be razor-sharp detectives and it's fairly apparent that the agency isn't doing very well. Jeannie Hurst, meanwhile, starts the series as a glamorous waitress with a penchant for wearing ribbons round her neck and leather gloves and coats.
As the show title gives away, Marty is not long for this earth... indeed the first episode deals with his unfortunate death and subsequent reappearance as a ghost that only Jeff can see. Having a ghostly assistant is an obvious bonus in the detective line of work and Jeff and Marty are soon working together again. Jeannie loses her waiting job and starts to help Jeff out too, showing a capable and athletic side rather than being a pathetic female sidekick.
The characters are likeable and the acting not too bad considering the main roles are taken by two comedians who've never taken on pure acting roles before. Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer are naturals together and their banter works well. Of the two, Bob is the more talented actor and Vic Reeves often falls back on his natural talent for surrealist humour, which sometimes steals scenes unnecessarily. Emilia Fox adds a touch of class and glamour and she seems to work well in this role. Tom Baker makes an interesting appearance as Wyvern, Marty's spectral tutor in all things ghostly. (It's really a perfect role for him, which he plays with relish.)
Just before Marty Hopkirk's wedding to Jeannie Hurst, the Randall and Hopkirk Detective Agency is given a job by eccentric artist Gordon Stylus. The lads have to look after Stylus' wife, who he believes is suicidal. The story line is slightly overshadowed by the fact that you're waiting to see how Marty dies. When he finally does, his spirit returns to help solve his own murder, although only his partner can actually see him. Charles Dance puts in an appearance as the scheming artist's agent. (Guest star: Charles Dance)
"Mental Apparition Disorder"
After Jeannie loses her waiting job, she helps Jeff to run the detective agency by investigating the disappearance of money from the local casino. Fearing for Jeff's sanity after he tries to tell her about Marty's ghost, she persuades him to spend some time in a private psychiatric clinic, run by Dr Lawyer (Hugh Laurie). Meanwhile, in Limbo, Marty is taught useful ghosting skills by his mentor, Wyvern (Tom Baker). The casino crime gets solved but leads to much more sinister goings-on at the psychiatric clinic. (Guest stars: Hugh Laurie, Steven Berkoff, Martin Clunes)
"The Best Years of Your Death"
Jeannie's nephew hands her a cryptic note saying that one his teachers was murdered. Business is slow, so Jeff and Jeannie get themselves employed by the school in the assumed roles of teacher and nurse. The school choir appears to hold an unhealthy influence over others at the school and the headteacher immediately falls under their suspicion. Marty learns how to possess people with humourous effects. (Guest stars: Peter Bowles, Phyllis Logan)
Jeff and Jeannie are given the job of protecting Douglas Milton. He's written a book revealing security and government secrets and is due to make his revelations public at a conference. A number of people have motives for killing Douglas and it's up to Jeff and Jeannie to make sure that they don't. Jeannie starts to recover from her grief at Marty's death and Jeff gets involved with another woman. (Guest stars: Paul Rhys, Arabella Weir, Simon Day, Simon Pegg)
"A Blast from the Past"
In this episode we learn what happened to Marty's father, Larry Hopkirk. His old partner, Harry Wallis, asks Jeff and Jeannie to locate Maurice Crabbe. Many years before, Crabbe had killed Larry and disabled Wallis in revenge for the death of his famous criminal brother, Sidney Crabbe (Paul Whitehouse). The incident left Maurice in a coma and towards the end of his life Harry feels guilty and wants to leave Maurice some money. Meanwhile, Marty graduates from his lessons with Wyvern and is permitted to enter Limbo proper...where Sidney Crabbe is waiting for him. (Guest stars: Paul Whitehouse, Dudley Sutton)
"A Man of Substance"
Jeff is hired to investigate the case of a missing husband somewhere in a mysterious village in rural England. However, when Jeff and Marty get there it soon becomes apparent that this was just a ploy to entice Marty to the eerie village and its dark secrets are soon uncovered. In the end, Wyvern has to call on Jeannie's help in order to save Marty. (Guest stars: Elizabeth Spriggs, Gareth Thomas)
The TV show was originally shown in widescreen, which makes it all the more annoying that the DVDs are in 4:3 ratio – obvious from the number of cut-off scenes endured during a watch-through. The quality is uneven with some graininess and colour distortion evident in some episodes – most notably the final one of the series.
Sound is fine, with the inclusion of a DD5.1 track. There’s nothing really special to test the surround sound, but it's a nice addition and helps flesh out a few of the show’s scenes.
There’s a Making of… documentary, which is a generous 45 minutes although it doesn't add a huge amount of information about the actual making of the series. It's a chance for Reeves and Mortimer to muck about, for us to see behind the scenes, and for the guest stars to add a few comments of their own. There are a few insights into how the stunts were done, and how they achieved some of the ghostly appearances, but it's more a chance to see the cast at play as well as at work. It's a lot of fun and a nice inclusion.
The short Randall and Hopkirk (Deleted) feature shows outtakes from throughout the series, but not many. There's some repetition from the documentary and few really hilarious moments. Again, it’s fun.
Finally we have the Music Video for the theme tune, composed by David Arnold and sung by Nina Persson of The Cardigans. It's the first time there have been lyrics to the tune and, frankly, it's much better without them.
This is the first series of the show, and one that met with a mixed response at the time of its first showing – but it's not actually that bad. Charlie Higson's plots are a little hit-or-miss, but there are many shows whose first series that could apply to. Fans of Reeves and Mortimer won't be disappointed, the two do very well for their first acting roles and the situation of the show suits their pairing well. Not being the biggest fan of the two, I can only really call the show uneven though enjoyable in part. The DVD is a disappointment visually, and the extras don't really make up for that.