Absolutely (sketch show)
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|Also known as||The Absolutely Radio Show|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||28 (television series)
4 + 1 special (radio series) (list of episodes)
|Running time||45 minutes (series 1 & 2)
35 minutes (series 3 & 4)
|Production company(s)||Absolutely Productions|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||23 May 1989 – present|
Absolutely is a British comedy sketch show.
The cast and crew are mainly Scottish; the principal writers and performers are Moray Hunter, Jack Docherty, Peter Baikie, Gordon Kennedy (all of whom had performed together as The Bodgers for many years), Morwenna Banks (English) and John Sparkes (Welsh).
The original television series, produced by Absolutely Productions, aired on Channel 4 for four series between May 1989 and February 1993. Following an award-winning reunion special for BBC Radio 4, the show returned for a new four-part radio series in September 2015.
- Stoneybridge Town Council (played by the entire cast) are the council of the fictional small Scottish town of Stoneybridge. Originally meant to be a one-off mocking the plague of promotional videos and adverts done by many British towns during the 1980s and 1990s, the characters proved so popular that they snowballed into a regular parody of small town and village councils run by the parochial minded with jarring grandiose aspirations for themselves and the people they are trying to serve (for example, bidding to host the Olympic Games). The council all have the same attributes, in that they all have nasal-sounding voices, and all the men have moustaches. Over the course of series, the characters developed, in particular Bruce (Kennedy), leader of the council, who would often try and manipulate things towards his own favour. Although the town has been described as being near the Yetts of Muckhart (and later twinned with it), the pictures of "Stoneybridge" used in the TV series came from the village of Breich, near West Calder in West Lothian, its town clock from Tranent in East Lothian. The "Stoney Bridge" itself is actually within the Edinburgh suburb of Warriston, on the Warriston Road.
- Frank Hovis (played by Sparkes) is a character described as a club host, who first appeared in series three in a series of monologues, which he self-titled as "On the Lavatory (once replaced by 'The Lavatory Express') with Frank Hovis". These were set in an unpleasant toilet cubicle with no toilet paper, where Frank would draw upon his own personal experiences in a slurred northern English accent, usually involving toilet humour. Outside of Absolutely, Hovis featured in his own panel game show for BBC Wales entitled Pub Quiz. Hovis' crass attitude was later applied to Mr. Ffff, another character on Barry Welsh is Coming.
- McGlashan (played by Docherty) was an extreme Scottish nationalist and playwright, who frequently espoused anglophobia. Introduced into the show in series two, he would often write plays or be given jobs by his camp agent McMinn (Kennedy), but his hatred of the English would always take over (typical example: a play featuring someone travelling back in time to kill Geoff Hurst in 1965), leading in McGlashan's work never to get off the ground. McGlashan was based on a man Docherty met in a pub in Soho. McMinn was based on a camp television producer. In one sketch he cycles to the Scotland-England border, steps across and shouts "Poofs!", before cycling away quickly whilst constantly looking over his shoulder. One of the only facts known about his personal life is that he is a supporter of the Edinburgh football team Hibernian F.C., as is his portrayer Docherty. This is alluded to in two sketches; once when he rants that a position should be created in the UK Government for an 'All Round Good Guy' which should be awarded to the "Hibs player Mickey Weir", and also when he reads the news and takes a moment to celebrate a Hibernian victory over their great city rivals, Heart of Midlothian FC.
- Calum Gilhooley (played by Hunter) is introduced as the most boring man in the world. He talks endlessly about his anorak ("it has pockets, which is good, 'cos you can keep things in them, and they open and close") and Honda motorbikes. Docherty, usually playing himself, would often express his horror of Calum, up to the point that he once ran to the end of the Earth to avoid him, constantly being chased by Calum along the way. While booking a plane ticket over the phone, he spells his last name as beginning "G for Gnome".
- Denzil and Gwynedd (played by Sparkes and Banks) sketches are centred on ethnic jokes, and mockery of the Welsh language. Both have an interest in DIY, but without the skill to match - in the spirit of Kenny Everett's Reg Prescot - and who later reappeared post-Absolutely in Barry Welsh is Coming. Some of their TV sketches had Welsh subtitles, and were supposed to satirise the perceived low production standards of Celtic language programming. The two characters spoke with exaggerated Welsh accents, and spoke cod-Welsh. Both looked dishevelled with rotting teeth, and would wear such strange items as "chicken skin slippers", insulting one another as "Aberystwyth features", and declaring "what in Swansea am going on here!". In one moment, Denzil fights his brother for the love of Gwynedd in "Welsh Unarmed Hitting". Denzil would also frequent Clwb Sboncyn for "a nice pint of cheese water".
- The Little Girl (played by Banks) is a character developed to be more accessible than some of the darker characters like Frank Hovis. The Little Girl would describe a topic such as death, dentists or the government in an overexcited bluster. The sketches often ended with her exclaiming, "It is, it's true!" Morwenna would later perform this character once after she was hired on Saturday Night Live.
- The Nice Family (played by the entire cast) was a mockery of middle class life, in particular fathers. None of the members of the Family are named are instead referred to by their titles of "Father" (Docherty), "Mother" (normally Kennedy with his back always to the audience, cleaning), "Eldest son" (Sparkes), "Daughter" (Banks), "First twin" (Baikie) and "Second twin" (Hunter). The Father was the dominating figure of the family, with everyone else looking exactly like him, wearing beige jumpers, white collar shirts, brown ties, brown slacks (except the women who wear brown skirts) and black shoes. Father would instruct the children about certain matters and what was and was not "The done thing". Anyone not obeying him would be severely punished. However, he himself was not above misbehaving, with one sketch featuring Father in fetish clothing.
- George and Donald McDiarmid (played by Docherty and Hunter) were a surreal duo who would appear in almost every episode. George McDiarmid was dressed in a black pinstripe suit and tie, while Don McDiarmid (no relation) was dressed in tweed, a bow tie, and an unusual pair of glasses with one lens at a right angle. George would often find Don annoying in some manner, but other than that none of the sketches had a uniform style and would differ depending on who wrote them. The two characters would go on to get their own sit-com Mr Don & Mr George.
- Peter and Jennifer Wells (played by Docherty and Banks) were a couple introduced in series two, who were keen to support charities, but often let their own prejudices get in the way. For example, they object giving aid to an orphan in Africa because he is "Not black enough". Of all the characters in the show, these were the most politically incorrect and allowed the cast to include humour which could be considered offensive.
- Bert Bastard (played by Sparkes) is an old man normally walking with a Zimmer Frame, who was very rude. He would often swear, saying "Arse", "Bastard", "Bugger" and "Quim", commented that he was rude to women and in one scene shoplifts. Bert is very feeble and not able to perform many day-to-day tasks such as cooking and eating. The character was based on Sparkes's own experiences of working in social services.
- The Musical Sections featured in every episode, but by series two Baikie developed a character of a smug piano man - Mr Muzak. The character was meant to be a parody of characters from other comedy shows such as Richard Stilgoe from A Kick Up the Eighties. The piano player would often be used to link sketches together by playing his piano across the set. Another regular musical character was created in series four - The Laughing Man who had the habit of laughing at not very amusing bumper stickers and signs.
- Gwyn (played by Sparkes) is a Welshman who would often give monologues to camera. Gwyn suffered from a constant nervous twitch which resulted in his body shaking all over the place and whistling while he talked. The character was first performed by Sparkes when he performed stand-up comedy before Absolutely. Gwyn reappeared in Sparkes' post-Absolutely series, Barry Welsh is Coming.
The original television run of Absolutely ran for four series, with a total of 28 episodes:
- Series 1: Six episodes transmitted between 23 May 1989 and 27 June 1989
- Series 2: Eight episodes transmitted between 22 August 1990 and 10 October 1990
- Series 3: Eight episodes transmitted between 17 May 1991 and 5 July 1991
- Series 4: Six episodes transmitted between 22 January 1993 and 26 February 1993
The series ended in 1993, shortly after Gordon Kennedy had been appointed as the host of the brand new National Lottery show, and it was decided that the time was right for the remainder of the team to pursue individual projects and mutually agreeing that the show had probably run its course.. In the same year, the characters of Don and George featured in their own spin-off series Mr. Don and Mr. George, which ran for six episodes.
In 1995, a pilot was shown on BBC2 for a series called Mac, a sitcom based around MacGlashan and his long-suffering brother Finley (played by Gordon Kennedy). Finley ran a small shop selling the sort of stereotypical Scottish kitsch for tourists that inflamed Mac's senses, his assistant Aileen (played by Elaine Collins of City Lights) acted as Mac's love interest, while Nick Hancock played his Londoner love rival Van Webster.
All four series of Absolutely were released as a boxset entitled Absolutely Everything on 5 May 2008.
In 2013, Absolutely Productions Ltd confirmed a one-off reunion show featuring all of the original performers except for Jack Docherty. The reunion show was aired as part of BBC Radio 4's Sketchorama series, first broadcast on 20 May 2013. An extended version of the show was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in August 2013. A year later, the special won a BBC Audio Drama award for best live scripted comedy.
In July 2015, it was announced that Absolutely would return as a four-part radio series for BBC Radio 4 in September 2015, again featuring the original cast sans Jack Docherty. The new series, a co-production between Absolutely Productions Ltd and The Comedy Unit, was recorded on two evenings in August and September 2015 at The Oran Mor in Glasgow. The first episode was broadcast on Sunday 6 September 2015.
- Brand new Absolutely series confirmed for BBC Radio 4, Absolutely Productions, 17 July 2015
- "Absolutely Everything on DVD". Retrieved 2011-02-12.
- "Absolutely reunion confirmed for series 2 of Radio 4's Sketchorama!". Absolutely Productions Ltd. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- "Want to hear more? Absolutely!". Absolutely Productions Ltd. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Absolutely back for a full series - sketch team's comeback gathers pace, chortle.co.uk, 15 July 2015