Human Remains (TV series)
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Region 2 DVD cover.
British dark comedy
|Written by||Rob Brydon
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Baby Cow Productions|
|Original network||BBC Two|
|Original release||13 November– 18 December 2000|
Human Remains is a British black comedy television series written by and starring Rob Brydon and Julia Davis. It consisted of six episodes that aired in 2000. Each episode documented the relationship of a different couple, all of whom were played by Brydon and Davis and all but two of whom were extremely unhappy, in the style of a fly on the wall documentary.
Much of the show's humour is derived from very bleak ideas and situations. Domestic violence, chronic depression and death all feature prominently throughout the six episodes. Julia Davis later used some of these themes in her solo project, Nighty Night. Ruth Jones, who would later work with Davis in Nighty Night, appears in the third episode. She would later co-write the acclaimed series Gavin and Stacey, in which both Brydon and Davis would star.
Writing and production
The series was written by Julia Davis and Rob Brydon (who were so sure of a commission they wrote all six episodes before finalising the deal). They wrote it in a flat in the same building complex which once housed the late Kenneth Williams. It was directed by Matt Lipsey and produced by Alison Mcphail. Executive producers were Henry Normal and Steve Coogan.
After creating the concept for the series, Davis and Brydon set about developing the material for the six episodes. Avoiding more conventional methods of writing the scripts, the pair instead opted to record themselves on camera and in character, to develop their various characters and written material. These recordings were then later on used as the basis for the written scripts.
- "An English Squeak"
The apparently bucolic aristo-existence of Peter and Flick is shadowed by an ailment on her part that makes physical intimacy impossible. Still reeling from the death of her true love Geoffrey, Flick has little time for the downtrodden, childish, and possibly mentally handicapped Peter. However, he waits on his reluctant wife hand and foot, nursing her through her struggle with an imaginary illness which, in Flick's own words, means "penile accommodation is absolutely impossible", despite a highly suspicious relationship with her masseur. Flick rarely acknowledges this compassion, utterly exhasperated with Peter's small stature and is more than happy to bury him in the pet cemetery when his time to leave this world comes. Peter's main goal is to win a juvenile showjumping competition he is partaking in, however this falls on his birthday, much to Flick's annoyance who has gone to great efforts to throw a children's birthday party complete with clown and macabre piano music.
- "Slither In"
"Ignorance is bliss, that to me is the beauty of a coma". B&B owners Gordon and Sheila fit their swinging lifestyle alongside looking after Sheila's coma stricken sister. Despite a relatively happy marriage Sheila isn't physically attracted to Gordon, describing the first time she saw him naked as "like a road accident. Shocking, but you can't help looking!" Uneasy at the thought of eventually losing her sister Val, Sheila doesn't know how to handle it. Gordon reminds her Val's death will be a blessing, as they can expand their swinging room into the bedroom she currently occupied. The episode concludes with Val having been relegated to the corner of the room and covered in a dust sheet as the sex-dungeon 'play room' is expanded into her current bedroom.
- "All Over My Glasses"
Michelle and Stephen are planning their wedding day. The first dance is R-Kelly's "Bump and Grind" and there are five boxes of Doritos for the reception. The more than a little "simple" Michelle seems oblivious to abusive yob Stephen's latent homosexual tendencies, perhaps more preoccupied with her unhealthy obsession with Princess Diana. In fact, Michelle is so obsessed that on the night of Diana's death she drove down to the local underpass to "feel how she must have felt". Stephen was in the driver's seat "rightly or wrongly, speeding like a maniac" and her Uncle Roy was Mr. Dodi, "Laughing and swearing and that."
- "Straight as a Flute"
When not making curly sausage casseroles for the vicar, Beverly and Tony survey their neighbour's Satan-inspired garden and tell of life under the full gaze of the lord. They do have other ways of keeping busy though, to the detriment of Tony's heart. Whilst he isn't conducting bizarre demonstrations at his workplace and Beverly isn't dabbling in a bit of hair and beauty, they can be found attending to their dogs or indulging in Scottish country dancing. The pair also run "top up" meetings for their fellow church goers. As Beverly puts it "If Church is your vaccination against Satan, these meetings are your boosters".
"My songs are like my children", says singer Fonte. "Yet they're also like my parents, or a special uncle who is particularly friendly at Christmas time". Fonte Bund seems to have no reservation at all about passing off the work of Alanis Morissette as her own "All im taking is the tune and the lyrics, thats all I'm taking...", and is often casting aside her more creative musical partner Barne when it comes to singing - now opting to double up with her crippled lesbian pal Susan on stage. After the events of this episode, Fonte is left devastated after Susan's death. But, as Barne puts it; "If you've got an electric wheelchair and a cliffside bungalow, you're asking for trouble, and that's what she got!"
- "More Than Happy"
Coastal shopkeeper Les's optimism has carried him and wife Ray through eight traumatic married years, which includes the loss of their children and subsequent suspicion that they were somehow involved. The two of them try and eke out a living by diversifying their trade as a florist by selling body piercings, bras and a banal range of sandwiches - "We dont do your fancy sandwiches, brown bread, or anything..." Ray seems to be getting ever more depressed by the loneliness, financial worries and the devastating events of the past. Her fleeting solace comes from an interest in arts and crafts (although she's clearly no Picasso) and a rather painful form of sexual relief. Les comments, "You hear of people who have all sorts of sexual hang-ups...and I'm one of them."
In addition to the 2000 series, in 2003 a 7th episode was produced:
- "The Fonte Bund Band Live"
Follow Fonte and Barne as they try to make a good impression as a support act at a real life music event. Will Fonte's flirting and sugary compliments help their chances of securing a place on the tour bus? Or will creative differences as well as Fonte's total hatred of Barne put a spanner in the works? (Although in many respects a seventh episode, this special that was released as an extra on the DVD was never classed as part of the series as a whole, and differs slightly in terms of writing and visual style to the televised episodes.)
Some of this recorded material is included on the DVD release of the series.
The DVD contains the following extras:
- Commentary with Rob Brydon and Julia Davis
- Fonte Bund Band Live - following Fonte and Barne on tour
- Multi-angle option to view original character improvisations
- Deleted Scenes
- Make Up and Wardrobe Tests
- Three BBC trailers
- Photo gallery
- Les's songs
- Nicholson, Rebecca (July 17, 2009). "Human Remains: A Macabre Comedy Masterpiece | Rebecca Nicholson | Television & Radio | The Guardian". The Guardian. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
Rob Brydon and Julia Davis may have gone on to bigger things, but this six-part black comedy remains their finest hour
- Rebecca Nicholson (17 July 2009). "Human Remains: a macabre comedy masterpiece". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- Nicholson, Rebecca (April 13, 2016). "An Interview with Julia Davis, the Weird Queen of British Comedy | Vice | United Kingdom".