Sunday, February 21, 2010
Chance would be a fine thing
I've just finished a review for the Oldie of the soon-come DVD of Chance in a Million series 1. For the uninitiated, it was a sublime yet subtle send-up of sitcom conventions, starring the splendid Simon Callow as a man plagued by coincidences and Brenda Blethyn as his loyal librarian girlfriend. Subtle? Yes, for all of its satirical intent, it could also just about be taken on face value as a pure sitcom, and probably was by many viewers when ITV repeated it a few months after it had premiered on Channel 4. At one point in the first series, it was 4's 4th most popular programme, its 3.1 million viewers putting it just behind International Snooker and the two mid-week editions of Brookside. My 11-year-old self adored it from the first bar of the theme tune, a Ronnie 'Two Pianos' Aldrich arrangement of 'Taking a Chance On Love', and my 36-year-old self adores it no less. I'm still trying to work out which I love more out of Ms Blethyn or the character she plays, an outwardly timorous yet seethingly passionate specimen of womanhood. When I first met young Masterton in a radio dungeon beneath the Psychology department at Lancaster nearly 20 years ago, a shared love of the series was one of the things that sealed our friendship. Anyway, it's great to have it on a shiny disc (to say nothing of the untransmitted pilot version of episode 1 'Plumstones'), even if the ad break captions are missing. It's a small point, but the jump cuts from part 1 to part 2 really jar with me. Even though I've watched it all many times, one line still made me guffaw earlier. Playing a paratrooper on a treasure hunt, the late Jeremy Sinden remarks on the extreme unlikelihood of finding the requested nude picture of Shirley Williams that "I know one of the lads is prepared to give it a go with chloroform and a Polaroid". Maybe it's the rhythm, maybe it's the choice of words (hats off to Andrew Norriss and Richard Fegen for the gleeful scripts), maybe it's the image. Maybe it's all of the above. Certainly it's funny.