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Absolutely (1989-93)

Courtesy of Channel 4 Television

Main image of Absolutely (1989-93)
Absolutely Productions for Channel 4, 23/1/1989-26/2/1993
14 x 45, 14 x 35 min episodes in four series, colour
DirectorsPhilip Chilvers
 Alan Nixon
 Graham C. Williams
Written byThe Cast

Cast: Peter Baikie, Morwenna Banks, Jack Docherty, Moray Hunter, Gordon Kennedy, John Sparkes

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Scottish-themed comic sketches, featuring the local councillors of Stoneybridge, the weird world of Mr Don and Mr George, and the golfing Cyberman.

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Like the Goons, Spike Milligan and Monty Python's Flying Circus (BBC, 1969-74) before them, the cast of Absolutely brought absurdity and surrealism to everyday situations. In this skewed universe, criminals robbed security vans using toddlers as weapons and a Cyberman won the Open Golf Championship. Although Absolutely never reached a mass audience, its sheer oddness anticipated the approach of inventive, idiosyncratic shows such as Vic Reeves Big Night Out (Channel 4, 1990-91) and The League of Gentlemen (BBC, 1999-2002).

Absolutely was borne out of the Scottish comedy troupe The Bodgers, comprising Gordon Kennedy, Jack Docherty, Moray Hunter and Pete Baikie. Producer Alan Nixon spotted them at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and persuaded BBC Radio 4 to give them a show, entitled In Other Words the Bodgers. A second series, entitled Bodgers, Banks and Sparkes, saw the addition of John Sparkes and Morwenna Banks. Nixon approached various television companies, with only Channel 4 showing an interest.

The Absolutely team set out with a mission statement to avoid parodies, recurring characters and catchphrases, all promises they eventually broke. Early sketches were often linked, by lines of dialogue, props, or characters wandering between sets. Series three saw the original running time of 45 minutes cut to 30, resulting in tighter material and more laughs. After overcoming their reluctance to create recurring characters, Absolutely provided a variety of memorable comic creations, notably the deluded councillors of Stoneybridge, whose promotional video for an Olympic bid became Absolutely's most celebrated sketch.

While the former Bodgers relied on sketch-based material, Banks and Sparkes excelled at character-based monologues. Baikie provided the music and his witty songs were often enlivened by animation. Unlike most comedy shows around at the time, Absolutely showed little interest in politics, except when making fun of political correctness (one sketch featured a middle-class couple whose involvement with charity organisations appears right-on, but who have little real concern for those they are supposed to be helping). Preachy rock bands singing anthems about peace were mocked with a Simple Minds/U2 video parody.

After Absolutely ended, Channel 4 commissioned the spin-off Mr Don and Mr George (1993), with Hunter and Docherty reprising their respective roles. Despite, or perhaps because of an absence of repeats on either Channel 4 or more peripheral channels, Absolutely has retained its cult status without suffering the over-exposure that has diminished the reputations of other shows.

Kevin Sturton

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Video Clips
1. Two surgeons (1:13)
2. Cyberman golfer (3:30)
3. It's so hard meeting people (2:19)
4. Denzil and Gwenedd (2:30)
Complete edition part 1 (14:17)
Part 2 (11:57)
Naked Video (1986-1990)
Banks, Morwenna (1964-)
Channel 4 Comedy