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Tandoori Nights (1985-87)

Courtesy of Picture Palace Productions

Main image of Tandoori Nights (1985-87)
Picture Palace and Angel Films for Channel 4, tx. 4/7/1985-13/11/1987
12 x 30 min episodes in 2 series, colour
DirectorJon Amiel
Production CompanyAngel Films
WritersFarrukh Dhondy
 Meera Syal
 H.O. Nazareth
ProducerMalcolm Craddock

Cast: Saeed Jaffrey (Jimmy); Tariq Yunus (Alladin); Rita Wolf (Asha); Angela Browne (Delia); Shelley King (Bubbly); Zohra Segal (Gran)

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The rivalry between two Indian restaurants in London's Brick Lane.

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Tandoori Nights (1985 and 1987) was Channel 4's first Asian comedy series. Though The Fosters (ITV, 1976-77) and No Problem (ITV, 1983-85) had paved the way for black comedy programming, the comedic sensibility of the Asian experience had yet to become a marketable commodity.

The production team of writer Farrukh Dhondy, director Jon Amiel and producer Malcolm Craddock had worked together before on Come to Mecca (BBC, 1982), and their formidable collective television experience must have raised expectations. Unfortunately Tandoori Nights suffered from a comedic deficit - though the fact that it gave rare opportunities to Asian talent behind and in front of the camera is, one can argue, distinction enough.

The second series recruited the talents of Meera Syal, who scripted the first three episodes. Syal's script for 'Welcome Home Sweetie' upends cultural stereotypes, something Goodness Gracious Me (BBC, 1998-2000) was also to do, to great comic effect. But here the laughs are fleeting, perhaps because it takes itself too seriously.

The actors (including the prolific Saeed Jaffrey, whose character here brings to mind his role in My Beautiful Laundrette) make the most of the patchy and rambling scripts. To audiences of the mid-1980s UK, it had the elements of a potentially groundbreaking sitcom: a mixed-race relationship, left wing and sexy Asian women, and a restaurant proprietor more interested in success and money than in his cultural roots. Notwithstanding, the result was a rather unsuccessful attempt at novelty.

Shalini Chanda

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Video Clips
1. A nice Indian girl (1:19)
2. Surprise news (2:50)
Complete episode: 'Welcome Home Sweetie' (26:19)
Bux, Ishaq (1917-2000)
Dhondy, Farrukh (1944-)
Jaffrey, Saeed (1932-)
Segal, Zohra (1912- )
Syal, Meera (1962-)
Wolf, Rita (1960-)
Channel 4 Comedy
Channel 4 at 25
Race and the Sitcom