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Lenny Henry in Pieces (2001-02)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Lenny Henry in Pieces (2001-02)
Tiger Aspect for BBC, 30/12/2000-5/2//2003
13 x 30 mins in 2 series, plus 2 specials, colour
DirectorsMatt Lipsey
 Ed Bye
ProducerLucy Robinson
Writers includeLenny Henry
 Paul Henry
 George Jeffrie

Cast: Lenny Henry, Omid Djalili, Tony Gardner, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Roger Griffiths, Gresby Nash

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Originally transmitted by the BBC as two Christmas specials in December 2000 and 2001, Lenny Henry in Pieces grew into a series of seven episodes in 2002. After attempts to establish himself as both a comic actor (Chef!, BBC, 1993-96) and serious actor (Hope and Glory, BBC, 1999-2000), the show marked Lenny Henry's return to the sketch format of his earlier BBC programmes Three of a Kind (1981-83) and The Lenny Henry Show (1987-88).

The show introduced many new characters, including Weekend Dad, a father who only sees his son at the weekends and is therefore determined to make their time together memorable, furiously cramming in as many activities as possible. Other notable characters included a Rasta tramp coming up with ever more ingenious ways to get money from passers-by, and Donovan, a randy West Indian OAP. The series also relied heavily on pastiches of films like Mission Impossible (US, 1996), Reservoir Dogs (US, 1992) and Billy Eliot (d. Stephen Daldry, 2000).

With the exception of one character, a Black man who repeatedly turns up for unsuitable jobs - an audition for the lead role in Annie; a photoshoot for a Page Three model - and complains of racism when he fails to win the job, the series largely glossed over its star's colour. It is perhaps some measure of how far British television, and its audience, has progressed that race was largely an irrelevance throughout the series. It may also reflect Henry's mainstream acceptance.

One sketch in particular seems significant. A pest controller is sent by the council to investigate an alleged infestation at a quiet, suburban house. He is greeted by a nice, middle-class housewife, but soon discovers that her husband is in fact half-fly, as are their children. The sketch might have developed as an allegory for racial mixing, particularly given that Henry is himself part of a mixed race marriage, but instead the humour lies in lampooning the schlock horror of its inspiration, cult horror film The Fly (US, 1958).

The original special won the Golden Rose award at the Montreaux Television Festival.

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Video Clips
1. Mission: Impossible (2:39)
2. Mexican standoff (2:47)
3. The Matrix (3:36)
Henry, Lenny (1958- )