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Kumars at No.42, The (2001-03)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Kumars at No.42, The (2001-03)
Hat Trick Productions for BBC TV
3 series of 29 x 30 min episodes total
ProducersSharat Sardana
 Richard Pinto
 Lissa Evans
Written bySanjeev Bhaskar
 Richard Pinto
 Sharat Sardana

Cast: Sanjeev Bhaskar (Sanjeev); Meera Syal (Sushila); Indira Joshi (Madhuri); Vincent Ebrahim (Ashwin)

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From a tv studio built at the back of his house, Sanjeev Kumar attempts to host a chat show, while fending of interruptions and humiliations from his family

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BBC2's hit chat show/sitcom hybrid premiered in 2001, as actor/writers Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal re-teamed with producer/writers Richard Pinto and Sharat Sardana from Goodness Gracious Me (BBC, 1998-2000) to create this original take on the fake chatshow format establised by The Mrs Merton Show (BBC, 1995-97) - reinvented here with a gently dysfunctional Indian family merged into a similarly dysfunctional chat show.

The Kumars are a normal Indian family in Wembley - except, as a business venture, Ashwin Kumar (Vincent Ebrahim) has built a TV studio over the back garden. There, Sanjeev (Bhaskar) hosts a chat show, with guests running the gauntlet of the family and their particular foibles. Sandwiching each segment are "backstage" (i.e. in the house) sequences in which the guests are greeted and the ongoing plots/jokes set up.

Sanjeev is a fame-obsessed, 32-year-old child. His parents - Ashwin, whose thoughts are dominated by money and pointless stories, and Madhuri (Indira Joshi), the epitome of Asian motherhood - share concern for their disappointing son. Sushila (an almost unrecognisable Meera Syal) is the straight-talking, sex-obsessed grandmother.

To Sanjeev's frustration, the family assembles on the sofa during the show, leaving their guest trapped on a revolving chair between them and the host, forced to field comment from both sides. Each comes at their victim from his or her own perspective, with only Sushila asking any real questions, while Sanjeev is humiliated at every turn.

The cast are uniformly excellent, rounding out ridiculous yet believable characters. The quality of each episode, however, depends on the guests - some understand the concept and play along, others don't. Whatever happens, they don't get to say much.

While certainly original, the show will never be quite as funny as its first episode, originally broadcast on 19 November 2001. This instalment was directed by Lissa Evans (later the show's producer), and featured Richard E. Grant and Sanjeev's chatshow rival Michael Parkinson. The second season was used, with the likes of Shooting Stars (BBC, 1995-), to promote the new digital service BBC Choice (since replaced by BBC3), where it premiered before its broadcast on BBC2.

Mikey Robinson

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Video Clips
1. Show preparation (2:06)
2. Richard E. Grant (3:21)
3. Michael Parkinson (5:22)
Complete programme (29:08)
Bhaskar, Sanjeev (1964-)
Syal, Meera (1962-)
BBC2 (1964-)
Race and the Sitcom