It's that time of year when the nights start drawing in, and we start digging out old DVD's to watch in the comfort of our living room, hidden under a cosy throw behind closed curtains. This is a great comedy series dating back to 2003, and one I can watch repeatedly with a long enough gap between viewings.
The series is a depiction of Northern life, and is set in a Manchester pub called The Grapes. The pub is old fashioned and attracts the same locals every evening, and although it's quite a slow moving comedy, the characters are excellent and very true to life. I would describe this as an observational comedy, very much in the same style as "The Royale Family" because we never actually see any of the characters outside of the pub environment.
With much of the "activity" happening within the pub, we get to know the characters pretty quickly. The pub landlord, Ken, is a cheery chap, although he has a bit of a sad personal life living above the pub with his mum and stepdaughter, with not much else in his life apart from running the pub and following the horse racing. His stepdaughter has him wrapped round her finger, and takes advantage of his good nature at times, although Ken dotes on her so he doesn't mind. Ken's mum is a nosey gossip who has a bit of a malicious streak, but usually gets caught out and is incredibly amusing to watch.
The locals who drink in the pub are fantastically portrayed, with the geeky couple Eddie and Joan reminding me a little of Roy and Hayley from "Coronation Street". They haven't got a bad bone between them, but they sometimes get on everyone's nerves with detailed conversations about which roads are currently affected by roadworks and other exciting conversation pieces. There are a couple of likely lads, Joe and Duffy, who are constantly getting into scrapes with their respective partners, and generally disrespectful to women. Tanya works part time behind the bar, and has a soft spot for Ken but Ken thinks she's out of his league and sees their friendship as purely platonic. Tanya's friend Debbie frequents the pub, leaving her kids in the car with coke and crisps whilst she downs a swift pint.
By far my favourite characters are the local policemen, Phil and Nige, who regularly pop in to see Ken, but are as bent as coppers come. They receive free whisky in return for overlooking the occasional lock-in or dodgy dealings in the pub. They have some fantastic anecdotes, and as they sit with Ken at the back of the pub, it breaks up each episode and gives opportunity for a different setting. The irony of their catchphrase, "Crime won't crack itself" can only be appreciated once you've seen how lazy they truly are.
This series has a lot going for it, and the first series is all about getting to know the characters. For this reason, it's quite slow paced, but worth sticking with because the dry humour is fantastic and the characters develop brilliantly throughout the series. Each of the characters has their own quirks and annoyances, and there are lots of catchphrases which get repeated at amusing moments. One of these is the miserable old guy Tommy, who is a creature of habit, sitting in the same seat each time, counting out his change for a pint of mild, and whenever anyone offers him a drink he mutters "No thanks, I'll stay on me own". The characters do get you feeling empathy towards them, and as with all good comedies, there is a good mixture of laugh-out-loud material, alongside some tear-jerking heart wrenching moments too.
I love this series, and although the first series is a bit slow to get involved with because it's all about character development, it's still well worth a watch as this is an excellently thought out and much underrated British comedy. It's written by Craig Cash (also responsible for "The Royale Family") and Caroline Aherne, and I'm pleased to say it's as funny as you'd expect from two such big names in comedy.
(Review also appears on Ciao under the username Gingerkitty)
This is one of those comedys that appears far too slow paced at first, your just about to give up on the series and then bam!! Absoultley hooked. The writting is superb (craig cash is one of the writters he was also dave from the royal family) You can not help but have affection for the characters in this programe as they go through the highs and lows of every day life in their local pub-the grapes. The series highlights the positive side of community and friendship. The main story line that runs throughout series one is that of ken the landlord of the grapes and his daughter melaine (not really his daughter her mother had slept with someone else) this isnt a spoiler as its talked about openly from the get go. My favourite character is the lovely eddie, you the feeling this pub is his life and he and his wife find great comfort there, its endlessly endearing. This is a series which didnt really get the fame and acclaim it so richly deserves!
The writer behind this show is Craig Cash who was the son in law in the great comedy The Royal Family, he also appears in this show as well essentially playing the same type of character however personally as good as the Royal Family was I actually think that Early Doors is even better and I'm amazed that it did not attract higher viewing figures.
The whole show is based in a traditional small Manchester pub and the clients that make up its early evening business. The humour is very sharp which reflects the quality of the writing and over the two series that have been shown you really feel that the characters have developed.
Ken is the rathr grump, very tight pub landlord who lives with his incredibly lazy mother and his step daughter after his wife left him. The mother is very funny as she sits constantly eating chocolates and being rather two faced.
The other regulars are a mixed bunch however my favourits have to be the two policemen whopop round on their beat for a free drink, something they seem to do all the time, thy have by far the funniest lines in the whole show.
If you like down to earth sharp humour that does not rely on the sitcom staple of innuendo and smut then you will love this comedy and it is definately worth watching three episodes so that you can really get into it. I have seen repeats recently being shown on Paramount Comedy Two.
Early Doors is a comedy released by the BBC in 2003 which was written and starring Craig Cash, better known for his roles in The Royle Family and Mrs Mertin and Malcolm. I had actually never heard of this comedy until it was reshown on television recently.
The comedy is based in a northern pub, and although different in nature to Phoenix Nights, I found the humour quite similar. Certainly there is a predominance of northern wit. The comedy plays out very slowly, there is no laughter track and it requires quite a dry humour to appreciate it.
The show apparently received poor audience figures for the first series, but a second was commissioned because of those who did watch Early Doors, they very much appreciated it. There have been no more series produced since however and there don't seem to be any being planned at the moment.
Initially this series was to have been written by Craig Cash and Caroline Ahern, the same writing team who produced The Royle Family, but following some disputes, Caroline Ahern went to Australia and Cash's co-writer was Phil Mealey, who plays the role of Duffy. I haven't seen any of the other actors in the series, other than John Henshaw who plays the landlord, Ken Dixon.
In the first episode, the pub (The Grapes) has problems with broken urinals and the landlord and his friends start to plan their big lad's night out, involving numerous activities including a strip club. There is also a mystery of missing alcohol, and questions about exactly where it has ended up.
In the second episode, there is a meal being cooked and then a rather amusing incident with the wardrobe.
In the third episode, planning for the big lad's night out and the Bamboo Club starts to go wrong and the numbers that they were hoping for don't quite materalise.
In the fourth episode, the normally quite lazy and corrupt police officers find that their work is rather more varied than normal and Liam gets some tips about what to do about the romantic problems in his life.
In the fifth episode, it's Joe and Eddie's anniversary which they celebrate in the pub and they have plans for a fish-supper later.
In the sixth episode, the mystery of the broken urinals is revealed.
Overall however this is a good comedy, it relies on the dialogue and inter-action between the characters to be funny, which always in my mind makes for a much better viewing experience. I could certainly rewatch these episodes a few times and still find them humorous.
I would say though that if I had to criticise the series, it's sometimes because the comedy is a little bit too slow. Sometimes the pace of dialogue is so slow that the humour can tail off a bit, something I never found a problem in Phoenix Nights. But sometimes comedies which are fast-paced never have the depth which this series has.
Just one final point, for anyone who is a bit of a pub regular, I'm fairly sure that they will see in at least one of the characters some of the people who go in their own pub. The writers seem really good at character observations, which does make for a better comedy. I haven't yet seen the second series, but will definitely make an effort to see it now, or buy it on DVD.
I didn't see this on DVD, but a check on Amazon shows that at time of writing the series can be purchased for 10.98 pounds, and there don't appear to be any DVD extras.