Saturday, 11 February 2017
First viewed : May 1983
Granada didn't always get it right and this series definitely came to less than the sum of its parts.
Alfresco sprang from a three-part Granada-only pilot called There's Nothing To Worry About in 1982 which passed me by. When Alfresco came to the screen a year later it was billed as a successor to Not The Nine O Clock News. Talk about setting yourselves up to fail !
The first series was written by Ben Elton who also appeared in it, alongside Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Robbie Coltrane and Siobahn Redmond. It was filmed on location around Manchester rather than in the studio.
It should have been very good; instead it was dire. Elton forgot the first rule of sketch-based comedy ; that the sketches have to be short and snappy. In Alfresco , they went on interminably; even if the premise was funny the execution killed it. A great example was one in the third episode where a student ( Elton ) finds that he's taken up lodgings with the embarrassing couple from Hell ( Coltrane and Thompson ). This is going quite well until Fry and Redmond pop their heads out of the TV screen and it becomes some lame attack on cable TV. Some of it didn't even try to be funny. Redmond's performance of an old Squeeze song The Apple Tree to a backdrop of cheesy thermonuclear explosion effects was just bizarre.Fry and Laurie's two posh guys talking crap routines poisoned me against them for years afterwards.