Wednesday, 24 May 2017

690 In at the Deep End

First  viewed :  31  October  1984

This  series  was  a  replacement  for  The  Big  Time  ;  instead  of  following  amateurs  looking  to  break  into  the  professional  ranks ; Esther  Rantzen  now  sent  in  "those  two  nancy  boys "  ( c/o  Not  the  Nine  O  Clock  News )  Chris  Serle  and  Paul  Heiney   from  That's  Life  to  take  up  challenges  for  which  they  had  no  obvious  aptitude.

This  added  a  new  ingredient to  the  mix  - humour-  and  although  the  individual  episodes  varied, some  of  them  were  bloody  hilarious  especially  the  ones  featuring  Serle. His  lugubrious  demeanour  had  already  been  put  to  good  use  as  a  comic  foil  to  Dave  Allen  in  the  seventies  and  his  hangdog  expression  as  he  was  repeatedly  humiliated was  comedy gold.

A  classic  example  was  the  first  episode  I  saw, the  second  in  the  second  season  ( the  first  was  in  1982 ). Chris  went  into  training  to  be  a  snooker  player  but  had  little  talent to  develop. Despite  a  whitewash  in  an  amateur  match  with  Barry  Hearn  looking  on  askance, Serle  was  allowed  to  play  an  exhibition  doubles  match  with  Steve "Interesting " Davis  as  his  partner. I  remember  Ray  Reardon  winding  him  up  beforehand  with  sadistic  relish. After  potting  an  early  red , Serle  went  to  pieces  and  not  even  Davis  could  rescue  the  situation.

The  other  episode  I  recall  from  that  season  was  Heiney's  attempt  at  competing  in  a  sheepdog  trial  and  the  lump  in  his  throat  at  the  end  when  it  came  to parting  with  his  canine  partner  Tim.

The  third  and  final  season  was  in  1987  and  I  think  I  saw  two  of  them. One  was  Heiney's   attempt  to  become  a  hairdresser  with  his  guinea  pig,  novelist  Jilly  Cooper   who  threatened  to  kill  him  if  he  botched  it. The  other  was  the  final  episode  of  the  series,  and  for  my  money  the  best  , where  Serle  became  a  press  photographer  (  I  don't  recall  the  term  paparazzi  featuring  in  the  programme )  . The  scene  I  recall  most  vividly  is  Serle  being  invited  to  take  a  few  snaps  of  scantily-clad  glamour  model  Linda  Lusardi.
He  stooped  to  the  camera  with  the  words  "One  hardly  knows  what  to  say".
"Don't  be  shy"  cajoled  Linda.
 "Could  you  erm. squeeze  them  together  a  bit   more ?"
Linda  complied.
Serle  stood  up  straight   from  the  camera  , his  face  a  picture  of  exquisite  embarrassment, and  said  "Thanks".

I don't  know  why  the  series  was  discontinued; perhaps  it  was  too  costly. Heiney  remains  a TV  presenter , currently  on  ITV's  Countrywise  but  Serle  retreated  into  radio  in  the   nineties  and  has  rarely  been  seen  on  TV  since  the  series  ended.

1 comment:

  1. I always remember an amusing piss take of this on Alas Smith and Jones too, with Griff Rhys Jones donning a big rubbery nose and curly black wig to become Chris Serle who has just 24 hours to become a heart surgeon and perform a transplant.

    ronically, the last thing I recall seeing Serle on was City Hospital the BBC daytime reality show broadcast live from Southampton Hospital. That must have been the late 90s now? Gosh, time flies.

    The Beeb rather cheekily brought this format back but under two different guises around that time too; Jobs for the Girls saw Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson attempting various trades and challenges, whilst the later Jobs for the Boys proved a short vehicle for Hale and Pace after their transfer to the BBC proved a big mistake and their 'comedy' variety show H+P@BBC was shunted from the fanfare and spotlights of Saturday primetime into the graveyard slot of 11pm midweek.