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  Kit Curran Radio Show, The Ultra-Fantastico
Year: 1984
Director: Derrick Goodwin, Anthony Parker
Stars: Denis Lawson, Brian Wilde, Paul Brooke, Clive Merrison, Lindsay Duncan, Debbi Blythe
Genre: Comedy, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kit Curran (Denis Lawson) is Newtown Radio's best presenter, a wheeler dealer who will stop at nothing to stay at the top of an admittedly small tree, though he is always on the lookout to further his ambitions in the media. However, today he receives the bad news that the controller of the local station is going to be given the elbow and new blood will be injected into management, namely Roland Simpson (Brian Wilde), who has recently left the BBC for undisclosed reasons and wants to make the output more dynamic. How is he to know that Kit makes two salaries by pretending to be another DJ, by putting on a different accent? And just how wily Kit can be?

The Kit Curran Radio Show ran for two series on Channel Four in the mid-nineteen-eighties, and initially for the first saw the anti-hero as a DJ ruling the roost by contriving to get one over on everyone else. Not a character in a sitcom who we would have often seen in the previous decade, but with the Conservative government controlling the British nation for the whole ten years, he could be regarded as a perfect embodiment of what they would approve of, and also why what they approved of was not altogether admirable. Lawson played the smooth bastard to the hilt, adopting an Essex accent to hide his natural Scottish one, and had strong support from the rest of the cast.

The 1984 series remained true to the "sit" in sitcom by centring on the daily business of the station and Curran's antics, his slickness and ultimate insincerity matching the image of the era's go-getters; a lazier writer would have made him a typical Yuppie, but scripter Andy Hamilton, who was one of the brightest stars of eighties comedy scribes both on television and radio, hit upon the inspired idea to make the protagonist part of the media. However, Kit was not a powerful manipulator of the masses, as we hear his callers are either bored or looking to win prizes, and it seems the whole broadcasting job is purely a huge ego boost which nobody is in any position to curtail, least of all his co-workers (ever-eating producer Paul Brooke and misanthropic newsreader Clive Merrison).

However, in 1986 Kit Curran returned without his "sit" - apparently finding the confines of the station too restrictive, Hamilton and new co-writer Guy Jenkin (who would both go on to create the not dissimilar newsroom satire Drop the Dead Donkey a few years later) ditched the original premise and had their main characters, sans Wilde, sacked and going it alone. In an unlikely move, Curran became a pirate DJ to ply his wares, though surely if he was well-known enough to be locally listened to on Newtown Radio then the police would be well aware who he was - he uses his real name - and be able to finger his collar once they got wind of his illegal operation? Seems not, though the cops did show up in a couple of episodes, as Kit and his two sidekicks try out moneymaking schemes suggesting the writers were closely watching Only Fools and Horses on the other side.

They continued to be well crafted thanks to carefully-delineated central characters - Lindsay Duncan joined as the other resident of Kit's office building who he determines to seduce (and fails) - and a cast who made the most of every chance the script offered them, Lawson in particular relishing the charismatic but in the end, self-serving DJ turned entrepreneur. Indeed, there were similarities between Curran and a genuine icon of British television of the eighties, as from some angles he resembled a human version of Roland Rat, the puppet saviour of breakfast channel TVam, and as much of an obnoxious opportunist, albeit aimed at a younger audience: Roland had his coterie of hangers-on and enablers too (also puppets). As it was, eighties nostalgists could find references from anyone from Michael Heseltine to The Kids from Fame as points to place this definitively in its decade (underperforming supersoap The Colbys gets a dig too, if you're looking for a deep cut of yesteryear), and if the second series leaned on the generic compared to the first, it remained one of Channel Four's better homegrown eighties sitcoms. Catchy theme tune, too.

[No extras on Network's 2-disc DVD set, but fans will be pleased to know it holds up.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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