Old Harry's Game
(Guest review by Reecey.)
You may think I’m weird, but I’m one of those strange people who likes to listen to one song at a time. There are exceptions, but I’m not much of an album person. Heck, I’m not even a playlist person, really.
So I finally got an Audible subscription so I have something to listen to when I do something that requires my hands for long periods.
(Although I have Prime, so I get three free books.)
So, of course, the first thing I got was a radio series from 1995.
Ah, life, you are full of surprises.
If you recall, and I see no reason why you would, I previously mentioned Andy Hamilton as ‘part time lord of hell’ in my tongue bathing of Just a Minute.
This is why.
Old Harry’s Game (named after one of the many, many nicknames for the devil) is a radio series about hell and the people in it.
(So… yes, there are jokes about terrible people and referring to terrible situations. If you’re particularly sensitive, this may not be the radio comedy for you. This isn’t a slight on your character, sensitivity is a natural reaction to terrible experiences.)
Andy Hamilton wrote the series and performs as Old Nick himself.
The main cast of this particular series is rounded out by the Professor, basically Richard Dawkins if he was nice, Gary, the Adversary’s right hand demon, and Thomas Quentin Crimp, the most odious man to have ever lived.
And yes, this series does acknowledge the existence of real life historical monsters, and they are indeed in hell.
However, Thomas is genuinely portrayed as a repulsive and horrendous human being.
He has some horrendous views on the world, he’s done legitimately terrible things (he sold nerve gas to Bosnian Serbs, for example), how he died is also an example of his horrendous nature, and he offered the souls of his family in return for being returned to the mortal world.
So, about that death…
Thomas died in a car accident he caused by bashing into the back of a vehicle that was observing the speed limit on a single lane road.
A car driven by the Professor.
Yes, one of the characters killed the other. An excellently dark tone for a series like this to start off on.
To make things worse, he acts as though it’s the Professor’s fault for daring to obey the law. He even physically assaults him out of anger.
To make things even worse, Thomas…
It’s hard to really define any of the things that he did in life as ‘the worst thing he’s done’, I mean, he sold nerve gas to Bosnian Serbs at some point leading up to the year of the genocide at Srebrenica and Žepa, but… somehow, despite that, this one is going to shoot up to the top of the rankings.
It’s probably the finest example of how awful this man is, because this isn’t someone else says about him, it’s something he says about himself.
He describes the happiest moment of his life as when he had sex with his sister-in-law (his brother’s wife, not his wife’s sister, though he did that too. With two of them) under false pretences, because he and his brother are identical twins. Also, he had gonorrhea at the time.
If you’re staring at that sentence with horrified silence, don’t worry, that’s how the Professor reacted too.
Thomas Quentin Crimp is in hell for many reasons, and this is one of them.
Compare and contrast to the Professor, a man with a file of misdeeds that is both tiny and inconsequential. He is the least malicious human being that Lucifer has ever run into, and at first the Lord of Darkness is puzzled that he’s even in hell, until it is confirmed that he is an atheist.
That’s it, that is the sole reason why he is in hell. God took offence to the man not believing in him and damned him to an eternity of torture and suffering.
There are two main plot threads throughout this series, the main one is the relationship between the Morning Star and the Professor and their discussions and disagreements over human nature and whether or not the Professor is actually dead, and the second main one (I didn't think this sentence through) is Thomas attempting to seduce the demon Gary into attempting a coup.
Each episode has its own theme and story, but the generalised arc is present in all the episodes.
The humour very rarely falls flat, and even with the serious subject matter it rarely falls into poor taste.
The only joke I can think of off the top of my head that’s particularly sketchy is when Gary cuts Emperor Hirohito down by responding to his arrogance with a line about how he was only a god to a bunch of gullible short arses. Which, to be fair, Hirohito really only had power up to the end of WWII and that was a largely pre-industrial society. (The Dutch used to be the shortest people in Europe, now they're the tallest in the world.) Not to mention that the Japanese had very rapidly stopped being gullible by the time he’d done his damage.
But, you know, that’s my perspective, and if it bothers you, that’s more than fair enough.
Most notably, at no point does the Murder, Arson and … what was that other thing? Something about crossing the road? -hurriedly looks this up- ah, ‘Jaywalking’ trope ever rear its tired, tired head.
And I think that’s really the most important thing here.