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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Old Harry's Game S3 [Reecey]

Old Harry's Game
Series 3

(Review by Reecey.)

Consider this your regular warning that this is a comedy series about hell. A lot of bad things are going to referenced in a humourous manner.

There, you have been warned, so let’s get back to work, shall we?

So, this series begins with a cabal of satanists seeking to summon their dark lord, and lo and behold, he shows up.

Of course, this is our boy Satan, he’s not impressed by their pagan ritual and would actually really rather they stop. He’s especially unimpressed by the vicar who is in the group and will become relevant later.

I can’t blame him, they did sacrifice a tortoise to him. He’s right, it isn’t very practical and it does rather look like they’re taking the piss.

Once he tells them to stop they get rather annoyed with him, something you’d think that satanists of all people would know not to do. Apparently not, however.

So he throws them into a sewage farm.

Oh, as a final note on that scene, one of the worshippers (Sandra, she works at Ikea) says that Satan sounds like a singer called Anthony Newley.

Which, you know, he kind of does.

One of the overarching themes of the series is how the Professor deals with his wife moving onto another relationship.

This first episode is the beginning of that, where Satan takes him to her wedding to a bent jockey. At this point Deborah doesn’t know that Rory has been fixing races, so when Satan tells the Professor, he insists that he disrupt the wedding to prevent them marrying.

It’s a little bit up in the air as to why he does this. On the one hand, he’s definitely invested in her wellbeing, but on the other, he is having difficulty seeing her move on.

Remember, it’s not like they divorced, he died.

Which was a lot less final from his perspective than he was expecting. It’s only fair that he’d have a hard time with this.

Of course, the best part of how the wedding was disrupted is how, and I have been wanting to talk about this since I reviewed series one.

See, Satan manages to stop the wedding by taking on a disguise and outing the vicar as a satan worshipper.

This causes an uproar and the wedding has to be cancelled as the vicar nearly gets burned at the stake.

Now, this is fine, but the major part of the joke is that the disguise that Satan takes on is nothing but a demonic guise. That the person he pretends to be never actually existed.

If you listen to this scene now, Satan disguises himself as Gaby Roslin. However, when first recorded and aired, Satan’s demonic guise was Jill Dando.

For all you whippersnappers and foreigners who don’t know who that was, she was a TV presenter who did, among other things, Crimewatch.

After the episode aired, she was murdered outside of her home.

You can see why these lines were re-recorded. It’s also fairly obvious when you listen to it, because they weren’t recorded in front of an audience like the rest of the episode.

This is a (thankfully) rare instance, but it’s one of the things that you need to consider when you write real, living people into things.

What will you do if involving them in a joke is no longer appropriate?

In this case, I think Andy Hamilton and the rest of the production team did the right thing.

The second episode is about man’s ability to learn from the past, something that is illustrated by Satan’s bet on the subject.

During this episode, we see the Professor interview several key historical figures, including Marx, Stalin and Thomas Jefferson. Several more are referenced or rounded up with the intention of being interviewed, like Attila the Hun, Caligula and Boudicca. Oh and a Nazi who insisted that he was only following orders.

It was Hitler.

This episode is particularly amusing, because Satan drags the Professor and Jefferson up to the land of the living to torment the founding father with the reality of contemporary America.

Like Bill Clinton taking with an aide about how to deal with the aftermath of the Lewinsky Affair.

Ah, Jefferson’s rage is hilarious, but when you consider how the office of the presidency is being run these days … well. Let’s say the old slave owner got off lightly.

It ends with the Professor being made aware that, despite his wife loving him very much, she didn’t find him all that exciting.

Which depresses him into the next episode, where he talks Satan into letting an aspiring screenwriter named Travis shoot the film he wrote.

My favourite part of the episode, and one of the best uses of silence ever in comedy, is when Travis is auditioning actors. He asks for quiet, tells the actor to begin in his own time and there is dead silence for several seconds before Travis says, “Thank you, Mr Valentino, we’ll be in touch.”

The leads of the film were supposed to be Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, but Bogart threw a fit when he was asked to film a scene where he made a quiche, so the Professor had to take his role.

This new and exciting posthumous career change boosts his confidence, and he begins to feel better about himself again. (Also, I think Ingrid Bergman was hitting on him. That’d help.)

Episode four has Satan and the Professor visiting Satan’s millenium dome (an actual dome instead of a glorified tent now called the O2 arena) and then popping into Scumspawn and Thomas’ brains.

Which is fun, because seeing the myriad layers of Thomas’ depravity is always good for a laugh.

It’s nice to have a villainous character who doesn’t deserve your sympathy in the slightest, it means you get to laugh when terrible things happen to him.

Episode five has Satan hosting the ‘Underworld cup’, which Satan hopes to use to prove that mankind can’t produce cooperative works, and also to torment the Professor by having Rory’s father spend time with him.

It also has Scumspawn beginning to gain an identity of his own and Thomas learning the value of teamwork.

The final episode of the series has the Professor seeking to help repair Roray and Deborah’s relationship after Rory says that he won’t marry her because his criminal past would only bring her shame. This all happens on the backdrop of the angel Graham visiting hell to investigate reports that Satan has been taking mortals up to the land of the living on unauthorised trips.

Interestingly enough, we learn in this episode that, while demons do not have sexual drives, angels do.

Makes you think, really.

Overall, I really enjoy this series.

So consider this another hellish recommendation.

As with the others this series is available on Audible for your listening pleasure.

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