Staying In: Inside the tube

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They talk about a "dream ticket" in politics, but the phrase also holds true for film-casting. The yoking-together of Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay (above) in the leads - to say nothing of Joanna Lumley in support - for BBC2's version of Angela Lambert's novel, A Rather English Marriage, smacks of nothing so much as an ideal cast.

In Andrew Davies's clever adaptation, to be transmitted over the festive season, they play two mismatched widowers - former RAF fighter-pilot Reggie Conyngham-Jervis (Finney) and ex-milkman Roy Southgate (Courtenay) - who are thrown together when their wives die on the same day in the same hospital. Two stalwarts of the Sixties - Finney shone in such classics as Tom Jones and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, while Courtenay distinguished himself in enduring works of the calibre of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner and Billy Liar - they last appeared together on screen in Peter Yates's touching 1983 film, The Dresser. They were, of course, also teamed on stage last year in the hit play, Art. If early rushes of their chalk- and-cheese on-screen relationship are anything to go by, we're in for a treat this Christmas.

More canny casting appears to have gone on with Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, a BBC2 sitcom currently in production for broadcast in the New Year. Kathy Burke (above right), outstanding in both comedy (Waynetta Slob in Harry Enfield and Chums) and drama (Ray Winstone's battered wife from Nil by Mouth), is paired with James Dreyfus, the outrageously camp PC Goodie in Ben Elton's Thin Blue Line. They play Linda and Tom, flatmates who share a taste in boyfriends. Linda is a cold-caller for "Mattress Blasters" with an overly active interest in sex ("if it's got a pulse, it's got a chance"), while Tom is a "resting" actor who only ever seems to be cast as a corpse in Silent Witness. The first sitcom by the acclaimed stage writer, Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing), it offers what may well be the first "out" character in a British sitcom (I think we can safely discount Mr Humphries from Are You Being Served?). The BBC has high hopes for the series. Jon Plowman, executive producer and head of BBC Comedy Entertainment, describes the sitcom as "This Life without the lawyers and with some better jokes".

Less established comic performers are featured in Channel 4's The Comedy Lab, which goes out in November. Included in the showcase series for up- and-coming talents are no fewer than three from this year's list of five nominees for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Peter Kay stars in Services, in which he plays all the characters in a piece set in a motorway service station near Bolton. Ed Byrne joins with Jason Byrne for Vinyl Tap, a send-up of pop videos. Meanwhile, Tommy Tiernan (left), the eventual winner of the Perrier, is filmed performing in his hometown of Galway in Ireland.

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