REVIEW / The sitcom now cleared for take-off (CORRECTED)

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 11 JANUARY 1994) INCORPORATED INTO THIS ARTICLE

WHAT is the point of a pilot? Who decides to proceed with the full series? Could it be that the words meticulously selected to fill this space actually carry some clout? We all nurse our illusions.

Comic Asides (BBC2) screened the first of four new half-hour playlets. 'The High Life' is a pilot about Scottish air stewards, created and played by Alan Cumming and Forbes Masson. There is no obstacle between 'The High Life' and a long life apart from a limit to the number of jokes about crimplene trousers and being rude to people behind their backs, not to mention the straitjacket on the action imposed by the shape of an aircraft interior. Other than that, it has potential.

As was slowly proved by newsroom- based Drop the Dead Donkey, the success of a sitcom is founded not on the novelty of the situation but the colour of the characters. In this comic duo Steve (Masson) is the dreamy one, Sebastian is the spiteful one, and for the moment the most they have to offer is a lot of slapstick, plus one or two well-made schoolboy jokes that turn on Scottish pronunciation. 'You for coffee?' says Cumming, but with his accent it doesn't sound quite so polite.

It's hard to believe that any half-hour comedy comes into the world as anything other than a semi-hatched scribble on the back of an Inland Revenue postage-paid envelope. But then there's Steptoe and Son, which was a fully formed meisterwerk at birth. 'The Lost Steptoes' (BBC2) brings four early episodes that were Missing Presumed Wiped but recently resurfaced in the home of co-writer Ray Galton. For aficionados, this find is tantamount to the unearthing of a Piero della Francesca buried in the bottom of a Tuscan suitcase since 1570.

If 'The High Life' needs a goal to aim for, then the interreaction between Wilfred Brambell and Harry H Corbett, the original dreamy / spiteful comic duo, is the best of targets. In last night's show Harold, as ever hoping for a life free from his old man, planned a skiing holiday. His destination, before he broke his ankle on his practice piste, was Obergurgl, a resort your correspondent once had cause to visit. Even to an eight-year-old the name had comic possibilities, but the place itself wasn't all it was cracked up to be. So if you're reading, Harold, wherever you are, you didn't miss much.

Breakfast with Frost (BBC1) carried two interviews - one with the mother of the boy whose father was last week imprisoned for abducting his son, the other with the man who runs the country. Sir David spoke to Elisa Pridmore, who lives in France, over the telephone, and spoke to John Major, who lives in 10 Downing Street, in the great man's sitting room. The whole show would have been no less bizarre if it had been broadcast from Ms Pridmore's home in France and the PM had done his interview over the dog and bone.

It scarcely becomes the dignity of the house behind the most famous front door in the world to host Sunday morning television shows, any more than it enhances the standing of the occupant to have his interview sliced in half by the latest bulletin. When Frost cut off the Prime Minister in full flow to go over to Jennie Bond in the news room, two of the four items were about statements that Sir David had extracted from his guests. We interrupt this show to bring you news of what has just happened on this show: if you put it in a sitcom, you'd be had for implausibility.

As for the main attraction, it had all the cosiness of a chat between someone putting questions to the man who gave him his knighthood. It was like a scenario engineered by yesteryear's Tory guru Bill Deedes, whose packed life story was gently told by Michael Cockerell in Dear Bill (BBC2). Here, too, hard questions went unasked, like did the editor of the Daily Telegraph in the first seven years of the Thatcher administration feel remotely compromised by his long golfing partnership with the PM's husband? To which he might have replied, 'You for coffee?'

Tom Sutcliffe is away

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat