TVEYE
Phil Daniels could yob for Britain. The producers of Sunnyside Farm, a cartoon-like new BBC2 sitcom, are well aware of this - and have milked it to the max. When Daniels's character, a loutish farmer by the name of Ray Sunnyside, hears that a posh woman called Wendy (Beth Goddard) has moved in next door, he thrusts out his groin unambiguously. "Rustic, sexy farmer," he says, licking his lips and preening himself in the mirror. "Bit of rough for your Highness. Irre-bloody-sistible." You don't cast Daniels for his subtlety. He is rapidly turning into British TV's rent- a-bit-of rough.

Speaking during a break in rehearsals, the actor himself is not in the least bit concerned about thug typecasting. "If I was worried about that, I'd never have a job," he laughs. "You should ask John Gielgud about typecasting. The producers wanted me to this role because they felt I could pull it off. There's a sensitive side to this monster, and they thought I could make him more human. What I bring is a bit of reality."

The role also affords Daniels the opportunity to do what he does best - go several miles over the top. "It was a chance for me not to hold back," he admits. "The last thing I did on television was After Miss Julie, and there are not a lot of laughs in Strindberg. I'm pleased that they're allowing me to be a bit bonkers in Sunnyside Farm. I've played quite a few fools in Shakespeare, but those parts are crap. Have you ever seen Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice? He's the sort of person who comes on and the crowd start eating crisps."

Sunnyside Farm is not going to win any prizes for political correctness. Aimed fairly and squarely at the bottom end of the market, it has already been dubbed "gross" by one broadsheet critic. Daniels himself describes it as "like The Archers on acid." Slouching around in a filthy anorak and T-shirt, Ray rants that his farm is "forty acres of hopelessness and shit - most of it stuck to me". Later, he tries to charm Wendy by dressing up like Jarvis Cocker, getting absolutely plastered, singing her Barry Manilow songs and persuading her to visit him in a nurse's uniform.

But it was the show's very yobbishness that drew Daniels to it in the first place. "I did it because it was un-PC," he declares. "I hope people are up in arms about it. Ray's a sexist, but there are a lot of sexists around. If you can't portray sexists, then all you have is New Men, and there have been enough sitcoms about them already. People should take it as it's meant to be: a laugh. I'm sure Points of View will get a few letters about it, but if you worry about what people are going to think, then you wouldn't do it at all."

Daniels's career is enjoying something of a renaissance at present - thanks in no small measure to his role in Blur's mega-successful song, "Parklife". "It definitely made me more famous," he avers. "People rediscovered me and suddenly wanted me on chat shows. I don't mind as long as it gets me work. It was great being a part-time pop star, doing concerts in front of 10,000 screaming kids and a bit of the old nightlife afterwards. I'd do it for a couple of nights and then go home for the pipe and slippers in front of the fire."

He has also received a boost recently from the re-release of Franc Roddam's acclaimed account of 1960s youth cults, Quadrophenia, in which Daniels plays the disillusioned Mod, Jimmy. Seeing it again, he says, "made me laugh. We were such squirts. We thought we were so tough when we jumped on those hairdriers to beat up rockers - as if. Some of the dialogue is a bit iffy and dated, but that's one of the things I like about it. You can see when it was made. And that kid who could be my son gives a good performance as Jimmy."

Daniels would no doubt be glad if Sunnyside Farm made anything like the impact of Quadrophenia. He reckons viewers might be attracted by the sitcom's "bloody odd characters. Kids might like them because they're saying 'up yours'. Let's hope they can stay up past 9.30 because it certainly won't be allowed on before then."

'Sunnyside Farm' is on 25 Apr at 9.30pm on BBC2

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