TV Review: Father Ted & The Last Salute

There are few things as heartless as an audience in search of pleasure. When a venerable Hollywood actor dies, for example, it is slightly shocking how often the first thought is "Oh good, now we'll get a retrospective season of the films". The news of Dermot Morgan's death was rather different - because he was still in middle age and because his role as Father Ted was just opening up a larger career. But for English audiences, who knew him only because he played Father Ted, any sadness felt was still subject to some selfish consolations. They had managed to complete the series, for one thing, and we all knew it was to be the last anyway because the writers (and Morgan himself) wanted to move on to other projects. And despite its title, the series had always been very democratic about its comedy, sharing it out evenly amongst an ensemble of actors - so that even in imagination the idea of Father Ted (C4) without Father Ted would never have been quite as unthinkable as, say, Porridge without Ronnie Barker.

But it was still a little odd to watch the first programme in the new series - and hard not to concentrate on Morgan's now absent qualities. I'd always felt that his performance was a bit too stand-up, but watching this episode - in which he has to defend himself against accusations of racism after being caught doing a slitty-eyed act with a lampshade by Craggy Island's chinese community - you could see how well-suited it was to the material - which has no logic but the pursuit of audience laughter, and so needs a bit of surreal detachment from the dialogue. The programme was a fitting memorial anyway - and particularly rich in the double-beat punch lines which are Linehan and Mathews' particular strength. "Lookit this Ted, I can write my name on this table, it's that dirty," says Ardal O' Hanlon's Dougal. "There's a G in Dougal," replies Ted wearily, getting a big laugh. "Where?" replies Dougal, staring down at the table with genuine inquiry, and getting another. Sometimes the second hit is deferred for a while. "Her back is very bad since she fell off the roof," says Dougal, referring to an earlier scene in which Mrs Doyle had plunged past the window. Just then she flashes past again: "See," says Dougal matter-of- factly, "she can't keep her balance at all".

The Last Salute (BBC1), squarely aimed at the late-afternoon teacake audience, is an unchallenging family comedy based on Sixties AA men and is co-written by Tim Binding and Simon Nye, currently demonstrating that the sit-com is not incompatible with risk in the excellent How Do You Want Me. The first episode began with a loving crane-shot of three vintage vehicles - a milk float, an AA motorcycle and side-car and one of those mumsy Sixties sports cars - a Sunbeam Alpine, I think (but please don't feel you have to write if I'm wrong). For the children there are some carefully constructed passages of slapstick, involving malfunctioning inventions and out-of-control vehicles (the series promises to maintain the long and dutiful tradition of Last of the Summer Wine in employing the full resources of the BBC Comedy Crash Sound Effects disc). For grown- ups there is an amiable exercise in the mock-heroic - "you're asking tightly- coiled men of action to handle pens," complains one AA man to his pompous superior, and much fun is had with the notion of a corps d'esprit based on the unreliability of the internal combustion engine.

The thing itself is perfectly genial and cosy but there are also some unexpected grace notes to it. The AA commanding officer is passionate about Esperanto, so that early morning briefing sessions include solemn exchanges in that effortlessly preposterous language. And the writers also exploit the nostalgic comedy of vintage values. It is set at the time when the AA high command are considering whether to abandon the traditional salute to members, a development which only confirms Harry Thorpe's sense of falling standards. "The roads are becoming so raucous and unsettling..." he notes anxiously, "people cutting each other up, ladies driving with the radio on." You need to watch with the attitudes of a kinder, gentler age but as long as you do, it's fine.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

    £30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

    £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

    Insight Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k – North London

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...

    Day In a Page

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn