Thursday 11 August 2016

Sediment: The Sitcom

So the crazed genius who came up with the ludicrous idea of importing a tanker of cheap French wine and selling it on the streets of London, has come up with another affront to reason: a sitcom, based on the wacky world of Sediment, a sitcom based on two old men writing about wine.

Useless to point out that there really is no wacky world of Sediment, that our lives are only sitcom material in the way that Steptoe and Son or Hancock were once thought of as sitcom material with their bleak, unflinching depictions of personalities immured in routine, lethargy and imaginative failure, relationships curdled by an abiding sense of futility, more than a hint of Beckett or Pinter about them, I mean, where are the laughs in that? We don't even have Hattie Jacques to break the impasse.

But no. My pal has it all thought through. I can't reveal too many details as it's a work in progress (and where the actual comedy comes from is still opaque) but two salient bits of information have emerged (apart from the facts that it'll be, in theory, in half-hour episodes; with no audience laugh track). The part of me, CJ, will be played (the pal reckons) by Mark Heap; the part of PK, by Roger Allam. Since neither Mr. Heap nor Mr. Allam has yet been approached, let alone given his consent, we need to treat this with caution, but already I am getting anxious. Without a doubt, Mark Heap is a top-line comedy (and serious) actor, but the part I cannot help associating with him is that of Dr. Alan Statham out of Green Wing a risible failure of a human being with a moustache and a perma-twitch, endlessly humiliated by his lairier colleagues, losing his trousers, wrestling with toilet brushes, you know the sort of thing. Very funny if you're not him. Less so if you are, or might be.

PK, played by Roger Allam, gets a much easier ride. Allam has a long and distinguished career, but in purely comedic terms I see him as Peter Mannion, the tautly irascible Shadow Minister out of TheThick Of It a character with a hint of gravitas, a sense of the true absurdity of situations, someone who is (we're invited to believe) very slightly more evolved than the fruitloops and morons who surround him. That's who PK gets.

Plainly, there's no reason why our projected fictional characters should map these already-existing ones, but from what I've heard, that's the plan, or something like it. In other words, I'm more likely than not to be re-purposed as a gibbering tosser; while the comedified PK will be a countervailing voice of sanity, or at least semi-competence. Thus the comedy dynamic is set in place: on-top-of-things Allam plays off borderline-breakdown Heap and vice-versa. Hilarity ensues, with some special surprises, apparently, to keep the story moving along.

What are the chances of this thing getting made? I can't tell you, it's not a world I know anything about. Stranger things have happened: look at the Republican Party. There was also a British family which was made into a Japanese Manga cartoon a year or so ago, and they seemed happy enough with their transformations, but if the Sediment sitcom turns out to be more like, say, Peep Show (a very real possibility) then I won't even have the consoling alienations of Manga to distance me from my on-screen character. Nor can I try and steer it down a Likely Lads kind of route, as PK is, in real life, both Bob and Terry; nor into a Meryl Streep = Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada high-concept situation, as there is no high concept, and I don't think Tom Hiddleston (= CJ) or Benedict Cumberbatch (= PK) are any more available than Heap & Allam. I just have this feeling that I'm stuffed.

But what can I do? We live in a world full of intertextualities, a world in which one thing exists that it might generate possibilities within another thing, and I'm not going to fight it, I can't fight it. On the other hand, my pal did wonder, the other day, whether cheese might not be funnier than wine. I told him it was definitely funnier than wine.


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