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Energy, humour and misfire
A UK region 2 DVD review of WE KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE – REMIX by Slarek
 

If you didn't catch the then newly launched Channel 5's comedy sketch show We Know Where You Live back in 1997 then don't feel too bad, as you're not the only one, not by a long shot. This may well change, but as I write this the series' IMDb page has no external reviews, no user comments and is still awaiting the requisite five votes to qualify for a star rating. It may not have found the audience it was looking for, but it nonetheless earns its place in comedy history for the careers it helped to launch, faces more familiar for what they were to later achieve: Fiona Allen went on to star in Smack the Pony, Ella Kenion was a regular on The Catherine Tate Show, Sanjeev Bhaskar hosted The Kumars at No. 42, Amanda Holden swapped comedy for drama in the recent Wild at Heart (no, not the Lynch one) and Simon Pegg's star has since soared with the likes of Spaced, Big Train, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and...oh you don't really need me to tell you this, do you?

We Know Where You Live borrows its format from previous TV sketch shows, in particular the hugely popular The Fast Show, especially in its use of short skits built around repeating characters with predictable punch lines. I remember Harry Enfield once jovially chiding former colleague Paul Whitehouse for the behaviour predictability that is at the heart of The Fast Show, suggesting that once the character was established all they had to do each week was walk on and and deliver their catch phrase. The point is valid and it really shouldn't work – in theory we should groan every time the the pottering Patrick comes on and starts rattling on about nothing in particular, knowing full well that he's always going to end with the words, "which was nice." But we don't, or at least a lot of us don't. I can't for the life of me explain why this is in any way funny, but it is. It's the same with the enthusiastic walker with his ever changing backgrounds ("Aren't mountains brilliant!"), the drunken old sot with his mumbled war stories, the country gardener who pops out of his shed to tell us what he will be mostly wearing this week, the two ludicrously suggestive tailors, and a whole slew or others. On paper it should fall flat, but on the screen it works in spite of itself, the result of some canny writing and the enthusiasm of a talented group of comedy performers running with their material and characters. It's a risky and delicate line to walk – if you're going to have the same characters do pretty much the same thing each week and ignore a golden comedy rule by allowing the audience to be one step ahead of you, then that character had better damned well work. Which is where We Know Where You Live hits its first banana skin.

Like The Fast Show, it creates a number of repeating characters with punch lines that we are invited to gleefully anticipate. These include Scandinavian pop show host Angst, an emergency room where the doctors urgently string similar sounding words together, the self-trivia spouting Information Man, and The Detectors, who push their way into houses to apprehend invisible men, cheerful old uncles, and extras from religious epics. The problem is that they're not that funny. Information Man and the emergency room doctors are a complete misfire (the doctors further scuppered by media student quality American accents), while Angst is another in a long and annoying line of characters beloved of British comedy for no other reason than their accents and TV are different to ours. And yes, I'd include The Fast Show's Channel 9 news and weather presenters in that sweeping slap.

Other repeating characters work rather well, either by keeping the gags brief and varied – as with sultry porn star Debbie D'Light – or by accentuating their absurdity and letting the performer run with the sketch, as with Pegg's blood soaked, patient-killing surgeon, a blackly funny character with disturbing overtones for anyone with wobbly confidence in the medical profession. Possibly the most curiously successful of the recognisably Fast Show-eque gags involves a group of office staff who appear to delight in the latest life decision by one of their number, only go slack jawed with mocking disbelief the moment the person in question exits the room. As with its Fast Show equivalents, it's hard to nail down just why this is consistently amusing, but it is.

The cast are certainly the draw here, breathing life into sometimes mediocre material and shining when it rises to their collective talent. Every now and then they are paired with a character that perfectly showcases their comedy skills, as with Ella Kenion's cheerfully obstructive company receptionist, Fiona Allen's wearily patient Nightnews presenter, Amanda Holden's pissed-off and self-centred girlfriend, and Simon Pegg's wide-eyed enthusiasm as the incompetent surgeon. It's Pegg who surprises the most here, displaying a character range that's been considerably narrowed in recent years, his future screen persona signposted by a bang-on series of sketches in which he is repeatedly freaked out by his girlfriend's detailed descriptions of feminine medical conditions.

The best skits really are funny, but a sizeable number don't quite hit the mark and a few too many just fall flat, from the student review level commercials for products like Syphaway, Scab Kill, Wound-Go and Bum Worm Paradise, to the current affairs programme showcasing people who are not missing, and the performers themselves seem ill suited to playing historical or elderly characters. But when it works you get a flavour of how good the show could have been had the writing been more consistent or, given the quality of some of their later work, had the cast themselves taken on this task. There is funny stuff tucked away in here, and for the sketches that work and the energetic enthusiasm of the cast, it's just about worth hunting out.

It should be noted that the original series ran for 12 or 13 episodes, depending on which source you believe, but was re-screened by Channel 5 in January and February 2000 as a seven-part compilation of series highlights entitled We Know Where You Live – Remix, which is the version supplied here.

sound and vision

Made for British TV in the late 1990s, the show is inevitably framed 4:3 and shot on video, but is nicely transferred here, with the contrast and sharpness consistently solid and no obvious compression artefacts or banding. Digital grain is evident, but not in any way intrusive.

The soundtrack is stereo 2.0 and is typically TV clear, with frontal separation largely limited to the music and canned laughter.

extra features

None.

summary

I may not have laughed anywhere near as much as I'd hoped to, but I still can't help but applaud Fremantle's DVD release of this not widely seen and almost lost-in-the-vaults show. It deserves recognition for its cast alone, and despite my groans I had no trouble sticking with it for the intermittent sketches that do score. There are some real duds in there, sure, but it's hard to resist the hotel receptionist who relieves his night-shift boredom by acting out scenarios with imaginary customers, or the cheerful middle class dinner hostess who likes to give her guests "a grope around the toilet parts."

We Know Where You Live - Remix

UK 1997
166 mins
director
Nick Jones
writers
Martin Curtis
Peter Gatley
Mike Haskins
Gary Howe
Gary Keating
Richard Parker
Richard Preddy
Georgia Pritchett
Steve Tombs
Brian West
Russell Young
starring
Fiona Allen
Sanjeev Bhaskar
Jeremy Fowlds
Amanda Holden
Ella Kenion
Somin Pegg

DVD details
region 2
video
4:3 OAR
sound
Dolby 2.0 stereo
languages
English
subtitles .
English
extras
none
distributor
Fremantle Media
release date
3 September 2007
review posted
5 September 2007

See all of Slarek's reviews