The Kenny Everett Video Show – DVD Review
By Roger Crow
It’s 40 years since I used to watch The Kenny Everett Video Show, a riotous mix of animation, sketches, music videos, star ‘interviews’ and general nonsense. It was must-see TV in an age of three black and white channels.
At a time when comedy was mostly safe, cosy sitcoms, Kenny was a breath of fresh air. A cross between Monty Python and Tiswas, there was little wonder megastars like Rod Stewart, Elton John and Bryan Ferry (complete with cigarette) and others lined up to take part.
Produced and directed by David Mallet, who made his name on some epic pop videos, “Cuddly” Ken pushed the medium to breaking point with clever in-camera effects. It was also a joy to turn the lens on the behind-the-scenes crew occasionally, stick a pie in the face of a cameraman, while some hit-and-miss sketches were doubly funny because of the sound of the crew laughing themselves silly. (They include co-writer Ray Cameron, aka the dad of Michael McIntrye).
“A show ahead of its time”
And then there was Hot Gossip, the controversial dance troupe who writhed around to a series of tunes from the era. And occasionally more dodgy classics like Lou Reed’s post-watershed track ‘Walk on the Wild Side’. The fact this stuff was being aired around 7pm is remarkable, and wouldn’t stand a chance of being screened today.
It’s obviously fascinating to see future West End star and now astronaut-in-training Sarah Brightman in the days when no one would have believed she’d some day be one of the most famous women in showbusiness.
Hot Gossip aside, the first few episodes are relatively tame, but as Ken settles in, he starts pushing things as far as they will go. It’s great to see his old Captain Kremmen cartoons (animated by original Danger Mouse team Cosgrove Hall), and be gobsmacked by the flashframes, which these days would appear after the watershed. But while we now live in an era where everyone gets angry about everything, and even man-sized tissues are in danger of being renamed, its fascinating to witness a show of ahead of its time, when anything went.
It’s also great to see a wealth of pop legends, and beloved acts like Darts, often belting out tracks that have never been heard since. And the odd turn who vanished without a trace. Levinsky Sinclair anyone? No, me either.
I’m amazed how addictive the stuff is, and though there is a certain amount of repetition (inevitable given the binge-watch nature of these discs), it’s easy enough to ignore. Not every gag hits its mark. Marcel Wave, the Gallic Lothario is still hilarious, while Brother Lee Love (the gospel singer with giant hands) tends to outstay his welcome.
And yes, there’s the inevitable dodgy reference, and animation which means there’s little chance of seeing this on TV any time soon. However, the uncut, warts-and-all discs are a must for any fan of anarchic seventies and eighties comedy.
Kenny Everett was one of the most unique comic forces in showbusiness and witnessing that impish charm again after all these years is a joy. Remember, this is the guy that helped launch ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (as seen in the namesake movie), so there’s a whole generation who have no idea how important he was in whatever medium.
As David Mallet helmed some of the best loved videos of all time, there’s little wonder the show is a platform for some of them, and for this Kenny fan who still remembers watching his New Year special in the minutes leading up to 1980, it’s a joy to see that special again after all these years.
Controversial, hilarious, ground-breaking and utterly unique. Essential for any lover of classic TV.
‘The Kenny Everett Video Show’ is available to pre-order at £40 from Network