Gurney Slade walks off the set of his sitcom to find something… different…
As guest star Anneke Wills points out, The Strange World of Gurney Slade was made in 1960 – before experimentation with psychedelic drugs led to all sorts of weirdnesses and wonderful possibilities later in that decade. But if you didn’t know its production date, you could well believe that it hails from that later era. Anthony Newley effectively goes off on an extended riff for six half hour episodes that usually provoke a wry smile rather than a belly laugh (occasionally because 50 years of changing mores means that some of his innocent lines have a new meaning nowadays), with the situations becoming ever more surreal and outlandish.
Network have done this lost classic proud, with crisp clean prints of the episodes, an amusing title menu, and a wealth of pictorial material as accompaniment. They’ve also got the contemporary promos, which probably bemused the audience rather than enticed them, as well as an extended promo prepared by Newley, apparently for the show’s only rerun in 1963. The show’s star recognises what the public perceived as Gurney Slade’s weaknesses, and is quite prescient about the way it will be regarded in years to come.
Don’t go into this expecting a barrel of laughs, but admire the talents of Newley and those around him – and remember that a lot of the set-ups were being done for the first time on television, even if many of them seem familiar now. “A prophet is without honour in his own country” may well be this show’s most appropriate motto.
Verdict: If you’re interested in the development of British TV comedy, this is a must; for others, 6/10