Six Characters in Search of an Author
October 17, 2011 11:11 PM   Subscribe

The Strange World of Gurney Slade was a "sitcom" starring Anthony Newley (previously). Airing on British television in late 1960, the show's self-reflexivity, bizarreness, and deep experimentation was truly ahead of its time for television. All six episodes are available on YouTube.

Episode 1 (part 1, part 2)
Episode 2 (part 1, part 2)
Episode 3 (part 1, part 2)
Episode 4 (part 1, part 2)
Episode 5 (part 1, part 2)
Episode 6 (part 1, part 2)
posted by Pope Xanax IV (12 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
Man. If the first five minutes of the first episode are indicative of anything… this show was *amazing*!

Seriously… I don't want to give any spoilers, but… they don't just break the fourth wall, they move it, paint it, hang a picture on it, break it down, and then reconstruct it in an entirely different location.

Guess I'm not going to bed early, after all.
posted by vertigo25 at 12:28 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Watched this the other day in one sitting, having received the DVD in the post (it was one of those that was affected by the riot-related fire at the warehouse last summer - I'd ordered it months ago and forgotten about it, so it was a nice surprise). It really is extraordinary. I wondered whether it was post-worthy and the answer seems to be "Yes, but not by me." Thanks, though.

Although I'd quite like to see it now, I get the impression that Can Heironymous Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? is a bit of a mess, though an interesting one, but this is pin-sharp. And because it was shot on 35mm, and because no one's watched it much in the last 50 years, it looks beautiful.

It slots right into the tradition of English absurdism that was at its height at the time - N.F. Simpson, Spike Milligan, Richard Lester (possibly), later in the decade The Prisoner (episode 4, where Slade is on trial for not being especially funny, is hugely reminiscent of Fall Out, for example) and after that Python, of course. Also worth watching are the trailers - one, especially, which must have been for the series' sole repeat in 1963 has Newley talking to a shabby, ripped poster of Gurney Slade about how, although the series was a brave experiment, the audience didn't like it very much, and we have to reluctantly accept that the audience is always right.

Also, it seems to be the source of David Bowie's Newley obsession (which led him to mockneyism, show tunes and bisexuality).


If possible, buy the DVD, if only to convince Network that releasing this sort of thing is a very good idea indeed. Which it is.
posted by Grangousier at 1:49 AM on October 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

For completists, Gurney Slade is a real place in the UK. It's in Somerset, on the A37 between Farrington Gurney and Binegar.
posted by cromagnon at 3:41 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I thought the signpost in ep 3 might be real - that it might have been shot in Gurney Slade - but apparantly not, as the village is nowhere near Canterbury.
posted by Grangousier at 4:06 AM on October 18, 2011

Perhaps they felt safer around Cantebury, the real Gurney Slade is only 5 miles from Midsomer Norton, a dangerous part of the country to stand out in any way.
posted by biffa at 4:12 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow, this first episode is really great. The really captured the terrible sitcom in the first couple minutes--I was ready to switch off right before he walked out.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on October 18, 2011

At first I was all :-|

And then I was all :-|
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:59 AM on October 18, 2011

great post! minor quibble: early 1960s, not late...
posted by kuppajava at 8:28 AM on October 18, 2011

great post! minor quibble: early 1960s, not late...
posted by kuppajava at 4:28 PM on October 18

OP said "...late 1960". Not 1960s.
posted by Decani at 8:34 AM on October 18, 2011

The last two episodes were good. What an odd little series.
posted by Decani at 9:25 AM on October 18, 2011

Trivia filter: as he walks off the set, the man with the clipboard and the headphones who tries half-heartedly to stop him is a very young Geoffrey Palmer, listed in imdb credits as floor manager. Probably best known from As Time Goes By, but often pops up unexpectedly in one thing or another.
posted by marsha56 at 12:40 PM on October 18, 2011

The dog in the first episode sounds almost exactly like I imagine Gaspode the Wonder Dog to sound like.
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:30 AM on October 19, 2011

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