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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

The New Statesman: The Complete Series (review)

I have great memories of this being one of the most wickedly funny TV shows I’d ever seen, when I first caught it on PBS almost 20 years ago, and I’m delighted to have this new DVD set, containing all 26 episodes, reconfirm that. Sure, some very topical references date the series, which aired from 1987 to 1992 , and some very pointed cultural ones — the show hailed from Britain — will go over the heads of contemporary American viewers. But this remains a vicious, blacker-than-black satire of ultraconservative political philosophy, one that’s become, alas, actually somewhat scarily closer to reality in the time since it was created. Brilliant comic actor Rik Mayall (Valiant) stars as Alan B’Stard, Tory Member of Parliament from the fictional constituency of Holtemprice, who was — at least in the Thatcher/Reagan era — an outrageous caricature of a far-right-wing politician: avowedly greedy, he blackmails for fun, not because he needs the money (he’s already a millionaire); gleefully cruel, he proposes that the best way to eliminate poverty is to kill the poor; lecherous and sadistic, he maintains a hate-filled marriage of convenience while abusing all manner of mistresses and prostitutes. Yes, this is a comedy… one that slices you into a million paper cuts and squeezes lemon juice into them. The writing is razor sharp and is starting to look downright prophetic — Karl Rove has clearly taken lessons from B’Stard — but what’s really astonishing is Mayall’s comedic brutality: he latches like a bulldog onto B’Stard’s malevolence and wrings it dry. Oh so dry. The only extra in the set is the feature-length special “Who Shot Alan B’Stard?” though, weirdly, it’s on Disc Four, when it should logically be on Disc Two, where it falls chronologically within the run of the series. buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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tv on dvd

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