Brian Pern: 45 Years Of Prog And Roll brings Simon Day‘s aging rocker back to our screens for a third series, just over a year after the last one. Aptly, in that time, Pern has taken a year out, albeit to recover from a heart attack, and now is back to celebrate 45 years in the rock business with a new album and tour, and an interview with award-winning filmmaker Rhys Thomas OBE.
With Day still spoofing the life of Genesis original Peter Gabriel, Michael Kitchen is as fabulous and sweary as ever as the miserable and sardonic John, not behaving as any decent manager would, for example turning down Children In Need on his behalf, saying he ‘told them to fuck off politely’, to which Brian exclaims, “You didn’t!!!”, and John replies that he put it as “I told them – fuck off… please”.
Dialogue is fantastic in this, including in its delivery, and when Brian goes for a photoshoot, he’s told, “You need to lift your head up. I can see two of your chins.”
Suranne Jones plays his dominating American personal assistant and, now wife, Astrid Maddox-Pern, hence being Yoko Ono to his John Lennon; and his entourage includes his dentist (since he’s had a new set of gnashers put in) and his Ocada delivery driver! And to top it off, we learn none of the old band invited to his wedding, including Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse) and Tony Pebble (Nigel Havers).
The first series started off accidentally mislabelling the names of the contributors whenever someone famous appeared onscreen, and it’s a joke they’ve carried on with, for example when Brian appears on Desert Island Discs, Kirsty Young is credited as Sue Lawley, the previous host of the Radio 4 show. Cameos like hers also make this a treat as she introduces him as “a rock musician, humanitarian and inventor of world music”. The first episode also includes John Thomson as Thotch Fan Club President, Perry Boothe, plus a number of other famous faces in non-speaking roles. Even some of the end credits are a bit suspect. For example, I doubt the Dubbing Mixer is really “Benny Fuck”.
Overall, this latest Brian Pern excursion is just brilliant from start to finish. Everyone is on point and it reminds me of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa which felt like it had been edited down to perfection, so there was not a minute wasted.
The only downside I’d say is the lack of faith the BBC has in it. The first series, as some do, started off on BBC4. It was a success and was promoted to BBC2 for the second, three-part series, in December 2014. The third series has sadly been relegated to back to BBC4. Why? I would also like six episodes rather than three, but then again, I’d rather have three perfect episodes than six half-baked ones.
Brian Pern: 45 Years Of Prog And Roll continues next Thursday on BBC4 at 10pm, and two of his albums are available to buy online: 65 and The Sum of the Sum of the Sum of the Sum of the Parts: The Very Best of Brian Pern, Thotch and Beyond.
You can also book tickets for An Evening With Brian Pern – One Night Only on February 1st at the Lyric Theatre in London. I wish I loved in London for this, but get in quick as there’s only a handful of seats left in the Balcony section as I type.
If you missed the first episode, you can watch the episode on BBC iPlayer, up until February 13th. Also, click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Episode 1 Score: 10/10
Director: Rhys Thomas
Producer: Rhys Thomas
Writers: Simon Day and Rhys Thomas
Sound: Ben Newth
Cast and contributors:
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.