PHILIP NOLAN MY VIEW
Could the satirists hope to top ‘going for an English’? We’ll find out tomorrow...
t was voted the sixth best comedy sketch in the history of British TV. A group of Indian friends, played by regular cast members Sanjeev Bhaskar, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Syal and Nina Wadia ( later famous as Zainab Masood in EastEnders), go for ‘an English’, ordering the blandest food on the menu and 24 plates of chips.
It was a savagely accurate parody of the late-night habits of young Brits arriving into Indian restaurants and trying to outdo each other by ordering a mountain of poppa dums a nd the hottest curries on the menu.
It placed Goodness Gracious Me, right, firmly in the pantheon of the funniest comedy shows on BBC2 and, by way of celebrating the channel’s 50th birthday, it returns for a one- off special tomorrow night at 11pm.
The great beauty of the show was that while it ostensibly dealt with the Asian experience of British life, many of the sketches applied to any ethnic minority. There was the father who insisted that everything, and everyone famous, had an Indian connection. The same would equally apply to us, who look for an Irish angle to everything, or to ancestry to establish a claim on anyone with an Irish-sounding surname.
Then there were the Kumars, upwardly mobile Indian yuppies who called themselves the Koopars to fit in, and joined the local tennis club to become more English than the English themselves.
When the show started on television in 1996 (it already had a run on radio), this was a radical departure, the first time Indian humour reached the mainstream. Bhaskar and Syal, who later married, continue with their spoof chatshow, The Kumars, on Sky One.
It will be fun to see what new gems they come up with – and to find out if they can better ‘going for an English’. Gabriel Byrne (above) and Michael Gambon star in the BBC debut for Quirke, set in Dublin in the 1950s. Byrne plays Quirke (we never get to know his Christian name), who, despite his rackety life and serious drinking habit, holds down the position of city pathologist. And he takes his job very seriously – so seriously that when, one night, he happens upon his adoptive brother, Malachy (Nick Dunning), obstetric consultant and upright citizen, behaving suspiciously in the path lab, Quirke is determined to find out what’s going on. Why is Malachy completing the paperwork for a recently deceased patient, Christine Falls – and why is Christine’s body missing in the morning? Quirke’s dogged investigation is soon leading him into extremely murky – and dangerous – territory.