Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Frost Report

It's 40 years since The Frost Report won the Golden Rose of Montreux- and the BBC decided to celebrate with two hours of back-slapping.   We saw all those bright young men in their grainy black and white glory- Cleese, Barker, Corbett, Frost - and then we saw them as they are now- grey, paunchy, semi-retired. Well, we saw most of them; we couldn't see Barker because he's dead.

I say "bright young men" because this was a very boysy show. They had Julie Felix singing twee, little folk songs (why?) and the very funny, puckish Sheila Steafel playing stooge to the men- but otherwise it was a show written by boys, starring boys, addressed to boys.  They even had the gall to devote one of their weekly reports to the subject of Women- the patronising gits! 

Individual sketches held up well- the one where Cleese, Barker and Corbett stand in line- tall, medium, small- to  talk about class is iconic- but the show that won the Rose- when they showed it complete- turned out to be a scattergun affair- a mix of mild satire, pre-Python silliness and corny, old  jokes- held together by Frost sitting behind a desk and speaking to camera. Sir David is now a mild-mannered, fluffy-haired television grandee, but back then he had  this really sneery, cocky persona. We thought of him as the voice of youth speaking truth to age, but in retrospect he just seems smug and annoying. He was never really a comedian, his timing is hit and miss, his delivery over-emphatic, grating, without nuance. They should have hired someone like Frankie Howerd instead.

The Frost Report is important because it was the launch pad for a number of acts that went on to to define British sketch comedy in the 70s and 80s- the Two Ronnies, the Goodies, the Pythons- all of whom either appeared in or wrote for it.  Steafel-  as fine a comedian as any of them- featured in none of their famous shows- all of which were even boysier than the Frost Report. You know what? That makes me really quite cross. 

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