In the late 90s the BBC made the surprising decision to remake Randall and Hopkirk, a series that had always been the property of ITV. Perhaps even more surprisingly, they cast two comedians in the lead roles, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, and began screening the series from March 2000.
Although pre-publicity saw the series get almost 11 million viewers on its first night, audience reaction to the series was not favourable and the ratings began to slide heavily... around five million had left it by the time the six-part series came to an end.
A follow-up series of seven episodes began in September 2001, with ratings sinking even further... when the programme had its final broadcast in October of that year just over three million had bothered to tune in, and the series was not recommissioned a second time.
Older readers of this site may recall that I had a entire section dedicated to the programme, just like I do for the original series. However, I've decided to mothball it, pending seeing the series again. I often felt that I perhaps viewed the new stuff through the eyes of a "purist", as it were, and couldn't take it on its own terms. Conversely, I also gave a lot of the episodes high ratings (seven of them were rated as above-standard, and only one below-par) and did want to revisit it again just to see what I thought with almost a decade of hindsight. The series' Producer and chief writer Charlie Higson was a regular viewer of the internet in those days and visited the site to see the feedback. While I never felt I was any less than honest, I did always wonder if I unconsciously held back knowing that the person who was behind the show was going to be reading. (Charlie himself always urged that site owners should be honest in their reviews, and never sought to censor, I should point out... a nice, encouraging man).
On reflection then the real thing that held the series back was the two leads. I personally find Vic and Bob likeable, but actors they ain't - a fact I'm sure they'd admit themselves - and while the TV audiences gave them a chance, they never proved themselves as being able to really convince. Ultimately the series was quite well made and had some very good guest stars... in general terms of professionalism then it was of a strong standard. Yet sadly the lasting impression is always of a series headlined by two non-actors, a series that, while perhaps of a higher creative standard than the original, never had its charm.