British television. Haven for all who have lost faith in the over-commercialised, fake-smile junk offered by their own national broadcasters. And the best part of it has to be the comedy.
Though it has to be said the british get both the best and worst. When it's bad it's Jim Davidson and Last Of The Summer Wine. But when it's good, it is totally bloody brilliant. Have I Got News For You, Blackadder, Bottom, The Young Ones, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, I'm Alan Partridge, the list goes on and on. But the cult comedy show of the moment has to be the thoroughly cool Stella Street. I mean, how could I not like a show that at the same time glamorises and takes the piss out of celebs like Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Michael Caine and David Bowie?
Stella Street's concept is both brilliant and simple (so simple in fact that the first season was shot on amateur camcorders): get two comedians to do a whole series of their best impressions, wardrobe and all, and graft a free-flowing narrative around them. In the case of Stella Street, suburban London plays host to a street full of stars (get that title?) 'of stage and screen', all played by the two man team of Phil Cornwall and John Sessions. We get Michael Caine as the neighborhood watchdog, Jack Nicholson gleefully leading scores of blonde bimbettes into the house, John Hurt crying and whining on the sidewalk - always beaten up by cabbies, a terminally lonely Roger Moore, or David Bowie miming his way up the street.
It was a smart move to make Cornwall's Michael Caine the anchor of the show, as it's the best impression of the bunch. It's closely followed by his brilliant Jack Nicholson. Overall it does seem that Sessions is the lesser impressionist of the two, though his Al Pacino (Hoohaa-ing all over the place, forever wearing his Tony Montana pinstripe suit) and especially his version of a highly unstable and psychotic Joe Pesci (You motherfucker, you!) rank among the best things Stella Street has to offer.
But the brilliant impressions are what attract you. What keeps you watching is how all these characters interact. Pacino, Nicholson, Caine and Pesci playing Trivial Pursuit on christmas eve, Mick Jagger (in his overalls) and a terminally wasted Keith Richards running the cornershop (Mick plagued by nightmares of the Beatles taking over the business), a wide-eyed Jimmy Hill forever knocking footballs through Joe Pesci's living room window - thus risking slow death at the latter's hands.
All this plus the constant spectre of lesser stars (David Essex and Tony Blackburn, anyone?) moving into the neighborhood. Still, everything's better than normal folk and there's more and more of those moving in, from matching tracksuit-wearing couples to dutch hippies. Don't worry though, Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman are soon to join the parade.
Stella Street is on friday nights on BBC2