I Confess! (And I Am Not Going To Be Seated) OR Hell Hath No Fury Like A Ghostess Scorned

I can’t do it. I just can’t do it…I can’t review even just one episode of the Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) remake. I tried, I REALLY tried, but I just bloody can’t do it.

I know, I know…I kinda sorta promised that I would review the infamous 2000-01 remake, talk about its connections/homages to the original and best Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and eventually also review its three books (two novels and a “The Files” ‘guide’) and the soundtrack and theme song single. But two hours into reviewing “Drop Dead” the night before last, I had an epiphany.

“Y’know, you really, REALLY do not AND should not have to torture yourself like this.”

And it was not just that thought, but also the realization that I was already in serious ‘hate-watching’ mode at not only the first episode, but just its first five minutes. Thirteen episodes of that is a wee bit much, and not just on a screen/monitor, but also in typing too.

There is also what I call the Oscar Wilde factor…and it involves one of my all-time favorite quotes from its author and in general.

“The only thing worst than being talked about is not being talked about.”

I much, MUCH rather talk about the 2000-01 Randall and Hopkirk remake for just two articles (this one and an eventual list about the mess-ups sometime down the line) versus SEVENTEEN(!!! the thirteen episodes, the two novels, “The Files”, and both the soundtrack and theme single reviewed together)…yikes. That would be an incredibly ridiculous amount of discussion (which would pretty much maintain the same theme of “What were they thinking?!” and “What the hell?”) for something that not only took pride in its being a virtual parody of the classic that remotely allowed it to be a remake in the first place, but also took pleasure in disrespecting facets of the classic to various degrees AND playing the ‘everything you did, we can do better!’ game. At least four quotes from the freakin’ “The Files” book epitomize this…starting with Exhibit A.

“The plots of the original series revolved around fairly mundane elements…thefts, murders, bodyguard duties. While other ITC series such as Department S and The Persuaders(!) did their best to break out of the straitjacket of naturalistic drama, the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) seemed determined to break back in. Despite its limitations, people seemed to like it.” – Andy Lane (author of “The Files”)

Yes, people DID AND DO like it…and immensely more than most people have ‘liked’ the remake. Also, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Department S were filmed at the exact same time. So maybe, MAYBE The Persuaders(!) was more groundbreaking than those two programs with its coming a couple of years later, its actually being filmed abroad, AND sporting the likes of not only Roger Moore but also Tony Curtis. But Randall and Hopkirk will always remain my utmost favorite, as well as the utmost favorite for quite a few people, for being so much more down to earth (and there really is a lot to be said for that) than everything surrounding, preceding, and following it.

“At the risk of offending anybody who was involved in the original series, it wasn’t that great. It was made very cheaply and quickly, and for various reasons they couldn’t really capitalize on the central idea. The special effects were fairly primitive, they were limited in what they could do, and I believe that after the first few episodes they got into trouble for dealing too much with the implications of one of the characters being dead, for dealing flippantly with death. I think there was a lot of religious pressure on them. So they steered it towards being basically a fairly straight detective series.” – Charlie Higson

Oh…oh boy. Yes, with the original and ALWAYS BEST series, there were concerns about how to tackle the subject of death in a way that handled it with kid gloves and yet kept it amusing and fun at the same time. Unfortunately, the fussbudgets still had ignorant words to say about it…but that was a given the very moment Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman came up with the concept. Fussbudgets were and are always going to fussbudget…and I would bet all of the tea in the world that a certain precious ‘better than that old thing’ remake and especially its considerably more classless take on death was not at all exempt from that very same criticism that plagued the original. The grandest difference is that one version more than most certainly deserved it far and away over the other.

Also, the version that never deserved such condemnation (and for the most part never had it THAT extreme…come to think of it, the disapproval was much more of a general one than of a religious bent, all the more contrary to the above quoted malarkey) did not have all of its straight detective episodes near the end. Ok, yes, there was “The Ghost Talks”, the last episode in the production order and was a detective story through and through with a living Marty Hopkirk, but the circumstances behind that changed the story at what was practically the last second. And to be honest, that was easily the most straight detective story of the entire twenty-six episode lot…the other twenty-five episodes have such a marvelous blend of detective, supernatural, comedy, drama, and even a smidge of absurdity in a couple of episodes, that you really cannot hang a genre label on the original and BEST series, no matter how hard people like Higson may try.

“The over-riding impression left by the original series is that, apart from the seedy offices of the detective agency, it took place almost entirely in hotel corridors, anonymous apartments, and warehouses, with the occasional excursion into the Elstree back lot for variety.” – Andy Lane

I wonder if he does his shopping at the Tesco miserably occupying the former ‘dreaded’ Elstree back lot. I have never cared at all for the tone in these quotes and the other to follow…both things, as well as the crass attitude towards original cast and crew, and my seeing the third episode/”The Best Years Of Your Death” for the first ever AND only time (all of my 2004 BBC America viewing AND intro to the franchise…no, I’m not at all proud…was the second series/season) in all of its fart joke laden glory, among other very off-putting things, are what royally turned me off the remake roughly ten years ago. I cannot believe I was considering doing seventeen blog articles for this rubbish. By the way, can you believe the above three quotes plus this upcoming one were printed next to pictures from the original and BEST series?

All the more proof that there are some things you just can’t make up.

“There was a sort of dinginess to it, it was all quite downbeat and, well, while it wasn’t exactly cheap looking, it wasn’t expensive looking either. It wasn’t something like The Avengers, which was an absolute classic and was very stylish and had a lot of memorable bits and memorable characters. A lot of people can’t even remember who the original actors were.” – Charlie Higson

Okay, that very last sentence’s syntax and juxtaposition makes it sound like it is talking about the Avengers actors (and as you can see in the above picture, I did not alter it at all). But it is aimed at the original Randall and Hopkirk actors, and what a load of “Our show is infinitely better than that old, wretched show ever hoped to be.” horse manure. I am sitting here gobsmacked as I am typing this…I already knew, for the most part, the remake people very unnecessarily took it upon themselves to deride the original in “The Files”, but I had actually forgotten how bold, brassy, and condescending it all was/is. What a difference not having read these quotes in a decade makes.

By the way, if the original Randall and Hopkirk actors were and are ‘not so memorable’, then I don’t think there would have been a Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Appreciation Society AND conventions in the late 80s and early 90s, nor would Kenneth Cope and Annette Andre have been receiving numerous upon numerous letters and autograph requests all through the years, and not just for Randall and Hopkirk but other projects as well. Mike Pratt has also been very fondly remembered throughout the years by cast, crew, and fans alike, and once had a terrific fan site devoted to him. Not to mention that if Pratt was so ‘forgettable’, his image would not have (sadly) been used in the remake. Also, the very same sets (save the Randall and Hopkirk office, Jeff Randall’s flat, and Jeannie (and Marty) Hopkirk’s apartment) happened to be used interchangeably between Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) AND The Avengers!!

One teeny-tiny bit of praise I will dish out is that Vic Reeves did actually compliment the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) in “The Files”, stating that he loved it and always counted it among his favorite shows. While that was nice to see in a book that is otherwise cancer to the original and BEST series, I still say AND always will say that Kenneth Cope’s Marty Hopkirk has a hundred metric tons more class and style in his pinky than Vic Reeves’ Marty has in his entire way overgrown man-brat being.

And that there is the keyword that separates the two versions…CLASS. The original and BEST (I don’t care how much of a ‘broken record’ I tend to be with this, because it is the truth) Randall and Hopkirk may not have had the most extensive collection of sets, nor the most fancy, overblown, computer-enhanced effects, but it had class. And that class took on several forms…the enduring camaraderie and friendship between Mike Pratt, Kenneth Cope, and Annette Andre (and really, the grand majority of the supporting cast and crew) on and off the set; the bonafide hard work and effort (and nonstop at that, given the cast and crew had absolutely next to no break in the fourteen months they worked on the series) that went into each performance in each episode, the genuine writing behind each script, the sheer heart that went into making the characters exquisitely likable (something that cannot said at all about ANY of the characters in the remake) and beautifully only human, leaving certain things to the imagination, not resorting to boorish humor and situations, and most especially noteworthy of all, nobody, NOBODY involved with the original Randall and Hopkirk went out of their way to bash another series, cast, crew, production, this or that to prop their own. That said, if considerably less bashing of the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) had occurred on the part of the remake people, as well as none of the terrible attitudes said to be had by the remakers towards any and all original cast and crew contacted, then I would have left well enough alone. But if supporting and defending the forever BEST Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and its forever great people makes me a ‘fanatic’ that cannot be described with words from a dictionary from the 1950s per a quite unnecessary comment about the remake on a website to which I refuse to link, so be it. At least I am in remarkably good company with the likes of Kenneth Cope and Annette Andre, that is if ‘fanatics’ includes any and everyone who frowns upon the remake. And given the context of that comment, I think it should, and I know that Mr. Cope and Ms. Andre most definitely AND rightfully do not approve of the remake themselves. And I cannot blame them one iota between how one of them was treated when approached about participating in the remake and how two downright despicable characters in its very first episode/”Drop Dead” were named after Cope and Andre…Kenneth Crisby and Annette Stylus. Note how they did not just usurp Cope’s first name, but also his initials. Coincidence? I honestly cannot help but think not.

Kenneth Cope: “Did you see the remake they did?”

Cyril Frankel: “No.”

Annette Andre: “Yes.”

KC: “It was totally unbelievable.”

AA: “I saw three episodes. I couldn’t believe it..such junk.”

CF: “I was surprised they didn’t consult Monty (Berman) and myself.”

KC: “Yeah..they asked me, and I refused.”

CF: “Good.”

KC: “They used stuff which we put in anyway. They shouldn’t have done it.” – “My Late Lamented Friend And Partner” commentary, 2007 Network Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) Special Edition DVD set.

_______________________________________________

“What I found with the remake was that the relationship and chemistry between the three people was absolutely non-existent. It really was non-existent, there was no relationship.” – Annette Andre, TV Zone #218/August 2007, “The Ghost Talks and the Widow” by Anthony Brown.

_______________________________________________

“There was a remake…I nearly got killed because of it. The problem was Michael and I could act without being conceited in any way. But those two guys, they’re stand-up comedians, they’re very very funny, and I’ve seen them, they’re good, I like them, they make me laugh…but they can’t act. And I was in Liverpool in a taxi, and this guy had seen the remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), and he was telling me how much he hated it, how much he loathed it, and that it was no good and not anything like the original. But unfortunately, *cocks his head* he was doing it like that, talking to me in the back, and he hit a bus head-on. And he could have killed me…that would have been amusing, I suppose, in a funny way. The ghost got killed by the remake!

They wanted me to do something in it, and they were a bit rude and silly. It’s so easy to be pleasant in life, and I got thrown about a bit. The ghost in that long coat* was so wrong. If they’d ask me to visit and give advice, or offer stuff freely and with love, I would have told them “Don’t let him wear the long coat, it looks STUPID!”. Anyway, he was supposed to jump in next to Michael Pratt, who was the original gentleman, who is now a ghost and in white, and because he did die for real, and the idea was he was a ghost and stuff. And they wanted me to come into the scene, but I refused. Anyway, he stood next to Mike and said “I am a better ghost than you.” And I just…they were abusing dialogue that was already in the scene directed at me originally. And I didn’t like it because it was taking the mickey out of Michael Pratt. And his estate was there, and somebody should have stood up and said no. And I did, but they used the bit, but I wasn’t in the scene, because I was supposed to make it a threesome as a figure in white, but I wouldn’t do it.

I don’t think it worked. They spent so much money on it…they spent more on one episode than we did on the whole of fourteen. And they had special effects, they had special effects which were great and much better than ours. But I’m very fond of when my ghost goes a bit faint when he walks through a wall because, as I told you, it’s on a sheet of glass behind the camera. But I got very fond of that because it was pleasant. We were in the hotel corridor once looking for an escaped person or something, and I’m jumping in the rooms, because it’s nighttime and to see who’s in. And I jump in this room, nothing, and the next one, nothing there…and I come out the next one, and I say “I’m terribly sorry, madam!”. Obviously, there’s a woman there, and it’s all off-screen, you don’t see it. It’s just a funny thing…it was my idea. They nicked it in the remake, and they disturb a sort of terrible, dreadful, perverted sex scene, which is unnecessary. What we prided ourselves on..much later, not at the time because we didn’t know it was going to happen..but now, the whole family can watch our show. And nobody ever, ever, EVER is going to be upset as a parent about their kiddies watching it with them. They’re not going to be embarrassed. I may sound a bit prune-faced and silly, but I believe there are some standards left.” – Kenneth Cope, “The Ghost Talks”, 2005 Umbrella Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) DVD set.

Caroline “That sound you just heard? A worldwide mob of teenyboppers and twentysomethings all breathing a sigh of relief that I left David Tennant alone.” Smith

* – That was/is what I call a Neo Coat, for it was very popular thanks to The Matrix being a super hot property at the time. Nothing SCREAMS 1999/2000 like a Neo Coat, and at one point during my high school days, I swear I saw at least five-ten different people wearing those very coats practically every school day.  They allowed remake Marty to rock that damned thing, and yet they had the bloody nerve to deem the original Randall and Hopkirk ‘dated’. That alone is funnier than all of the ‘jokes’ throughout the remake combined.

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