Original Run: September 13th, 1987 – December 30th, 1994
Created by: Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran
Directed by: Geoffrey Sax, Graeme Harper
Written by: Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran
Music by: Modest Mussorgsky, Alan Hawkshaw
Cast: Rik Mayall, Marsha Fitzalan, Michael Troughton
Yorkshire Television, Alomo Productions, ITV Studios, Fremantle, 26 Episodes + 3 Specials, 25 Minutes (per episode)
Out of the three shows that Rik Mayall starred in, The New Statesman seems to be the least known, at least from an American standpoint. While I have friends that love The Young Ones, Bottom and Mayall as a comedic actor, none of them knew about this show until I introduced them to it.
It’s been a favorite of mine for years and I actually discovered it on a tape sent to me from a friend in the UK, who I used to tape trade with in the ’90s.
The show is a satire of British politics in the opulent ’80s. It features Mayall as Alan B’Stard, a Conservative Party backbencher in Parliament that schemes his way to more power, as the show progresses.
B’Stard commits terrible crimes and has no morals whatsoever and while that may sound like the recipe for a completely unlikable character, with Mayall playing him, he brings to life the show’s despicable main character with his charisma, charm and stupendous ability to make it all work.
Alan B’Stard is an iconic character even if modern audiences aren’t aware of him, especially in the States. While it’s easy to see how UK conservatives of the ’80s would’ve been offended by the show’s over-the-top critique of them, I think it’d be really hard for any fan of comedy and political satire not to laugh. Mayall is simply perfect.
Each episode over the four series is pretty good and has a purpose behind it. The writers hit a lot of topical issues from ’87 through ’94 and even if this feels like it’s only showing things from one side of the political spectrum, it’s still entertaining.
Also, my view could be skewed because I’m American and I’m not really a fan of any political party or mainstream political ideals. They’re all authoritarian fascists in my book.
Pairs well with: other British sitcoms starring Rik Myall.