TV Preview: Snodgrass, Sky Arts


When it comes to comedy Sky is currently on a roll. From Hunderby to their recent Love Matters series they've been delivering the comic goods with enviable consistency and originality and they have done it again with Snodgrass, which goes out this Thursday and stars Ian Hart as John Lennon. Pretty canny casting as Hart has already played John Lennon twice on film, in The Hours and Times and Backbeat.

But in this one-off comedy drama, set in 1991, written by David Quantick and based on a short story by Ian R MacLeod there is a twist. Lennon left the Beatles in 1962 in a strop because they decided to release the throwaway Merseybeat twaddle How Do You Do It? instead of Love Me Do. The rest, as they say, is alternative history. The band plodded on but as undistinguished also rans and by 1991 they are on a shabby reunion tour churning out the old hits: "Solo careers up the kazoo again," mutters Lennon as he sees a poster while on his way to his umpteenth tedious office job.

In this version of history Lennon doesn't have to imagine no possessions because he is skint, lodging in a house in the Manchester suburbs. David Quantick paints a tragic-comic picture of what might have been. But at least Lennon still has that Goonish sense of humour. The title of the story comes from his habit of calling ordinary suburbanites Snodgrasses, "washing the wife every Sunday and giving the car a cuddle every Friday night."

Lennon is still the rebel, pouring withering scorn on bus drivers with his Liverpool lip (there's a Hitchcockian cameo from Quantick behind Lennon on the bus if you squint really hard at just the right time).  Ian Hart gives the part just the right amount of pathos and there is also an effective, evocative Beatlesque soundtrack written by former Boo Radleys lynchpin Martin Carr. Imagine a more wistful version of The Rutles.

This is a different type of comedy for former NME writer Quantick, who most recently worked regularly as one of the writing team on Harry Hill's TV Burp. It is funny but also strangely touching. In this parallel universe Lennon changed the course of history by leaving the Beatles, but it also meant that he was not shot by Mark Chapman in 1980. "We could have been bigger than the Hollies," he reflects at one point. But then he might also have been dead. Look on the bright side. No Beatles dominating the world of pop music? At least John Lennon is still alive. And there is probably no Oasis. So it's not all bad then.

Snodgrass is on Sky Arts on April 25, 9pm.








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