TV: Count Arthur Strong, The Three Wishes, BBC1

I've been looking forward to this episode since I interviewed Count Arthur Strong's creator Steve Delaney in the Spring. I innocently asked him if he felt there were similarities between his creation and Graham Fellows' creation John Shuttleworth. Delaney told me that Shuttleworth had an upcoming cameo in the series but at the time I was told not to tell anyone. And now here it is and it doesn't disappoint.

When the Count reveals that he was once in a rock band he and Michael (Rory Kinnear) head off to meet the other remaining member. The band split acrimoniously after tensions surfaced "like a Steradent tablet in a glass of dentures." Although the Count may be mistakenly referring to the Beatles as at one point he mentions "veterinarian Linda McCartney."

It's road trip time as they drive to Sheffield to bury the hatchet with, of course, John Shuttleworth, who these days is working on the hospice and carvery circuit. And before you can say "Oof" they are working on a reunion. But Arthur has other problems to overcome when he finds himself short of money in a pub. The only solution is a spot of pool hustling, which is a cue, no pun intended, for some brilliant physical comedy on the green baize.

This latest series has had a mixed response and maybe it will never win over the fans who prefer the radio version, but this episode really is excellent. Shuttleworth basically does Shuttleworth – he even gets to do one of his songs – and the two of them work together as if they really are an old double act. You can almost see a bizarro world parallel universe where Shuttleworth has the series and Strong has a guest cameo. Formidable work all round.

Count Arthur Strong, The Three Wishes, Friday, June 30, BBC1, 8.30pm.

 

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