Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights (and some random NY Mets memories)--
Are you familiar with Peter Kay? Unless you're British, the answer is probably "no". That's okay, it's not too late. Peter Kay is a much beloved Northern English comedian from a town near Manchester called Bolton (not exactly SW1). He dropped out of school at the age of 15 or 16, and, after working some awful jobs, applied for enrollment at an acting school, where he met former Met, Mookie Wilson. His application was full of untrue information, but, as the school didn't perform (get it?) any background checks, they accepted him. Today he is probably Northern England's favorite comedian, but he remains completely unknown to US audiences, (not unlike Tyler Perry is to the white community in the States). Well, I'm hoping to help change that (like Doc Gooden changed the way people think about looking like rapper Jay-Z).
I was first taken in by his genius (yes, I think his stuff to be truly remarkable), when I caught a single episode of Phoenix Nights last year in the Wycliffe Common Room. They were speaking English, but I couldn't understand a word (sort of like hanging out with Jose Canseco). I still, to this day (and having watched both series multiple times), have to watch the show with the sub-titles turned on. I don't want to steal another great series' thunder, or reduce the uniqueness of Phoenix Nights unhelpfully,... but one can safely compare this show to The Office as being the Northern English equivalent. Darryl Strawberry.
Phoenix Nights stars Peter Kay, wheel chair-bound owner of a drinking club (a dying, if not dead, pub alternative, traditional only to the North of England, though they are all mostly a memory at best these days) called The Phoenix. I believe it was either Met's pitcher Bobby Ojeda or side-armer, Dan Quisenberry, who first coined the very applicable phrase: "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" In keeping with that sentiment, this show, Phoenix Nights, has a very low anthropology, meaning it's very human, with lots of the important content of each conversation left unspoken. Not one person in the entire 12 episodes is more than mildly attractive by media standards. This note-worthy ugly, forgotten-ness of the lives and people portrayed in the show (all of it centers around this club and their attempts to land more customers, despite somewhat stiff competition from the other local club in Bolton, Banana Grove) opens the door for endless, amazing, layers of jokes. Gary Carter. But the show also has a heart and is very touching at points. A little bit of love goes a long way in Bolton. Episode 4 has Peter Kay falling in love. Nothing quite like wheel chair romance to twist the emotions!
The show is only available on UK format (PAL) DVDs though. Many DVD players able to play both US and English DVDs, but check before you get the discs home. I write this in hopes that many of you will discover this most amazing little piece of British Television. I love the photo above, which shows Peter Kay in character, wheeling his way down the Blackpool boardwalk. You can see the "famous" Blackpool Tower behind him in the distance. If you are willing to trust me with a sincere recommendation (I would not, for instance, sincerely recommend the band Sparks, though I love them!), then get yourself a copy of Phoenix Nights. I'm sure it can be tracked down online (as is also the case with Lenny Dykstra, aka Nails' Upperdeck rookie card).
If you like it, there's a lot more Peter Kay out there for you (numerous stand-up concerts, an earlier skit show called The Peter Kay Thing, and some other stuff as well).
p.s., I met Keith Hernandez and Dr. Ruth once backstage at David Letterman.
Posted by John Zahl at 11:33 PM