Made my way through the first series of Big Train… and it’s still a very funny show. I’d agree with Graham Linehan’s suggestion on the commentary track that he let some of the sketches run a bit long, especially since the DVD features thirty minutes’ worth of unused jokes which are just as quality as anything that was broadcast. For me the stand-out, trademark sketch has to be the one where the showjumpers harass some firemen. It’s an idea that makes no sense on paper, and can’t have been scripted in any great detail, but when you see the cast beaming like happy children as the fireman finally lets them play with the hose… it’s comedy gold. Of course, as a Spaced fan, it’s always good to see Simon Pegg and Mark Heap at work (Kevin Eldon too, of course!) … but as a wannabe-Feminist it’s interesting to hear Linehan’s genuine regret over how little coverage he gave the female members of the cast. Thankfully Julia Davis and Amelia Bullmore have since gone on to great things, both as performers and writers, so clearly it didn’t hold them back!
The weird thing is I was looking at the brilliant Bullmore, and thinking “that face looks familiar… have I seen her in something before?” Well, it turns out that was a bit of an understatement, as I now realise that she is totally ubiquitous! Most recently, she had a recurring role as DI Drake’s mother in Ashes to Ashes, and a starring role in the second series of I’m Alan Partridge, as Alan’s “illegal immigrant” girlfriend… but she’s also cropped up in The IT Crowd, Festival, Brass Eye and Jam. Now there’s a CV to envy! In truth I should also be singing the praises of Davis (that almost rhymes) even though I had a hard time liking her last brainchild, Nighty Night. It was a tad too mean-spirited for my tastes, but she’s been in some great shows, and is clearly a fine actress (both comic, and otherwise)… and anyone’s who’s worked with Annie Griffin, as Davis did in Coming Soon, gets big love from me.
Oh, and this is one of the most beautifully presented DVDs I’ve ever seen. Running with the train theme, all the menus feature tiny models of various characters from the show, arranged around the track of a model train set. I know that doesn’t sound too exciting, but it looks wonderful. Top marks!