When SOTCAA wrote to Jack Docherty in 1998 and asked him whether the Absolutely pilot still existed, he amusingly replied 'It's in a box labelled 'We don't know where this box is'.' Ten years later, however, we all know exactly where the pilot is - it's in HMV. What a different place the world is thanks to SOTCAA. (Surely 'Gordon Kennedy's tireless commitment to his fanbase?' - Ed)
Useless, badly-punctuated puffsite abomination DVD Times declared that the pilot wasn't much to write home about, since it mostly contains material from the series as transmitted. Well, yes, but it's that 'mostly' that causes all the goosebumps. So it fell upon us at SOTCAA to put on our Edit News slippers once more...
Opens exactly as 1.1 up to the point where the upside-down Baikie starts to swing back and forth. On the transmitted episode, we hear him hiss "Get me down!" before swinging out of sight to the sound of a loud crash; on the pilot, he continues to swing while the cast names slowly flash up one by one in an ill-advised brush-script typeface. After these cast names have appeared, Baikie swings camera-right and we finally hear the crash, which dissolves into a simple white-on-black (also brush-script) 'Absolutely' caption. At this point, the Bodgers, Banks and Sparkes theme (later reworked as the 'Death' song in Series 3) was the show's sig tune. Phwoar.
We return to the same set for the job interview sketch, also from 1.1. This is identical except for Docherty muttering "Well he's certainly gonna have to shave off his beard isn't he?" after (the beardless) Baikie exits. On 1.1, Banks' "Let's see the next candidate" cuts to a Denzil monologue - on the pilot, it cuts to:
Trouser Dance (Greensleeves)
A different performance to the one in 1.5, this time involving two John Sparkes. Yes, two. Not really twice as funny though, which might explain the re-think.
Interview Panel Link (Impersonating a bass guitar)
As seen in 1.1, except we're treated to a few seconds more of the music. Instead of cutting to the dial-a-pizza sketch, however, we cut to:
Shy Men at Party
As seen in 1.6, except this is backed with the bass guitar music rather than the disco thump we hear on the transmitted show. The sketch ends differently, however - instead of Hunter remarking that he can hear the sea (which we now realise was dubbed for 1.6, and segued into Bert erecting his deckchair on Brighton beach), the pair are startled by a knock on the door. Fearing that someone will come in and talk to them, they decide to hide in the cupboard. As they enter the cupboard, a vicar (Baikie) exits, saying "Thank God for that" as he re-joins the party.
Animal Liberation/'I'm Justified' (Song)
After a blackout, it's time for this sketch from 1.6. As Docherty attempts to leave the laboratory, however, the protestors hear footsteps and hide. Enter Baikie as a comedy mad scientist, who sings a Monster Mash/'I'm Evil'-type ditty on the virtues of vivisection, complete with smoking beagle puppets, the three protestors on backing vocals, and a framed government licence on the wall entitling him to 'Do whatever you bloody well like'. Lots of nice lines in this song: 'Nothing could be finer than to test some new eyeliner / I'm a priest in the church of research...'
Don and George - Ad break/Cantankerous
The sequence from 1.2, with Don and George in the animal cage, the laboratory setting later being re-imagined as the home of the Nice Family's hamster. Don, who has yet to acquire his strange spectacles, still bangs on the wall, telling them to keep the noise down. Two further differences: the ad-cue symbol is much bigger in this pilot version, almost ridiculously so, and the intended ad bumper features the brush-script 'Absolutely' caption overlaid on the action - we can conclude, therefore, that the rushes to this sketch (or at least a clean version without the ad-cue and the caption) still existed up until the editing of 1.2. Oh, and we also hear Don instructing us to make a cup of tea.
Little Girl - Death
The original response to Don's "What about death?" from the previous sketch. This is identical to the performance in 1.1, except that "I don't know anything else, I do not" (which later cut to Bert on the telephone saying "...want any more teeth") is actually her final line, after which she begins scribbling on her hand in the biro she's been holding.
Calum Gilhooley Visits John
Identical to 1.1, except for some unnecessary exposition as Docherty hears the doorbell ("It's nine o'clock, I was just going to have a quiet night in..."). The sketch ends with Docherty going upstairs - instead of him appearing on the catwalk, however, we simply cut to:
Bert - Hospital Corridor
Another completely unused sketch (and the only item in the pilot shot outside the studio), this features a static shot of Bert in a hospital corridor ambling towards us, Bod-like, on his zimmer frame. He mutters to himself about his ailments ("It's the molluscs what sets off my Lemington..."), before finally knocking the camera off its tripod. This leads into a Pythonesque linking sequence, with the camera getting caught up in the pages of a newspaper; the newspaper unfolds itself, and becomes the opening shot of:
Nice Family - Breakfast
An early, and largely inferior, performance of the brilliant sketch which ended 1.1. Several of the sketch's best lines ('Ah, breakfast - the most important breakfast of the day') are not present, the 'Tidy man Gets Top Job' headline isn't really visible, and Father phones William Rees-Mogg rather than 'The Authorities'. Like Don, Father has yet to acquire his glasses.
Extra dialogue includes Eldest Son (Sparkes) excitedly reading the nutritional information on the cornflakes packet and Father describing the contents of his newspaper: "Not to mention a television guide, with regional variassssszzzhions..."
The sketch ends, as 1.1 does, with a freeze-frame of the family jumping in the air. The credits run thus:
Written and Performed by
Make up Supervisor
for Channel 4
© Channel Four Television Co Ltd MCMLXXXIX