Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer interview
sidebar Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased): When the Dead Won't Stay Dead Grave discussion: Reeves & Mortimer with Emilia Fox

The late Sixties series, once believed dead, has been reincarnated… with comedy duo Reeves and Mortimer as the partners against crime

selected from TV Zone #125

Perhaps it wasn’t the most successful or most remembered series to come out of Lew Grade’s ITC in the late Sixties, but Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer loved Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased). “I used to like it when I was a kid,” confirms Vic. “When it was out we would have been about 12,” adds Bob, “and having a ghost appear then… it was pretty exciting.”

The pair are talking about their new series during a break in filming on location at a grand public school. Vic is wearing the trademark white suit that Marty always wore in the original and Bob is in pyjamas – he has a bed scene later on. Interviewing the pair of them together is almost like eavesdropping on a well-established relationship. At times, they almost interview themselves. For example, mentioning that they wanted to be involved in a lot of fight scenes sparks off a whole discourse.

“We asked for a lot of that – of me being a s**t fighter and that – but there ain’t much is there?” Bob says to Vic. “You get hammered at the beginning.”
“Yeah, I get beaten up by Charles Dance,” Vic grins. “I had my head smacked off the boot of a car.”

“Have we done a fight since then?” asks Bob. “No, we haven’t have we?” “Didn’t you do one months ago?”
“No.” Bob thinks for a second. “I had a fight with Millie when I was a zombie.”
“You hit someone,” Vic insists. “I’m sure you hit someone.”
“Oh, I hit Hugh Laurie – again, as a zombie.”

Change of Direction

Meanwhile, back at the questions, it seems that this project is somewhat of a departure for Vic and Bob, who are better known for the comedy antics of Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out and Shooting Stars. “We like doing this,” says Vic enthusiastically. “We wanted to do some drama and this came along and it did very nicely.”

“We’ve tended to get bored of stuff we’d done after two seasons,” explains Bob. “So it’s just another challenge to keep us alert.” The challenge must be to go from short comedy sketches and studio hijinks to proper acting, but Vic doesn’t see the distinction. “It’s all the same thing, really,” he says. “We’ve always done sketches and it may fit into a comedy mould, but it’s all acting at the end of the day.”

“People seem to think there’s something different,” adds Bob. “We don’t hit each other with pans and bicker. It’s just acting without punchlines. We only film two minutes a day, so it’s incredibly easy. If we were filming on location [for a sketch show] we’d film two-and-a-half hours, which is three episodes of this, but we’d do it all in 10 days. So we’d do about five times as much work and we’d be worried all the time about whether it’s funny and changing it.”

Which One is Dead?

As before, Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk are partners in a private detective agency until Marty is killed, leaving a grieving fiancé (his widow in the original), Jeanie, played by Emilia Fox. Jeff and Jeanie decide to continue to run the agency together, but Marty is not quite ready to leave Earth yet. He returns as a ghost that only Jeff can see and helps in the investigations.

A lot of people, including Vic and Bob, assumed Vic would play the living half of the partnership, with Bob as his dead friend. But that’s not the case. “We thought that, physically, I was slightly similar to the ghost,” says Bob, “but then, unbeknown to us, there was just this presumption that it would be the other way round. I think it was probably right.”

The BBC have ordered 13 episodes of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), with six in this series followed by another seven next year– assuming there are no disasters in the meantime. It means that all those rumours about the pair of them hanging up their comedy boots to spend more time with their families is a load of hog wash.

“It’s entirely made up,” confirms Vic. “It basically came from Woman’s Own. We did an interview with Woman’s Own and they said, ‘what would you do with a year off?’ Of course you reply and that incident means you’ve packed up forever.”

Jane Killick

Get TV Zone #125 for the full five-page photo-feature

Randall & Hopkirk image ©Working Title / Universal / BBC
Feature © Visual Imagination Ltd 2000. Not for reproduction
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