Alfresco (ITV 1983-1984, Ben Elton, Emma Thompson)

Back in the early 1980’s the alternative comedy scene was quite literally ready to explode into the mainstream and some of the leading lights had already made inroads but Alfresco (filmed mostly outside of the studio – hence the title) though offered a first real chance to catch the new generation in action. The show actually grew out of an earlier three part pilot show (only screened in certain local Northern England areas) called There’s Nothing to Worry About which was deemed strong enough to warrant a full national try out the following year. (TNTWA is included here which is a very nice bonus).

Hard to imagine now, given that of the cast, two are international acclaimed actors, one of them a best selling novelist/comedian, one a superb raconteur and consumate personality and one a veritable giant known worldwide for his role in the Harry Potter movies, but none of the players were very well known at the time. Fry and Laurie, Emma Thompson and Ben Elton had all been part of the Cambridge Footlights scene and had made something of a splash at the Edinburgh Festival, Robbie Coltrane only came in for the second season (he and Emma Thompson would later team up a couple of years later in the superb drama Tutti Frutti) and Siobhan Redmond was a cute Scottish actor who is still the least well known of the bunch.

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The series itself is the usual sketch mixture of topical (at least then anyway) material, surreal bon mots, satirical pot shots and so on. The hit and laugh ratio is high though, no suprise considering the talent involved.

production details
UK | ITV – Granada | 13×25 minutes | Broadcast 1 May 1983 – 12 June 1984

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Writers: Ben Elton with Fry and Laurie, Paul Shearer, Nick Symons, Emma Thompson
Executive Producer: Steve Morrison
Producers: Sandy Ross (season 1), John G. Temple (season 2)
Director: Stuart Orme

Hugh Laurie
Stephen Fry
Emma Thompson
Robbie Coltrane
Siobhan Redmond
Ben Elton

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.