As part of Fulcher Fortnight on The Velvet Onion, our editor in chief, Paul ‘Didymus’ Holmes takes a look back at a little known slice of comedic fried gold known as Golf War, and discusses the possibilities for the hit sitcom that never was…
On paper, Golf War is a concept that should be carried into the offices of tv stations on a velvet cushion, gently placed in the commissioner’s hands, and given a 6 episode run without any question. After all, few pilots can claim to feature the combined talents of Rich Fulcher, Simon Farnaby, Matt Berry, Julian Barratt, Nina Conti, Waen Shepherd and dear ol’ Gareth Hale from Hale & Pace.
Yet, somehow, against all the odds, Golf War never stood a chance. Developed as part of E4′s Funny Cuts strand, cut down from its originally planned eighteen minutes to a measly thirteen, and broadcast only once in November 2007 at the ridiculous time of 11:40pm with absolutely zero promotion, it’s no surprise that pilot was not developed into a full run.
Which, of course, is an enormous shame. For those who haven’t had the good fortune to see it, Farnaby plays Stuart Ogilvy – president of the slightly run-down and decidedly low-key Peterford Golf Course. Aided by his simpleton co-captain Len (Fulcher), his bizarre half brother and groundskeeper (Shepherd) and not-so-aided by his put upon wife, Susan (Nina Conti) – the pair plot to impress visiting businessmen and get some fingers in some pies, in order to be more like their neighbouring golf course, Greenacres.
This rival club is run by the pompous, arrogant Tony Bone (played by Matt Berry in full-on Snuffbox bastard mode) – its impressive country house surrounded by lush acres of golf courses, populated by similarly pompous and arrogant members. As a little treat for followers of Booshdom, we get to see the Colonel – played by the same elderly actor who was one of the members of the gentlemen’s club in Snuffbox – presumably this is how he spends the rest of his spare time!
As Stu tries to impress his visiting businessmen, Len has been playing practical jokes on Bone – leaving a number two in a drawer for him to find (which he calls Mr Brown and rather worriedly looks upon with great affection) – and kidnapping one of Tony’s punters… who just so happens to be Gareth Hale from 80s/90s comedy duo Hale & Pace. Thanks to an incident between Hale, Len and a golf club, poor Gareth has lost his memory… and things soon spiral out of control for all concerned!
Being such a short pilot, there’s precious little time to really establish much plot – but what we have here is light and amusing. It’s the sort of plot that works so well in sitcoms twice this length, and whilst the tight fit is more than noticeable, given the chance to develop into a series the writing team could have made something truly entertaining on a regular basis once the show had room to breathe. Indeed, the longer edit which the team behind the show put onto youtube a few months after transmission has a stronger balance between the slapstick and balancing the wafer thin plot that, a bizarre sequence in which Rich’s character has a flashback to his happy times with some fecal matter, is often just as funny as the bits that stayed in.
Farnaby & Fulcher work well together, and once the initial moments of surrealist silliness are out of the way, it’s straight to business with some great sight gags, some witty lines, and lots of the former calling the latter a bell-end – a word that only really sounds funny being delivered by a voice like that of Simon Farnaby. Nina Conti also works very well with what she’s given to do (which admittedly, isn’t much given the time constraints), and Waen Shepherd is fun as the toad obsessed groundskeeper, Spooky Bob. Matt Berry, of course, is a treasure – with strong hints of his Snuffbox character and even a chance to bring back Dr Sanchez’s unique fighting skills. And Gareth Hale, an unfairly maligned comic talent who has been absent from our screens for far too long, gets to poke fun at himself with great aplomb.
Factor in an amazing reworking of the Electric Six classic Gay Bar for the theme tune – arranged by Julian Barratt & Waen Shepherd no less, who had previously worked together on The Pod in the mid 90s – and you’ve got a show thats just itching to be revisited one day. There’s plenty of scope for a whole set of madcap happenings between Peterford & Greenacres, and its a crying shame that – as with several great pilots in recent years – these titans of comedy never got the chance to develop their idea further.
Simon Farnaby and his Golf War co-writer Scott Murray have recently released a book based on the true story of the world’s worst golfer. Entitled The Phantom Of The Open – the book is available now in hardback via The Velvet Onion Amazon Store.
Simon was recently interviewed by CNN about the book – and rather intriguing introduced as a professional golfer instead of a comedy legend! The fascinating tale, which Julian Barratt suggested is like “Don Quixote with a Nine Iron” – is available now!
The full length version of the Golf War pilot is available below… let us know what you think of this forgotten gem!