Rob Gilroy

Bye for now

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It seems to me that, more and more, I’m using this column to eulogise about passed people; turning what should be a light-hearted article into an underwhelming version of those Oscars remembrance videos which, now you mention it, could be a little more dynamic anyway.

I know they need to be respectful, but it’s the film industry, they could at least cut it to music or put in a few flashy transitions. Just a thought.

Nevertheless, this week I’m here to mourn the loss of someone special. Not a comedian though; someone a little closer to home – our pet gerbil, Rigsby.

OK, it might not carry the same weight as a Robin-whatsit or a Rik-whosie, but that furry little guy meant something to us. Rigsby was our little pet. His two brothers sadly passed away a while ago, leaving him all alone, the Barry Gibb of the rodent world. But now he’s gone too.*

It’s a sad moment saying goodbye to the last of them – they were our first pets. We did have two goldfish for a while but you can’t really call them pets can you? You get them free at the fair – I’ve paid more money for a bag of candy floss and I managed to compose myself when it was gone.

We had Rigsby for almost four years and the house seems a lot quieter without him. It also smells less of gerbil shit than it used to. It seems silly getting upset over the death of a tiny pet, but it’s easy to forget how quickly they become part of your life, like a loved one or diabetes.

In some ways, sitcoms are the same. You find the one that’s right for you, love it with all your heart and before you know it, it’s gone. You’re left feeling bereft, knowing you will never see it again, at least until the half-hearted attempt to revive it for Comic Relief.

Not to detract from Rigsby’s departure, but this week I’ve also been mourning the loss of Count Arthur Strong; a hilarious sitcom that’s recently been enjoying a quietly brilliant run on BBC One. The second series has come to an end and I’m missing it already.

It doesn’t seem to have been given the ceremony of a Miranda or a Mrs Brown and those Boys of hers, but in its own way, Count Arthur Strong is the traditional sitcom BBC One has been waiting for.

A combination of Steve Delaney’s incredibly well defined character, who stutters and splutters his way through mistake after mistake after accidental kidnapping; and Graham Linehan’s genius touch with the studio sitcom. The collaboration creates something truly special – an incredibly funny sitcom with real moments of pathos and tenderness.

It’s a bit of a departure for Linehan yet there’s something really lovely about it.

Primarily set in a café, the show calls to mind those brilliant social sitcom settings – the Nag’s Head, Sid’s Caff, the Cheers bar from the sitcom Cheers – and it collects together an assortment of characters that play off each other beautifully.

Special mention goes to Rory Kinnear who plays the ‘straight man’ in the show – cleverly proving that he’s every bit as deluded and useless as the other characters.

Having come to Count Arthur Strong quite late, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d seen several clips of his live shows on YouTube but wasn’t sure how the character would transfer to TV. The biggest surprise was to find that he isn’t really the main character; instead it’s a delicate balance of people who are all held together through the simple fact that they have no one else.

It’s altogether much sweeter and kinder than I would have initially expected. That only makes it richer.

That’s not to say that it isn’t funny. Boy is it! Count Arthur has a unique way of causing havoc and creating disaster, from the big and bold –going all Paxman on a politician and taking flying lessons – to the minute – developing a strong dislike for Kriss Akabusi or becoming a living statue.

Delaney’s timing is impeccable and combined with Mr Linehan’s ability to create stand out set pieces, the show is a comedic tour de France.

Unlike Graham Linehan’s recent project with Diet of Worms, The Walshes – which was tragically overlooked by the BBC’s department for underappreciating the talent it has – Count Arthur Strong should be back soon.

Yet it’s a shame to say goodbye to this second series as we’re only just getting into it. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to give it a go on iPlayer before it’s too late.

Sadly, gerbils don’t come with an on demand service.

RIP Rigsby

*Not Barry Gibb