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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm a great Christmas treat.

When I first heard about The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, it’s safe to say that I was quite excited for it. The trailers looked, quite frankly, bonkers; the colouring, the costumes, and of course, Harry Hill with hair, all peaked my interest and ensured that I tuned in on Christmas Eve. Having been a fan of Harry Hill for some time now, I was looking forward to seeing him making his acting debut this Christmas given that I’ve only really seen him as a comedian, playing the over-exaggerated version of himself.

I think it’s safe to say that I wasn’t disappointed. It’s almost as if the character of Professor Branestawm was made for Harry who excelled in the role of the mad scientist and inventor. Like the persona portrayed of Harry Hill, Professor Branestawm is a highly exaggerated version of a mad scientist. His hair is all over the place, his clothes don’t match, and yes, he wears at least three pairs of glasses at the same time, but that is what makes him lovable. The scene where he explains the uses for all of his glasses is exemplary of just how bonkers this guy is; finished nicely when he finds a pair he didn’t realise was even his.

The story was adapted from Norman Hunter’s children’s series which ran for fifty years from 1933 to 1983 and documented the life of the character of the same name. Charlie Higson, who previously worked on The Fast Show and is a highly celebrated author, brought the magical professor to life. The script is clever, imaginative and highly entertaining. There are real comedic moments during the show, which is also balanced with genuinely moving moments. Branestawm’s ‘Robot Father’ for young Connie epitomises the professor’s good intentions despite not being able to always execute his plans properly; the ‘stereotypical’ father is represented in the robot, who wanders around asking for the cricket scores whilst ranting that ‘the government’s an absolute shambles’.

One of the major triumphs of The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm is that it’s extremely relevant. The jokes are absolutely on the money. From owning a ‘retro’ bowl from Woolworths, to Colonel Dedshott claiming that he ‘won a catapult gold at the Commonwealth Games’ and therefore has the authority to scare off Harold Haggerstone, the script gets it right. The portable telephone scene shows perfectly how self-aware the show is. The Professor genuinely thinks he has invented something new with the ‘mobile telephone’ (a telephone box on wheels), but things turn really metafictional when he discusses the possibility of a mobile Police Box: ‘Imagine that, a Police Box that you could travel around in?’ I imagine most of us would have got the slight allusion to Doctor Who there, but The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawmgoes one further by actually showing the TARDIS in the corner of the room with accompanying materialisation noises.

The supporting cast are not only strong, but help to make the show the success it is. On Team Branestawm is Colonel Dedshott, played by Simon Day, the scatty housekeeper Mrs Flittersnoop (Vicki Pepperdine) and the very sweet Connie portrayed by the talented Madeline Holliday. All of this team, bar Connie, are almost as mad as Professor Branestawm, with Dedshott preparing for cleaning up, but results instead in making more mess as he swings his sword around yelling ‘BATTLE STATIONS!’ On the opposite side, David Mitchell is brilliant as the pompous and somewhat cowardly local councillor Harold Haggerstone who pairs with the fantastic Ben Miller, once again stepping into the role of the villain with ease, as the wicked businessman Mr Bullimore; the scene at the council meeting where Miller’s Bullimore presents the town with the ‘giant munitions factory right in the middle of the town’ and contrasts perfectly with the bumbling and worrying vicar (Adrian Scarborough).

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm is overall a triumph. Harry Hill is marvellous as the bonkers, yet lovable Professor. The show is fun, innovative and entertaining and it could easily be worth creating a series out of the strength of this special, and I for one would love to see the return of Harry in this debut role.

Contributed by Helen Daly 

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