1. KELLY MONTEITH (BBC2 1979-84)
In the late seventies, American standup comedian Kelly Monteith, already a TV star in his home country, found himself temporarily based in London. Following a string of well-recieved guest appearances on Des O'ConnorTonight, the BBC - noting his popularity and comfortability with UK audiences - approached him about the possibility of appearing in his own show.
As luck would have it, Monteith had been unsuccessfully hawking a format around the more restrictive American networks for a while, and it proved to be exactly what the BBC were looking for. Co-written with longtime David Frost collaborator Neil Shand, the self-titled series starred Monteith as, erm, a standup comedian named Kelly Monteith, charting comic incidents that occurred as he and his wife Gabrielle Drake adjusted to life in London. Except it wasn't quite as much of a conventional sitcom as that might make it sound.
Firstly, it was something of a novelty for the audience to see an American comic on 'our' television. Secondly, the show frequently strayed into decidedly 'adult' and even at times vaguely taboo subjects, albeit with such charm and casualness that it was hard for anyone to take offence. Thirdly - and most significantly - it was presented in a distinctive deconstructionist style, where the sitcom element weaved in and out of standup routines, and sometimes even diverted into Monteith discussing the mechanics of writing and performing the show with the audience. And in case you were wondering, it did get shown in America, so Garry Shandling, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld might well have been looking in.
Mirroring Monteith's own personal situation, the third series saw an abrupt change in storyline as the couple seperated and eventually divorced. From there on, the series followed the likeable comic as he was thrust unwillingly back into the dating scene, leading to if anything even more risque comic scenarios, some of which were doubtless drawn from recent real-life experiences. In 1984, after an impressive six series and several standup specials, Monteith (who was keen to move back to America full time) and the BBC agreed that the series had run its course, though such was his popularity that he continued to tour the UK regularly for some years afterwards.
Kelly Monteith is perhaps the definitive example of a show that was huge in its day but has since been all but forgotten. It could be that this is due to the later influx of similarly sophisticated American imports, or, as Monteith himself speculates, due to a lack of repeats and commercial releases. All we need, really, is for him to break off in the middle of a sketch to elaborate on that.