DVDs in Review #95: Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights: The Complete First & Second Series

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Spinning off from That Peter Kay Thing, Phoenix Nights is a show I first experienced back in early 2001 when it first aired on Channel 4. Now I must confess that at the time I watched it for a few minutes then switched over to watch something else; the gloomy look of the show combined with the relatively mundane characters just didn't grip me. This continued for a few weeks until I just avoided being in when the show was on TV.

Fast forward a few years and I'm sharing a house with several people, one of whom was a huge fan of British Sitcoms (plus Monk) and collected the DVDs. This blog is an indirect result of living with him, he's the one who got me hooked on collecting and watching DVDs. Anyway, he told me that I just HAD to watch this show, and he handed me the first series of Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights. I was somewhat reticent about watching it, I had not enjoyed what I'd seen previously, but we had a policy of trying out each other's recommendations (he cried when he watched Futurama's "Jurassic Bark" - so I think I won that one) so I agreed to try it out.

Maybe it was the change in perspective that the intervening years had gave me, maybe it was the wacky and fun DVD menu, but I decided to give the show a shot - and to cut a long story to a short conclusion - I really enjoyed it!

This set brings both the first and second series together to give you the 'almost complete' experience of Phoenix Nights - while the story of the Phoenix club actually begins in 'That Peter Kay Thing' this set stands alone as the stories were designed to work without seeing the previous show (but the experience is improved if you have done).

Peter himself stars as club owner Brian Potter, Bouncer Max, fire safety officer Keith Lard and Paul Le Roy (the last two both also from TPKT) in the great British tradition of playing lots of characters in the same show. He mostly performs as the rather pathetic club owner Brian - a man desperate to make the Phoenix Night club into a blazing home of excitement and money - and Max , a rather everyman individual who bounces for the club with his mate Paddy (Patrick McGuinness - who doesn't even really act in this show, he just plays himself as a bouncer).

The show is classic British comedy, filled with uncomfortable or humiliating moments for it's characters and plenty of unforseen problems for the club. Ranging from a phallic bouncy castle, past a drunk horse and all the way to arson - the issues and obstacles seem to just keep on coming for Potter and his cronies. For myself it's not Peter Kay who's the absolute star of the show, it's Dave Spikey's performance as the clubs rather hapless compere who takes that crown. Dave's performance runs the whole gambit of emotions and is just superb (he's also one of the creators of the show).

But it's not just the dialog and characters which make the show so special, it's also the clever plotting and attention to detail. One of my favourite gags in the show occurs in episode eight where Young Kenny (Justin Moorhouse) has his face painted like a tiger in a fair on the grounds and then discovers it was done with car paint. He spends the rest of the series trying to conceal the paint on his face. It's a joke which many more traditional sitcoms would have ignored because they were following the tired old adage 'everything must return to normal in time for the start of the next episode'. There are precious few sitcoms out there who've performed such a subtle trick (Arrested Development is the main one I think, it's full of such cleverness).

From it's wonky theme tune, through it's rather unattractive and morose cast and all the way to it's dingy sets Phoenix Nights manages to simultaneously capture everything that's quaint and wonderful about small UK social clubs while also highlighting just what horrible and soul sucking pits of misery they can be. All in good fun of course.

Forget going down the local, I'm going to stay in at the Phoenix club instead.

Deleted and Extended Scenes
Out Takes
One Man & His Horse: Behind the scenes featurette
Special Treats
Cast Commentaries (pretty good ones too)
and an exclusive bonus CD featuring music from the series

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Languages: English
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 290 mins approx
Subtitles: English HOH


1 comment so far.

  1. Aaron 22 October 2009 at 12:14
    I also love the frequent references to places in Lancashire. Chorley of Chorley FM fame is not too far from my hometown of Accrington. I find the show is a nice reminder of my formative years in the North.

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