Count Arthur Strong: The windmills of his mind

Count Arthur Strong - SpecialsBulent’s cafe found itself in the middle of a riot this week in Count Arthur Strong, as an angry mob smashed the place up. We didn’t see any of that – it was just a plot device to get the regular cast members to take refuge in the panic room of Bulent’s storage area, where they were subjected to the ultimate horror – Arthur “putting on a little show.”

And what a show it was. Arthur’s rendition of The Windmills Of Your Mind will surely live long in the minds of anyone who witnessed it, but was probably best experienced by Katya, who was asleep at the time.

We’re half way through the current series, and it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen in years. It’s pleasingly old-fashioned – the comedy, while occasionally surreal, is firmly based in the characters. Count Arthur Strong himself, as played by Steve Delaney, reminds me of classic comedy characters like Frank Spencer and Basil Fawlty – his own view of himself is totally at odds with how others see him, and this is the source of a lot of the comedy, as is his own special way with the English language. He has excellent support from Rory Kinnear, who plays Michael, the son of Arthur’s old comedy partner. Michael’s life seems rather lonely and empty, so against his better judgement he’s drawn into Arthur’s little world, a lot of which is centred on Bulent’s cafe. Michael’s attraction to Bulent’s sister, Sinem, is one of the continuing story threads.

If you haven’t seen it (and it is on at the same time as Holby these days), get to iPlayer immediately and start watching from episode 1.

Posted by PLA


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2 responses to “Count Arthur Strong: The windmills of his mind

  1. Count Arthur Neutered by BBC

    As a big fan of the radio version of Count Arthur Strong, the TV series has been something of a disappointment. Sadly the BBC have cut the Counts balls off.

The transfer to TV is, or rather could be (ought to be) a good thing – because the character is superb, and he still just about comes through – but it really is not even half as good as the radio show was. It felt like the BBC TV execs didn’t quite have faith in Delaney’s character, so they tweaked (for tweaked, read removed) many aspects of the radio show, and padded it out with Kinnear and others.

    This series reminded me of the first Pink Panther movie, in which David Niven is the central character, with Peter Sellers taking a secondary role. Hopefully, as happened with the Clouseau films, they’ll realise where the real comedy gold is – in the central character – and put him front and centre. Kinnear may be a good actor, but in this context he’s the Niven to Delaney’s Sellers.

    The BBC also need to reinstate numerous aspects that were removed: they got rid of the Wilf’s the Butcher thread, with its rich vein of offal, Arthur’s troubled relationship with booze (including but not limited to his time as a regular at the Shoulder of Mutton), and his frequent drifting into dreamland. Also, the Count on the radio was a far more forthright, aggressive and obnoxious character: ‘I’ll knock your flipping block off!’

    The radio show is very much dialogue driven, so perhaps the BBC feared that all his spoonerisms, malapropisms, and so on, would be too much in the visual medium of TV. Tell that to the Two Ronnies! Well, the one Ronnie now, I guess. If only David Attenborough was still the controller of BBC2, he respected audiences enough to give them programmes with nuts.


Come on aunty Beeb, stop with the lame (PC?) dilution of this unique and wonderful character, and give us a proper second series, with more of the Count’s wonderfully mangled monologues, and plenty of meat, booze, and testicles.

    • pauseliveaction

      I have to admit that I never heard the radio show (though I’ve listened to some of it now), so I can’t really compare the two. But having now watched the whole series of CAS, I think it worked brilliantly as a TV sitcom. I literally cried with laughter during some of the scenes – admittedly the funniest scenes were usually the ones where Arthur was mangling the English language, like the “I could never eat a human egg” scene and his attempt to pronounce Les Miserables. As I imagine that’s what the radio show was more about, I can see that the TV series could be seen as a dilution.

      On the other hand, the introduction of the supporting characters gave Arthur a context and made him seem more loveable (I didn’t really want him to be “forthright, aggressive and obnoxious” – I think for this to work he needed to be more sympathetic). There was a strong story arc to each episode and to the series as a whole. I do agree with you that occasionally the scenes which didn’t have Arthur in them were a bit flat, but overall I think it was paced well and Rory Kinnear was quite endearing as Michael. I liked the way he started off by feeling superior to Arthur, but fairly soon we realised that Michael’s life was quite empty compared to Arthur, who had his little community of friends.