15 Storeys High
With questionable wisdom, voters in the BBC’s Best Sitcom Ever poll back in 2004 utterly ignored 15 Storeys High, instead opting to find slots near the business end of the top 100 for the risible likes of ‘Allo Allo’ and Vicar of Dibley. History shall prove these people to be fools. Sure, 15 Storeys High was never going to trouble everyone’s tastebuds, veering too far into subtlety and oddness for those who prefer their hilarity to ensue from people misunderstanding each other rather than just loathing one another.
He may have since fled to Channel 4 and the yankee dollar of the pointless panel show, but Sean Lock cemented his reputation (garnered over many years on the stand-up circuit) of being among the most influential thinkers and writers on the British comedy scene. Granted, the show’s set-up seems vaguely familiar: a tale of flatmates forced into co-habitation despite being polar opposites (you can detect the audible echoes of The Odd Couple, The Young Ones and Mary, Mungo and Midge, here) while we also get to see glimpses into the bizarre, scary and futile existences of other residents in this south London tower block which include reggae fitness regimes, boy band auditions and helium conversations.
Who could fail to be seduced by the quaint surrealism present in this two-series DVD that has Errol (the brilliant Benedict Wong) inadvertently discovering that his bedroom has been used and abused in the pages of a men’s magazine or displaying a hidden genius for table tennis? And is there anyone who wouldn’t at the very least find a smirk on their face as Vince (Lock) tries to turn an airport calamity into a positive story, starts to hallucinate about a horse in another flat or accidentally steals a plough from a pub?
Maybe we shouldn’t completely blame the voters for failing to find a place for 15 Storeys High. There’s a fair chance that many of them wouldn’t have even heard of the show, such was the Beeb’s lack of faith in it. First transmitted on BBC Choice, which later morphed into BBC3, its sole terrestrial airing was in the ludicrous graveyard hell between Newsnight and Casualty for the deaf. This DVD release would be the best way for everyone to make some small amends.
Released by 2 Entertain, Mon 19 Feb.