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Tuesday, August 11, 1998 Published at 18:05 GMT 19:05 UK


Stressed Eric goes Stateside

Eric is always on the verge of a nervous breakdown

Sometimes it may be hard to believe, but there is always someone out there who is having a worse day than you. His name is Stressed Eric.

He is the central character of an animated sitcom of the same name. The programme was recently bought by the American TV network NBC and has its US premiere on Wednesday.

The cartoon, which was shown on BBC 2 earlier this year, is the first British animated sitcom ever to make it on to prime time US TV.

All about Eric

[ image: Claire, the allergy-prone daughter]
Claire, the allergy-prone daughter
Eric Feeble is 40 and lives in London. He is a middle-class divorcee with two children and a crippling mortgage. Life for him is one long relentless struggle.

Under pressure from all the paranoias and neuroses of the modern age - to be a good parent, a success story at work and a lover of life - Eric is the little guy who is constantly undermined by problematic people and occurrences.

Whether its a late train, his allergy-prone daughter or his perpetually drunk au pair - Eric Feeble's day does not let up.

Don't laugh, it could be you

Creator Carl Gorham says Eric's life is not so unusual: "Eric is partly autobiographical and partly based on virtually everyone I know.

[ image: The Perfect family, Eric's neighbours]
The Perfect family, Eric's neighbours
"People who live in London and in other cities are constantly stressed out, juggling their domestic and professional lives, and hardly ever getting it right."

Stressed Eric, he adds, is also a prime example of the times in which we live.

"Stress is really the buzzword of the Nineties. Everyone talks about it and there are so many stress-reducing aids available to people now. In that sense, Eric represents the Nineties malaise."

International appeal

Mr Gorham describes Eric as a super-charged Hancock with something of the Basil Fawlty about him.

Eric's wide appeal has been highlighted by the decision of the NBC to buy the show.

Mr Gorham says in the beginning he was surprised by the response to Stressed Eric.

[ image: Eric lets it all out]
Eric lets it all out
"I was talking to a newspaper editor in Chicago and telling him about the episode in which Eric loses his season train ticket and he can't get another one.

"I thought hatred for the railways was a British phenomenon, but this editor pointed out to me that people use and work for railways all over the world," he says.

Cartoons for grown-ups

Stressed Eric is the latest in a recent spate of successful adult-targeted animated sitcoms, like The Simpsons and South Park.

Mr Gorham says animation is a very flexible medium, particularly when it comes to character development.

"Animation allows you to do things that you can't elsewhere. It just gives you this range of expression, which you can externalise really effectively.

"For example, the vein that throbs in Eric's forehead is something we probably couldn't have achieved outside the animated medium without spending thousands of pounds," Mr Gorham says.

Million pound deal

The deal between Stressed Eric's producers, Absolutely Productions, and NBC has already run into millions.

[ image: Read at your own peril]
Read at your own peril
The American network channel has paid 1m for the first six shows, with the option to pay around 9m for a second series of 13 episodes.

Mr Gorham is currently writing a new series, and has also produced a book called A Guide to Stress Management by Eric Feeble.

After all, who better to advise those suffering from stress?

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