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Monday, 27 December, 1999, 11:14 GMT
Randall, Hopkirk and Higson
Comedy revival: Mortimer and Reeves (in white)
By BBC News Online's Darryl Chamberlain

No matter how many times he dies, you can't keep Marty Hopkirk down, as comedy lovers will discover on BBC One in a few weeks.

Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer's revival of the 30-year-old detective series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) is one of the highlights of the channel's winter line-up.

Randall and Hopkirk (The original)
Starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope as Randall and Hopkirk
Annette Andre played Jeannie
26 episodes ran on ITV from September 1969 to March 1970
It was shown in the US as My Partner The Ghost
Reeves plays private eye Marty Hopkirk, who is murdered in the first episode and returns as a white-suited ghost, only visible to his ex-partner Jeff Randall. Together with Hopkirk's ex-fiancee Jeannie - played by Emilia Fox - the pair continue to solve strange mysteries.

Charlie Higson - best known on-screen as one of the performers in The Fast Show - had the task of taking a show which was last seen on ITV in 1970, and updating it for a new audience.

"I watched the first episode just to see how they did it, then I decided not to watch any of the others because I wanted to do something new," he explains.

It is two years since the idea was put to him while he was on a touring version of Reeves and Mortimer's comedy quiz Shooting Stars, and the series - filled with a star-studded cast and lavish special effects, has been a year in the making.

Higson found being in charge of Randall and Hopkirk as writer and producer a challenge.

Emilia Fox: Comedy debut as Jeannie
"Occasonally, there were times when I wanted to turn round and ask Paul [Whitehouse, his Fast Show writing partner] if I was doing the right thing but of course he wasn't standing next to me - that's a bit scary. But there's enough other people around to make sure you do anything too stupid."

But being in charge of Reeves and Mortimer held no worries for Higson, who has known them for several years - "I've always been quite strict with them."

The show sees actress Emilia Fox break out from the world of drama to play Hopkirk's fiancee Jeannie.

"She was quite excited and a bit scared, and she kept saying, 'Ooooh, I've never done comedy before.'

"But it's not supposed to be a pure comedy. What we wanted her to do was to help anchor Jim [Moir, Reeves' real name] and Bob, to believe in the reality of what they were doing. She's a very good actress, she's got great presence and she's very stylish."

Higson's mini-CV
First teamed up with Paul Whitehouse at university
Was in a pop group called The Higsons
Teamed up with Whitehouse and drinking pal Harry Enfield to create Loadsamoney and Stavros
Has also written four thriller novels
The casting worked better than expected - Reeves announced his engagement to Fox in September.

The end result is a series full of special effects, guest appearances from Hugh Laurie, Steven Berkoff, Charles Dance and (naturally) Paul Whitehouse, and a theme by David Arnold.

Ted and Ralph: Higson in character with Paul Whitehouse
"I'm really proud of the whole thing. You always set out with a lot of high ideals and great expectations and then as you run out of time you kind of chip away at it.

"But we managed to keep everything the way we wanted right from the start. It's beautifully shot, we got a really high quality of actors in it and the music is fantastic."

Next on Higson's agenda - as soon as the final touches have been added to Randall and Hopkirk - is a Fast Show special, currently scheduled for Easter.

But it might not be so easy to slip back into the characters that became household names.

He explains: "It's been so long since we did the last series it feels a bit weird and different.

"Watching them now we look a lot younger and thinner and fresh-faced - now, is it going to be a bunch of sad old men getting their wigs on? We shall see."

See also:

24 Nov 99 | Entertainment
BBC goes retro for winter
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