First of all, sorry about that entry title. It was a choice between ‘Out and ABHoTT’, ‘Man ABHoTT the house’, ‘Mad ABHoTT the boy’, ‘ABHoTT turn’ (getting better), ‘ABHoTT and cost, hello’ (needed some work, that one), or some kind of Russ Abbot pun, which I just couldn’t think of. Given the subject matter, ‘ABHott time’ was the best of a bad bunch.
Anyway. I’m going to talk to you today about A Brief History of Time Travel, a six part Time-travel radio sitcom on the internet. A Kickstarter-funded project, the series was written by Seb Patrick and James Hunt. (Seb is kind of a friend of mine. I say kind of – and friend – I’ve known him for a few years through internet forums, although, having only met a couple of times, I’m sure he’d probably refer to me as an ‘acquaintance’. Or ‘that twat who keeps Tweeting me’.) I suppose this is a sort-of review. But I’ll probably just end up rambling on about stuff, and ABHoTT may rear it’s head every so often. Let’s see, shall we?
So, obviously, it was via Seb that I learnt of the project last November, and I duly tossed a couple of quid into the Kickstarter pot. That pot went on to be filled with a total of over £5,000, and off they went to make a sitcom. That sitcom arrived last Monday.
Now, I sometimes have a problem with radio comedy. My mind can wander, my memory is awful, I have to write stuff down while I remember it, and I lose track of what’s happening. So, if I listen to something on, say, Radio 4, I can lose interest, and it becomes background noise; or I just forget to listen to it altogether (and don’t give me that iPlayer gubbins – if I can barely cope with sitting down to listen to the radio, sitting down with a computer and trying to listen in one sitting without the wi-fi going is not something I’m likely to do). I used to tape a lot on C-90s – I have recordings of The Sofa Of Time, starring Nick Frost, in a box in the cupboard. I sometimes dig out recordings of Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show and Down The Line. But the radio is tuned to Radio 2 (which also used to broadcast a lot of comedy itself, including a great Comedy Hour on Saturday afternoons; some Vic & Bob, some stand-up – the fact that the excellent Welcome To Our Village, Please Invade Carefully is housed on R2 is a welcome surprise), and I can’t generally be bothered to retune it…
But I digress (I am prone to that, sorry) – ABHoTT (remember that?) isn’t just an example of some amateurs getting together, having a giggle and deciding to record it; it is actually funny. Very funny, in fact, and the SF elements are clever. Even if I hadn’t contributed to it’s production (albeit in a fairly small way), and had absolutely no idea who the writers were, this is still something I’d want to listen to.
Thrown together by a combination of time, fate and administrative error, accountant Eric Street, genius inventor Professor Miles Wanderlust and temporal enforcement agent Nina Seventeen find themselves stuck in the past with a broken time machine – and worse, stuck with each other. Cursed to jump randomly through human history, and pursued by Oscar Quantum, a bumbling temporal enforcer who’s never been that good with dates, the trio blunder their way through a variety of historical settings, trying not to cause too much damage and hoping that they’ll eventually make it back to the future – assuming there’s still a future left when they get there…
So there. The obvious Sci-Fi sitcom comparisons would be The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Red Dwarf
or Hyperdrive. The gist of the episodes is similar – a group of unwitting travellers together on a journey to God-knows-where – but I think labelling it as a Hitchhiker’s wannabe would be unfair. There are some inspired points through the series which I think sound like some kind of mix of Doctor Who and Quantum Leap. There are nods to Douglas Adams, affectionate homages to movies like Back to the Future, and some great lines that wouldn’t sound out of place in an episode of Red Dwarf.
Each episode lasts around 35-40mins, which seems to pass pretty quickly (which is a good thing, yes? Means I’m enjoying it? Thought so), and though there’s a loose series arc, each episode stands up very well as a self-contained story. Episode One does the ‘Pilot’ job nicely – introduces us to the characters and the situation they’re being thrown into, without having to resort to massive infodumps. There are some cracking storylines – episodes 5 and 6 are probably my favourites – with a good mix of comedy and SF ideas – some of which, especially in episodes 4 and 6, are very clever indeed – and there are some nice pay-offs if you listen to the whole series.
The cast, too, are very good. A draw for Red Dwarf fans would be the presence of Robert Llewellyn as The Narrator, who bookends each episode. Jon Shaw is everyman accountant Eric Street, and Joanna Eliot is Nina Seventeen, the vaguely sensible CIA (a sort of ‘time police’) Agent who gets stuck with the errant time-travellers she’s there to arrest. Anyone who’s familiar with Big Brother sister show Bit on the Side [I’m not – I stopped watching Big Brother after failing the audition for series 4 in 2003] will recognise Henry Imbert and Ian Symes, who play the young, genius, time machine-inventing Professor Miles Wanderlust (“Please…just call me ‘Professor’.”) and Nina’s dimwitted CIA colleague Oscar Quantum respectively.
I really can heartily recommend this series, which is available for download at very reasonable rates – just £1.49 for a single episode, £6.99 for the series, or £10.99 for a complete package of all six episodes, with a bundle of ‘Extras’, the main feature of which is A Brief History of A Brief History of Time Travel, a 20-odd minute podcast-esque ‘Making Of’ show for each episode, where James and Seb talk about the episode it accompanies – where ideas for the episode came from, anecdotes from the recording and suchlike. There are also outtakes and oddities. Additionally, the Extras package includes desktop and mobile wallpapers, as well as a PDF eBook edition of the comprehensive Official Companion to the show. Alternatively, the six ABoABHoTT shows and the eBook can be downloaded for a respectable £5.99.
I’d really like to see this series do well, as I think it’s got a lot to offer. It’s funny, well written, and I’d definitely like to hear another series.
To buy the series, extras, or any of the other assorted merchandise on offer (ABHoTT mug, anyone?), visit the official site at www.abhott.com