For TV Guide, 6 – 12th January 1990
By Isla Whitcroft and Tim Ewbank
Even an assassin’s bullet can’t stop evil MP Alan B’Stard, who’s returning for an hour long special this week that proves only the good die young.
Alan B’Stard is alive and kicking. A one hour The New Statesman special, Who Shot Alan B’Stard? suggests there’s life in the double-dealing MP yet, but there’s something peculiar going on: B’Stard was gunned down by an unknown assassin and a month later he is still apparently fighting for his life. Meanwhile, the House of Commons debates the reintroduction of capital punishment. The vote looks like it’ll be a tie, until B’Stard strolls in, back from the brink, to vote in favour of the death penalty.
“I suspect there are MPs like him about,” says Rik Mayall of the dastardly politician, who’s based on “someone, though I’m not prepared to say who.
“I also read a lot of books about murderers and tyrants and evil people but in the end it was my haircut which made me grasp the role. I simply had the parting changed on my hair and there I was — a smooth, evil-looking politician.
“B’Srard is so devious!” enthuses Mayall who revels in his role. “And he gets worse every series. But all the jokes end up on him and I think that’s great. I don’t believe people see him as a hero — I hope they don’t. If they did, I wouldn’t do it.”
At the moment he’s happy to continue in his Emmy-winning role (“I’ve always played bastards; it’s much easier to make people laugh if you scream and shout at them”), which is fortunate as B’Stard has — or so he tells the aghast MPs — been treated by brilliant Amazonian faith healers, hence the miraculous recovery he’s made.
In fact, the shooting was arranged by the MP himself after he had bet £50,000 at 20-1 that capital punishment would be reinstated by Christmas. His wife, Sarah, already with pound signs printed on her eyeballs, was rather looking forward to people the life of a wealthy widow.
“She’s a bit of an okay-yah girl but good fun. She’ll try anything,” says Marsha Fitzalan, who plays her. The daughter of the Duke of Norfolk (“I don’t use my title”), Fitzalan’s enthusiasm for her role is not matched by her father: “He’s always amazed at the money I earn and can’t believe I get paid for what I do. He thinks it’s just charades.”
Now the charades turn nasty. Furious Sarah, determined to expose B’Stard as a fraud, forms an alliance with top campaigning journalist Kerry Grout and together they work out their revenge. “I enjoy the work so much,” says Fitzalan, “and the cast has a great laugh. Plus, it’s a very different sitcom.”
Hot on B’Stard’s devious trail, Sarah persuades Piers Fletcher Dervish, her husband’s friend and fall guy, to find out how the shooting was rigged. The plot thickens when they unearth a high velocity rifle and bulletproof vest from B’Stard’s safe. But as Piers demonstrates to Grout how the shooting was fixed, he accidentally kills the journalist.
But doesn’t all this sound highly unlikely? “I think half the things in The New Statesman could easily happen,” Fitzalan says firmly.
Mayall agrees: “I hope the public enjoy it but I’ve a feeling the establishment don’t. B’Stard is a caricature really. I’ve never met anyone like that and I certainly don’t want to. But the underlying theme — success at any cost — is very, very real.”