Some comedies secure cult status after just one episode. The first series of Phoenix Nights, created by and starring Bolton-born comic Peter Kay, is one of those rare gems that few saw on first showing but that everyone was soon talking about. Wheelchair-bound Brian Potter (Kay) runs the Phoenix, a shabby social club populated by an assortment of wonderfully observed characters. It's grim up North and despite the best efforts of the staff to inject life into the proceedings--be it an alternative comedy night, a version of Robot Wars in Potter's beloved Pennine Suite... or a Wild West extravaganza--each evening's entertainment always ends badly. Undaunted, the Phoenix denizens continue to strive for their dream: a world in which "clubland never dies". Even though Kay is the focus of the show (having also directed and penned the series), this is no star vehicle; the hapless security guards, the club entertainer Jerry, and Ray Von the dodgy DJ all combine in an ensemble comedy the like of which hasn't been seen since Fawlty Towers. You have to watch it a couple of times just to catch all the visual gags, let alone pick up on all the nuances of the brilliantly written script. If you missed it first time round, now's your chance to own one of the best British sit-coms of recent years. On the DVD: Phoenix Nights on disc comes with a plethora of extras to enjoy. "One Man and His Horse" is behind the scenes footage of Trigger and his handler (who is almost as entertaining as his charge); there are some great deleted scenes, trailers for the first series and an episode-by-episode sequence of outtakes where the cast hilarity is definitely contagious. A commentary from Kay and some of the team consists more of reminiscence than information, but is well worth a listen. --Kristen Bowditch [show more]
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