Remote Control - Saturday 10 August 2013

Steve Delaney in 'Count Arthur Strong', Tuesdays on BBC 2
Steve Delaney in 'Count Arthur Strong', Tuesdays on BBC 2
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Sound played to Strong’s strengths

Sad to say, but, the last few weeks have proved beyond doubt that Steve Delaney has a great face – and body – for radio.

Since 2005, in the guise of elderly all-round entertainer Count Arthur Strong, comic actor Delaney has been responsible for – to my mind – the most consistently laugh-out-loud-funny radio sitcom (Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show!) since the golden age of Hancock et al.

The Sony Radio Academy award winning show has now made the great leap from sound to sound and vision and the results are – compared to the purely audio version – somewhat underwhelming.

Which is not to say that the series thus far has been a disappointment on every level.

The writing is excellent, a daft-smile inducing brew of malapropism and spleen, pathos , bathos and wit (as one might expect from a project boasting the talents of unalloyed Irish genius Graham (Father Ted, Black Books, The IT Crowd) Linehan.

The physical humour too is deftly composed and skilfully performed.

There is even a fine supporting cast, ably led by Rory Kinnear as the scholarly son of Arthur’s former comedy partner, who seeks his assistance in writing a biography of his late father.

The problem, however, and it is a significant one, is Delaney himself.

Literally, himself.

Put simply, many years of Delaney’s majestic radio depiction of Arthur has planted in my head an image of the character which bears next to no physical resemblance to the actor.

For all his undoubted talent Delaney is no Clive Dunn, and while it was easy to take Corporal Jones for a frail gent somewhere in his early 90s, it is hard to look at Count Arthur and see much other than a tall, healthy, quite solidly built man in early middle age. In a grey wig and old man’s clothing.

All of which said, if you can manage to overcome this unavoidable shortcoming there is much to enjoy.

Kinnear, currently making bleak Sunday evenings even bleaker in Channel 4’s Southcliffe, here displays a fine comic talent – his heavily anaesthatised efforts to evade the medical attentions of the Count in last week’s episode being note perfect.

On balance, it’s worth a watch – just don’t look too closely at Arthur’s stick-on wrinkles.

Better yet, squint or close your eyes and just listen.