Brian Gittins is the creation of the comedian David Earl, and he’s appeared in the film Cemetery Junction, a number of video shorts, the podcast Brian Gittins and Friends, while Earl regularly performs as him on stage and took a full length show entitled Don’t Feed the Monkey Man on the road in 2017 and 2018. A shy, slightly cheeky, slightly coarse, but very caring character filled with nervous energy, back in 2012 Channel Four gave him his own one off pilot but because life is cruel and meaningless (or they just didn’t like it for some bizarre reason) they didn’t commission a full series.
Written by Earl and Brett Goldstein it sees Gittens working as a taxi driver, flirting with Cheryl the taxi controller (Ashley McGuire) and hanging out either with his colleagues Pat (Roger Evans) and Liz (Juliet Cowan), his daughter Lucy (Camille Ucan), or driving various passengers around. There’s not exactly a strong narrative but that’s not to it’s detriment, it’s a slice of life piece and a selection of vignettes, with the slight plot line of Brian summoning up the courage to ask Cheryl out lurking in the background.
Much of the humour revolves around the inane and strange conversations he has, from when his friend Pat claims he has five stomachs to a customer who complains about how when he went in to a shoe shop in Rotterdam there was dog shit everywhere. There’s also a few scenes where he picks up four women on a hen night who screech at him and shove a dildo in his ear, before asking him what “his willy looks like” and in one of the funniest moments he responds “Looks like this, a little thumb…without the nail”. There’s clearly a crude element to the show with a fair bit of swearing and sexual innuendo, with Liz providing a lot of the latter as she rambles on about how sexually frustrated she is, but it’s offset by a genuine sweetness and strangely enough the combination works well.
Other really funny (and quite lovely) parts involve Brian talking with his daughter Lisa, their relationship is touching and sweet and the way they softly tease each other is affecting, with the lines “She called me a silly twat” / “That’s promising” making me grin an enormous amount. Also amusing is Brian’s suggestion that his opening line should be “Fancy a chicken burger?”, and Lisa persuading him to use a mop to practice his chat up lines with, and these scenes are easily the highlight of the already strong pilot. Towards the end there’s also an engaging sequence where he picks up a pregnant woman, asking “Right, where we going then, airport?” and when he tries to put on some soothing music his tape of Chas and Dave’s Rabbit comes on which he can’t stop it playing.
It has occasional moments of pathos, including a bride to be who regrets kissing another man, and when Brian finally summons up the courage to ask Cheryl out he’s bleakly interrupted by her previously unintroduced boyfriend Alan, while the ending where he visits the pregnant woman in hospital is endearing as well. It pulls off these gentler sequences with aplomb, they feel genuine rather than forced, and the pilot’s impressively directed throughout by Michael Cumming of Brass Eye and Toast Of London fame whose use of split screens to show both Brian and his passengers in close up is especially effective.
Given how great it is I’ve no idea in the slightest why we didn’t get a full series, or four or five of them. Earl’s a great actor, in other hands the character could come across as a bit creepy but here he’s really lovable, and all of the rest of the cast are extremely likeable too. Plus the concept allows him to explore a whole range of ideas and themes that other sitcoms rarely combine, so there’s no reason why it couldn’t have gone on for a long old time. At least the character lives on to this day, and hopefully soon someone will realise how stupid Channel 4 were to not give him an ongoing show and do so asap.