Crowd-funding campaign to support DVD of first C4 comedy

Tuesday 23rd November 2021, 2:30pm

The Optimist

A crowd-funding campaign is under way to secure a DVD release of Channel 4's first half-hour comedy series.

The Optimist, starring Enn Reitel, aired two series from 1983 to 1985 but has not been seen since its original broadcast.

A dialogue-free comedy originally created with Rowan Atkinson in mind, a team backed by Reitel and the show's creator, Richard Sparks, is now aiming to secure £6,500 via Kickstarter to release all 13 episodes.

Project creator Rob Brown says: "Starring legendary Spitting Image voice actor Enn Reitel, the programme was entirely dialogue free, several years before Mr. Bean did the same thing. The first series was shot in Hollywood, and the second in and around London, and was one of the more expensive and ambitious early commissions made by Channel 4, with a budget of just over £1m.

"The programme was a victim of the channel's tiny ratings in its early days, and very few people have ever seen this unique piece of British comedy history. Until last year the master tapes were believed to have been lost, but original producers Robert and Ashley Sidaway have now tracked them down and arranged for them to be digitised and remastered."

The Optimist

Reitel plays Nigel, a bumbling everyman who constantly finds himself in extraordinary situations, and is prone to Walter Mitty-style bouts of daydreaming. Series 1 saw Nigel attempting to escape from the world's strictest health farm; entering a mini Grand Prix, and duelling all the way across Hollywood. Series 2, based in the UK, has Nigel entering the murky world of international espionage; becoming an overnight sensation in the art world; and inheriting a crumbling mansion with some very eccentric relatives (an episode which was nominated for the 1985 Golden Rose of Montreux).

If the campaign is successful, all 13 episodes will be released in a 2-disc DVD set, including exclusive booklet detailing the making of the series. Pledges can now be made, with the DVD available for as little as £15.

Writer/creator Richard Sparks has written a short feature for British Comedy Guide detailing the series' origins and his inspiration from working with Rowan Atkinson.

Enn Reitel has also recorded a trailer promoting the campaign:

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