Simon Callow stars in The Rebel, a brand new UKTV original comedy for Gold.
When you think of Simon Callow, you probably think of him as Mozart in Amadeus or as Gareth in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
You probably don't think of a 70-year-old, pot-smoking rebellious pensioner, yet that's exactly who he's playing in Gold's newest comedy The Rebel.
Created by Andrew Birch, The Rebel actually began life as a comic strip in the Oldie magazine six years ago and speaking at a recent press event, Birch admitted that he had been writing sitcoms for a few years but nothing quite worked until he realised that the answer was staring him straight in the face and that The Rebel would make a perfect sitcom.
Callow plays Henry Palmer, a mod in the sixties, his current appearance may suggest that he's a respectable, fine, upstanding citizen, but the reality is he's everything but! A mod in the sixties, Henry was a regular visitor to Brighton on his mirrored up Lambretta scooter, dressed in a Parka, ready for a rumble with the Rockers on their motorbikes.
As he nears the age of 70, Henry has spent the last 50 years putting his youthful past behind him; or perhaps more accurately, brushing it under the floral patterned carpet. Infuriated by sushi, posh coffee, modern art and driven by a heightened sense of injustice, Henry’s had enough.
Recently bereaved by the loss of his long-suffering wife, Henry lives with his slightly impossible daughter, Cath (Anna Crilly, Anna & Katy). a Pet Therapist and married to her utterly ineffectual husband, Jeremy (Amit Shah, Stag).
Simon Callow isn't the only big name to star in The Rebel, the series also stars EastEnders legend, Anita Dobson. She plays charity shop owner Margaret who shares Henry's rebellion, as does best friend Charles, played by Bill Paterson (Law & Order: UK).
In the opening episode, Henry confronts a bearded thief who raids the till from Margaret's charity shop. Chasing the thief with a second hand teddy bear, he is stopped from making a citizen's arrest by useless copper, PC Burns (Philip Cumbus) who instead accuses him of a homophobic attack on the thief.
Burns can’t really be bothered to take it any further but when Henry attacks him with the bear, he arrests him. In spite of his daughter Cath’s exhortations to apologise and accept a caution, the recently bereaved Henry goes back to his youth and goes on a rebellious rampage.
He sets fire to a cash point, smashes a trolley through a supermarket window and defiles a font. All in a day’s work for Henry Palmer!
In the second episode, donations seem to be down at Margaret’s charity shop and Henry’s best friend, old hippie Charles, has gone missing and Henry can only look for him between the hours of nine in the morning and seven night as he’s been tagged for his previous acts of vandalism.
Seeing someone wearing Charles’ hat, Henry discovers that a new charity shop has opened in an old church called Virtuous only to discover that Charles is volunteering for them, and strangely for Charles, dressed in a smart black suit.
Convinced Charles has been fooled into a joining a fake charity Henry leaves out some donations as a trap one night and he and Margaret pursue the thief all the way back to Virtuous. They also discover that the thief was Charles and that Virtuous are taking the best clothes to sell in Lithuania.
Determined to bring Virtuous down and get Charles back, Henry and Margaret lead a rebellion of Brlghton’s real charity shops against the fake charity.
Speaking at the press event, Simon Callow described the series as “...truly original and alarmingly anarchic which you really don’t often read in scripts, certainly not in sitcoms. It’s a man who’s just kind of possessed with rage and revenge against the world, in comic form."
When asked why he accepted the role, Callow said "It was absolutely irresistible to try and find the human being in him - I mean, who would want to go up against Henry Palmer?! God save us all! It becomes clearer and clearer as the rest of the series develops the he’s not only a man with some emotional depth, a vision of life, he’s also immediately recognisable.
I, and pretty much anyone of my age, knows what he’s going on about. There’s a feeling that he’s been robbed of his life."
The Rebel is a welcome addition to Gold’s ever-growing original comedy slate and Simon Callow is a wonderful actor and perfect for the role. He brings a tremendous amount of joy and warmth to Henry Palmer, who would otherwise be a rather unlikeable character.
Whilst currently it’s just a three-part series, I definitely got the feeling at the press event that there is appetite from the cast and crew for more.
And even though I’m yet so see the final episode, it feels as if we’ve only just scratched the surface as to what Henry Palmer is capable of and of course what trouble he can cause! So I too would welcome more episodes.