The Optimist 

1 November 2021


Burning Rubber, part of 'The Optimist'

The very first situation comedy commissioned by Channel Four, The Optimist, is being released on DVD via a crowdfunding campaign. First shown in April 1983, and running for two series (13 episodes), it hasn’t been seen on British tv screens since 1985.

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 Four, with a budget of just over £1m.

Reitel plays Nigel, a bumbling everyman who constantly finds himself in extraordinary situations, and is prone to Walter Mitty style bouts of daydreaming.

Series one 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).

Created and co-written by Richard Sparks, who had also been involved writing sketches for Rowan Atkinson for Not The Nine O’Clock News, the programme was part of Channel Four’s remit to be different from the mainstream.

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 mastertapes 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.

Enn Reitel has recorded a trailer for a Kickstarter campaign to release all thirteen episodes on a 2-DVD set, and which will also pay for an accompanying booklet detailing the making of the programme. Supporters will be credited on the DVD credits.


➜ Kickstarter page:


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