After 1980’s Thérèse Raquin, Rickman appeared in a couple of small television roles while still working on stage. One was a small role in a May 1980 episode of the sitcom Shelley, and the other was a very brief appearance in the 1982 miniseries Smiley’s People. We’ll look at both of them today.
Shelley, “Nowt So Queer”
The first followed just a couple of months after Thérèse Raquin aired in spring 1980. This is his first non-BBC television role because this sitcom was on ITV. I have never seen this show before and can’t find the entire episode. However, one generous soul on YouTube has uploaded what I assume is all of Rickman’s scenes or at least most of them.
When I first watched this clip, I knew nothing about the show it was from, but I kept thinking these people all seemed vaguely familiar to me. Then the internet told me Shelley was a British sitcom that ran for several years in the 70s and 80s about a sarcastic unemployed dude with an advanced graduate degree. That plot summary explained why they seemed like people I had encountered before–they’re exactly like a lot of my classmates from grad school. (I say that with equal parts affection and exasperation.)
Anyway, Rickman plays Clive, one of Shelley’s friends invited over for a dinner party. Apologies in advance for the blurry screencaps.
I really can’t overstate how very 1980 he looks here:
Poor Rickman. He seems pretty awkward about the whole thing. He spends quite a bit of time with his hands tucked in his pockets, looking embarrassed. Alan Rickman, you have nothing to be ashamed of–you’re always awesome. It’s not your fault the fashion of the day was terrible.
Anyway, Shelley kicks things off by showing his guests what they’ll be drinking for the evening.
The only problem is Shelley’s apartment is a mess. In watching Clive walk around to determine exactly how messy it is, we see even more of how ghastly this outfit is–his sweatpants are tucked into his socks. I repeat, his sweatpants are tucked into his socks.
1980 was a dark time for fashion, and my heart breaks for The Rickman having to wear this. Fortunately, we don’t see the socks anymore. I don’t think I could have handled another sighting of them.
Though Clive and his associate–I’m assuming girlfriend, but it’s never explained in the clip I watched–try to pretend like Shelley’s apartment isn’t a shithole because they’re nice people. But they can only maintain that facade for so long.
And then, because they’re a lot nicer (and tidier) than I’ll ever be, they volunteer to help him clean his apartment before anyone else shows up.
At this point in the clip, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. So far, it had been mildly amusing, but I didn’t know who the characters were and had spent most of the time gawking at the clothes. (Also, I just really dislike sitcoms that use laugh tracks and/or live audiences.)
But then Rickman found a frying pan in Shelley’s bed because the latter really is that much of a slob. And Clive’s reaction is pure Rickman disdain at its best, and for the first time, I literally laughed out loud.
Then while Shelly sits on his ass, more people show up, while I guess Clive and his girlfriend (?) continue to clean Shelley’s fucking apartment. What an asshole! Clive and Nameless Girlfriend (?), you deserve better friends!
The welcoming is interrupted when Clive can’t resist sharing what he’s read recently with the newest guest, and his entire demeanor and delivery reminds me so much of some pretty bizarre but very nice people I went to school with when they got super excited about something nobody else cared about, like video games that only about three people on the planet have ever played. That association amused me, and I chuckled quite a bit over it.
Then, Shelley gets called away while, I guess, his guests continue to clean his place for him. He wanders off and finally returns to find them all sitting at the table. I’m assuming they finally gave up on cleaning his apartment since he obviously doesn’t give a shit.
Shelley regales them with what called him away–aiding another friend’s very British reason for not being able to attend.
How watched? YouTube clip.
Does Rickman steal the show? I’m not entirely sure I can comment on this since I literally only watched a 4 minute clip with no context, but Shelley and Rickman are the only people who stood out to me as having individual personalities when I was watching it, so yes.
Is it worth watching beyond Rickman? It’s so short that question is a moot point, but I think it’s bizarre and amusing enough to warrant you spending five minutes of your life watching it.
Spinoff idea? Clive’s Cleaning Service–it’s a cleaning procedural where he just pops up at random friends’ houses and cleans for them while he judges them and yammers on about what he’s been reading lately.
Best Rickman line? A very judgmental “Do you find this uncomfortable?”
Best Rickman face? There’s no besting that face during the frying pan scene:
Would I let Clive read to me? If he untucked his fucking socks from the sweatpants, yes, he could read the plant article to me.
My initial trauma over the clothing aside, I like Clive. True, he does seem kind of flaky, but so far, this is probably one of the nicest Rickman characters I’ve ever seen. I mean, seriously, I don’t think I know anyone good-natured enough to just start cleaning up their lazy-ass friend’s home. I screencapped all of his hilarious, wonderful judgment faces, but actually he smiles his way through most of this clip. In fact, he smiles a lot more than most Rickman characters, and the result is adorable.
Next page: Smiley’s People