Prompted by a question from listener Si Bromley, our most recent edition of Waffle Men, as featured on the DwarfCast commentary for Samsara, included a discussion on the not-fondly-remembered Chris Barrie sitcom A Prince Among Men. Having grown tired of playing comedy prats like Arnold Rimmer and Gordon Brittas, Chris teamed up with The Brittas Empire producer and director Mike Stephens to bring us Gary Prince, a comedy prat who differed from his previous comedy prats by lacking any charm, depth or originality.

Gary was a retired footballer turned entrepreneur, and also a self-centered egotist, who spent his time annoying his German wife Lisel, belittling his loyal staff, insulting his closest friends and making terrible business decisions. The show ran for two series on BBC One, the first one and a half of which were shown in prime time during the week, before the last few episodes were quietly relegated to Sunday afternoons. It was not very good. See for yourself, here’s the first episode:

Part of the problem is that Gary is just a deeply unpleasant character. Rimmer works because we know his motivations and ambitions, and so we understand the frustration and self-loathing that drives much of his behaviour. Brittas works because he’s a decent person at heart who’s always trying to do the right thing, and it’s only through a combination of poor decisions, a lack of people skills and sheer bad luck that those around him get hurt. None of this applies to Gary, who’s just an obnoxious prick.

And despite a semi-decent pedigree of supporting cast and a handful of mildly amusing moments (the business with the remote is good, and I like Chris Barrie’s face during the pay-off of the This Is Your Life plot), there’s nothing about the story to compensate for such a shallow central character. No big problem in Gary’s life to be solved, no long term ambition to strive for, no major event to build up to, no sense of any potential character development. Basically no reason to tune in beyond the first episode, because you’re just going to get more of the same odious nonsense.

However, if you’re morbidly curious or a masochist, the rest of the first series is also on YouTube in this playlist. Note that there were only six episodes in series one despite there being seven here – the one labelled Episode 6 is actually the second of series two according to Wikipedia.

14 comments on “G&TV: A Prince Among Men

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  • I remember keenly watching the debut episode when it first went out, and then never tuning in again. Ever.

  • Yes, I don’t remember any real details about it other than disliking his hair quite a lot, and disliking the show even more. I’m not sure if I have the emotional strength to actually watch it on YouTube.

  • I managed at least one series at the time, I think both, cause it had Rimmer in it from what was, for me, newly discovered Red Dwarf.

    No imprints among memory.

  • I remember keenly watching the debut episode when it first went out, and then never tuning in again. Ever.

    Yes, I remember sitting down as an excited Red Dwarf obsessed child for the new Chris Barrie show, even my pre teen self knew it was a bag of shite when I got back up.

  • It was rubbish but it was the first slip by Chris in his BBC career. I am sure other big stars would have been given a second chance with a different vehicle (not massive engines). I don’t know if that was the case and Chris just got fed up with comedy acting apart from doing Rimmer, or they just dropped him. People kind of forget that with Brittas and Red Dwarf he was one of the biggest comedy actors around in the early 90s.

  • You know a show is off to a good start when they lynch a dog in the first couple minutes.

    Don’t worry too much, the dog survives and tries to maul Sonia. Don’t worry too much, she outruns the dog and it mauls someone else instead. Don’t worry too much, that someone else is Gary Prince.

    The first episode seems so aimless, why isn’t there a plot? It’s just so badly written. I did like Chris’ face at the end of the episode. A full-on Nova-5-crew -are-dead-discovery face. Well done, Mr Barrie.

  • Same thing has happened to me. I decided to write a new, less catchy theme tune for the show in hope of fooling the ear worm in my head into some cray cray Mandela effect shit.

    His name is Gary.
    Gary Prince!
    He played football.
    Gary Prince!
    But he’s quit now.
    Gary Prince!
    He’s a scouser.
    Gary Prince!
    This show’s about him.
    Gary Prince!
    It’s not too good though.
    Gary Prince!
    This is the theme tune
    Gary Prince!
    It always was, brain
    Gary Prince!

  • It was a long time ago and I have no desire to take another look and verify this claim through modern eyes… but I remember thinking at the time that this show actually started picking up some steam towards the end of season 2 (after it had been relegated to Sunday afternoons where nobody was watching it), I think I actually enjoyed the last few episodes.

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