I’m a huge fan – one of the early tubthumpers shouting about how people must watch this show immediately – of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful People TV series. Partly because, in my university-halls days, I was equally obsessed with anything in which Simon Barnett was a little bit fey (everything he’s in) and The Feeling (who provide the theme song.) Somewhere in the years after I bought a copy of the memoirs on which the series is based. I actually can’t remember where, but the second Book Pot decree of the year forced it back into my hands from the dusty corner of the shelf where it skulked.
First off, as I’m sure most reviews say, this bears little resemblance to the series. For a start, the tv show is two decades later, which might not matter were both works not richly drenched in the eras they portray. The vague make-up of the characters is intact, although the ‘real’ people of the memoir are handled with altogether more shades of grey than their primary-coloured TV counterparts (except, oddly, Simon himself, who seems to have been toned down from the screaming proto-queen of the book.)
What it does have is the same sense of anarchic camp, and in that sense Jonathan Harvey’s adaptation is absolutely on the nose. Some of the finest moments of the book make it intact to the screen, but by way of review, I offer my four highlights of ‘unseen’ story:
1. In which Simon believes he has murdered his blind aunt by walking her into a lamp-post.
2. In which Simon and his best friend fetch up in a hovel in London in search of the beautiful people, only to encounter a ragtag assemblage of oddities who have no idea what to do with a floor pillow (but know exactly what to do with an upright piano).
3. In which Simon discovers the meaning of camp at Butlins.
4. In which Simon takes an unexpected detour to the Rembrandt on Canal Street and discovers the age-old tradition of ‘mother-‘ and ‘daughter-ing’.
Great stuff. Read it, especially if you love the show.