The Optimist (TV series)
The Optimist promotional poster
|Written by||Richard Sparks, Enn Reitel, Robert Fuest, Robert Sidaway, Peter Ellis|
|Directed by||Peter Ellis, Robert Fuest|
|Theme music composer||David Spear|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||13|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production companies||New Century Films, Charisma Films|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||1983 –|
Each episode told a separate comic adventure in the life of an everyday man who, whether it turns out a success or a failure, always remains The Optimist. The stories made a feature of fantasy and dream sequences.
Citing the influences of Jacques Tati, Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, as well as the character of Walter Mitty, the series was designed as a silent comedy, with original music and enhanced sound effects.
Shooting on 16mm, it was made on location in Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles and London. A total of thirteen episodes were produced.
The series debuted on 14 April 1983 and the final episode was broadcast on 5 January 1985.
After producer Robert Sidaway raised the finance independently, the pilot Sea Dreams was filmed on location in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, during summer 1981 with post-production taking place in Los Angeles and London.
After a private screening in Wardour Street, Cecil Korer, Programme Purchaser and Commissioning Editor for Light Entertainment at Channel 4, subsequently commissioned a further six episodes.
Each half-hour episode starred Enn Reitel in the title role of The Optimist with the remainder of the cast specific to the requirements of the separate stories. In addition, every episode featured a different British actress as part of the romantic interest.
Filming took place in various locations in Los Angeles during summer 1982 under the direction of Peter Ellis. Director of photography was Peter Appleton, the art director was Mike Porter and the costume designer was Jo Korer.
Composer David Spear wrote and recorded the main theme and extensive score in Los Angeles while the remainder of post-production was completed in London. The editor was John Daniels.
Announced in the press and previewed on Channel 4's opening night (2 November 1982), season one was broadcast on Channel 4 at 8 pm on consecutive Thursdays between 14 April and 26 May 1983.
Further to the broadcast of season 1, Channel 4 commissioned a second season of six new episodes. The stories were shot on location in London during the summer of 1984 under the direction of Robert Fuest. The new Director of Photography was Francis de Groote, who worked as Assistant Cameraman on Season One, while Mike Porter and Jo Korer repeated their roles as Art Director and Costume Designer respectively.
Season 2 was broadcast on Channel 4 at 8 pm on consecutive nights between 31 December 1984 and 5 January 1985.
Season 1 (1983)Edit
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"Sea Dreams"||Peter Ellis||Richard Sparks||14 April 1983|
|Falling asleep in his apartment while watching a late night documentary on windsurfing, The Optimist (Enn Reitel) imagines himself on an exotic beach where he falls in love with The Girl (Sharron Davies) despite his misadventures learning to surf and dancing at the nightclub. To win over The Girl, however, he will need to beat The Rival in a surf race.|
|2||"The Good, The Bad and the Nasty"||Peter Ellis||Richard Sparks, Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||21 April 1983|
|Dressed for the "wild west", The Optimist sets out for a 'Dude Ranch' and is introduced to the riding instructor (Carinthia West), although he finds that a rival (Martin Kove) is already in her favors. Learning to be a cowboy, The Optimist gets lost in the desert, smashes the Rival's car and fantasies that he is Clint Eastwood's 'The Man With No Name' – urged on by a Grizzly Veteran (Bill Erwin) for a shootout with his nemesis.|
|3||"Man's Worst Friend"||Peter Ellis||Richard Sparks, Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||28 April 1983|
|As odd-job man extraordinaire The Optimist manages to be a tennis pro, a waiter, a golfing coach and a dog minder – all in one day! One morning he is out walking a St Bernard and a toy poodle for a walk in the opulent surroundings of Beverley Hills and manages to lose the poodle while helping out a beautiful Lady Golfer (Tracy Scoggins). He also meets the gorgeous Daughter (Jenifer Landor) of his employer (Ferdy Mayne) and she persuades him not only to play tennis but act as a waiter at the evening's poolside party. Naturally chaos ensues as The Optimist finds himself pursued by both women.|
|4||"Healthy Bodies, Unhealthy Mind"||Peter Ellis||Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||5 May 1983|
|Out jogging, The Optimist realizes that is totally unfit and decides to enroll himself at a health farm, but soon discovers the place is more like a prison run by the scary Matron (Fran Ryan) – half-starved, tortured in the gymnasium and physically battered in an all ladies aerobic session. Despite this he of course manages to fall in love with the Dancer (Terri Robinson) as well as devises a way to eat and a plan to escape. Helped by the Dancer, a multitude of disguises and the local fire brigade, he heads for freedom, jogging into the sunset with the girl of his dreams.|
|5||"Kid's Stuff"||Peter Ellis||Richard Sparks, Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||12 May 1983|
|Employed by a mother (Patrika Darbo) to babysit her 'perfect' son, The Optimist instead finds the overweight boy is a particularly unpleasant 10-year-old. Keeping him amused is no easy task, although when they visit the local circus The Optimist immediately falls in love with acrobatic Circus Girl (Christine Garner) and faces an adversary in strongman The Bull. Forced into performing with the acrobats, the clowns and on the high trapeze, he ends up being fired from a cannon by the cunning boy.|
|6||"Burning Rubber"||Peter Ellis||Richard Sparks, Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||19 May 1983|
|Roller-skating through Venice Beach, The Optimist runs into a lady racing driver (Dinah May). After helping mend her bust tire, he follows the Girl to the racing circuit where he becomes a mechanic and soon afterwards finds himself one of the drivers. Suddenly it's Grand Prix time and the race is on – his prize, the Girl of course! In competition with a bad-tempered Cabbie (Robert Davi). Miraculously he wins, but fame and fortune is brief – he needs to make a quick getaway before any finds out his true identity.|
|7||"A Challenge"||Peter Ellis||Peter Ellis, Enn Reitel, Robert Sidaway||26 May 1983|
|After meeting a stunning girl (Jadie Rivas) in Marina Del Ray, The Optimist finds himself in competition with a Rival (Richard Booker) for her affections – first in a surfing competition and then in a duel which starts on Santa Monica Beach but takes them on a continuous battle throughout Los Angeles, including a car wash, across Wilshire Boulevard, outside the Hollywood High School and even hanging off the Hollywood Sign.|
Season 2 (1984-1985)Edit
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||"Any Messages"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||31 December 1984|
|As chief sprayer of green fly to both the Chinese and Indian Embassies, The Optimist is forcibly persuaded to smuggles messages into the Russian and American Embassies via roller towels. MI5 then persuades him to become a double agent and steal top secrets from the Russians. Amidst the mayhem of a poisoned cocktail party, he pulls off the job with the help of a bewitching Agent (Annette Lynton) only to end up in a Chinese restaurant being persuaded by money, and more to the point a meat cleaver, to work once more for his oriental friend (Anthony Chinn).|
|2||"Any Messages"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||1 January 1985|
|The Optimist goes racing, meets the lovely Sal (Julia Chambers) and becomes a stable boy. He saves the aptly-named horse Nutter from being sent to the knackers yard and lovingly prepares him for the big race. Betting spies are afoot and the stakes are high as the big day arrives, with Nutter the big favorite. Unfortunately, Nutter loves his savior so much that during the race he suddenly stops to go over and say hello to The Optimist and give him a nuzzle.|
|3||"The Light Fantastic"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||2 January 1985|
|Working as a humble cobbler, The Optimist is thrown into an international world of crime and classical ballet when a diamond is stolen – the famous Light Fantastic. Olga (Karen Smith) is on the run from incompetent Thugs (Ian McNeice and ) when she hides the stone in her ballet shoe and draws The Optimist into a convoluted plot that leads to him on stage dancing the pas-de-deux in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. By the end he finds alone himself alone in the theater – unknowingly still in possession of the fabulous diamond.|
|4||"The Double"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||3 January 1985|
|On his arrival at a plush London casino, The Optimist discovers that he has become an instant celebrity. What he doesn't know is that he is actually the identical double of the Boss (Enn Reitel) who owns the club. After loving and losing his double's girlfriend (Jenny Runacre), and winning and losing a million pounds on the tables, The Optimist has to work out how to make a safe escape.|
|5||"The Fool of the House of Esher"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||4 January 1985|
|An unexpected inheritance leaves The Optimist with a crumbling and sinister country estate, which includes an equally crumbling and sinister butler named Old Norman (Eric Francis). He spends his time trying to win the respect of his landed gentry neighbors as well as avoiding the murderous attempts of his cousin Rachel (Rosalind Lloyd) – who is not happy that she did not benefit from the will and is determined to put it right.|
|6||"The Brush Off"||Robert Fuest||Robert Fuest, Enn Reitel||5 January 1985|
|After unintentionally whitewashing the walls and then the entire garden of a suburban home, The Optimist is mistaken for a new impressionist painter. His absurd abstracts sell for thousands and the art world flocks to his new master of the brush. When his artistic muse Mimi (Julie Peasgood) suddenly leaves him, he is left in despair and attempts to paint his masterpiece – but unveiled at an exhibition it is proclaimed a complete and total disaster. Back on the streets as a laborer, The Optimist unwittingly paints a true masterpiece.|
Christine Garner, Terri Robinson, Dinah May and Carinthia West on location in Los Angeles, July 1982, for the shoot of The Optimist, season one
Enn Reitel on location in Los Angeles, July 1982, on the shoot of The Optimist, season one (episode 5, "Kid's Stuff")
Tracy Scoggins on location in Los Angeles, July 1982, on the shoot of The Optimist, season one (episode 3, "Man's Worst Friend")
Karen Smith and Enn Reitel in August 1984 on the London shoot of The Optimist, Season Two (episode 5, "The Light" Fantastic)