I Tell You It’s Burt Reynolds takes place in the living room of a typical family home. The arrival of Jim (Leonard Rossiter) is enough to send the kids to their room (“he never stops talking”) although the adults are less fortunate. They’re just about to watch McMillan and Wife and although Jim tries to tempt them with the football on the other side, he settles down to watch it as well.
Jim is an insuffrable know-it-all. This starts when he tells Joyce (Gillian Rayne) about the deficiencies of her television set. “You know your colour’s all wrong? There’s too much red. You can’t watch it like that, it looks like he’s been boiled.” Granny (the peerless Patricia Haynes) is old enough to speak her mind. “What’s he want to keep coming round here for?”
After they manage to prevent Jim taking the television set apart with a screwdriver, he keeps quiet for a moment. But it doesn’t last long, as he spies a familiar face just behind Rock Hudson. What, he wonders, is Burt Reynolds doing in an episode of McMillan and Wife? Everybody else tells him that it’s not Burt Reynolds and indeed that it looks nothing like him, but Jim is convinced. “Course it is. Don’t tell me I don’t know Burt Reynolds when I see him.”
Thanks to Leonard Rossiter, this is the best episode of The Galton and Simpson Playhouse and it’s fair to say that few comic actors would have been able to deliver such a tremendous performance of ever-increasing hysteria.
Although Burt isn’t listed in the TV Times or on the end credits, Jim isn’t going to give up, despite the fact that nobody else cares. Calls to Yorkshire Television and the Daily Telegraph (Jim disgustedly tells them he’ll be buying the Daily Express from now on) are fruitless – so he decides the only way to settle this is to call Burt Reynolds in Hollywood. Incredibly he gets through, but when Burt doesn’t give him the answer he wants, is Jim finally going to admit defeat? Of course not!
Twenty years later, this was remade with Paul Merton in the main role. The two series of Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson’s … are interesting. Merton was always on something of a hiding to nothing, since many of the episodes were television classics (such as the various Hancock episodes selected, including The Radio Ham and Twelve Angry Men). The Paul Merton I Tell You It’s Burt Reynolds is fine, but it really doesn’t work without the full-throttle attack of a top comedy performer like Rossiter. The Galton and Simpson Playhouse was very fortunate to get a performer at the top of his game, as he was able to wring every last comic drop out of the scenario.