Ted and Alice (2002)


UK. 2002.


Director – Steve Bendelack, Screenplay – Nick Vivian, Based on an Idea by Steve Shill, Producer – Jacinta Peel, Photography – David Odd, Music – Neil Arthur, Visual Effects Supervisor – Graham Brown, Production Design – Chris Wilkinson. Production Company – Granada Television


Dawn French (Alice Putkin), Stephen Tompkinson (Ted), Owen Teale (Barry Branch), Eleanor Bron (Perdita Lowe), David Walliams (Shane), Katy Cavanagh (Joy), Peter Serafinowicz (Mark), David Troughton (Stan)


Alice Putkin runs a bed-and-breakfast inn in a village in Britain’s Lake District. She walks out on her boyfriend Barry, the local policeman, after she discovers that he has forgotten their sixth anniversary and is playing pool at the pub instead. She despairs of ever finding the storybook romance that she dreams of. She then encounters the very strange Ted and offers him a room for the night. The two are duly attracted to one another. However, Ted is an alien and has come to Earth to have sex with a human woman. His people are asexual and he is regarded as perverted because of his preference for human women. At the same time, Barry investigates the mysterious death of a local eccentric who believed in aliens and soon regards Ted as the prime suspect. Also arrived are a group of alien hunters who believe that Ted’s people want to devour larger-bodied women and that Alice, rather than being wooed by Ted, is in great danger.

This comedy, which originally aired on BBC tv in three one-hour parts, is a variant on the tried and true wacky alien visitor comedy. This particular idea has proven surprisingly popular on tv at least – see the likes of My Favorite Martian (1963-6), Mork and Mindy (1978-82), ALF (1986-90) and 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001). Ted and Alice appears to have largely been conceived around the pairing of its two stars – Dawn French, the hugely popular bigger-bodied comedienne from British comedy shows like Girls on Top (1985-6), French and Saunders (1987– ) and The Vicar of Dibley (1994-2007) and Stephen Tompkinson, who came to attention as the priest in several seasons of the rural comedy-drama Ballykissangel (1996-2001) and various subsequent shows.

Ted and Alice is an amiable comedy, if one that also seems entirely unchallenging. It is important to note that it has been predicated more on the basis of the light romantic comedy pairing of its two stars than it ever has as a science-fiction vehicle. Even in terms of comedy, it feels pitched more at the audiences who like the British provincial comedies represented, well, by the two stars’ most popular vehicles, The Vicar of Dibley and Ballykissangel. It comes populated with a supporting cast of likeable rural eccentrics, from the batty old timer to the sarcastic barman and oafish boyfriend, that all seem drawn from the easy comedic stereotypes that populate these shows. It is made with a good-natured cosiness, has a few wry one-liners but there is nothing that not seem easily able to be predicted from the outset. That said, all of it is assembled with a likeable amusement that produces an occasional smile if not exactly a belly laugh. French and Tompkinson are well paired. She can do this type of role in her sleep and engages the audience with seemingly effortless regard, while he gives a performance of wide-eyed bizarreness. There are some weak and unconvincing morphing effects representing the UFO and alien transformations.

Director Steve Bendelack has directed numerous episodes of British comedy tv series. He later ventured out onto cinema screens with The League of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse (2005), Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007) and The Harry Hill Movie (2013), all films based on a British comedy series.

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