After I left college in 1992, I was wallowing in self-pity (or licking my wounds, you be the judge) following a relationship breakup. I was living at home with my parents, as well as doing the odd bit of stand-up comedy – unsurprisingly, relationships material featured heavily. In January 1993, the TV series Joking Apart was broadcast on BBC2, featuring Robert Bathurst as a sitcom writer whose wife had left him, and in which we’d often see him performing imaginary stand-up sets in his head, starting with the line ‘My wife left me’. For some reason I can’t possibly begin to fathom, my father said I might enjoy the programme.

He was, as he often is when it comes to recommendations, absolutely right; Joking Apart was a terrific combination of wordplay and farce, often with a touch of genuine emotion thrown in – though this shouldn’t really come as any kind of surprise, as it was written by Stephen Moffat. Who, some of you might ask, is he? And I sneer at you and say, he’s the chap who invented Press Gang, Coupling, and has written some of the best episodes of the revived Doctor who (‘Blink’ and ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, for example).

The first series of Joking Apart was well received, shown twice on BBC2, and even won the Bronze Rose of Montreux. So the wise owls at the BBC delayed showing the second series for the best part of a year, never repeated it, didn’t commission a third series, and of course never released either series on video. Sigh.

Time passed: my emotional wounds healed, I left home, and gradually stopped doing stand-up. My father and I would occasionally talk about ‘Joking Apart’ (partly spurred on by Robert Bathurst’s starring role in Cold Feet, and our shared love of Moffat’s later show Coupling). But while we merely talked about it, some people did something about it. Ladies and Gents, please doff your virtual hats to the hero of this tale: Craig Robins.

Rather than just sitting around thinking ‘wouldn’t it be nice if I could watch Joking Apart again?’, Craig contacted the appropriate wing of the BBC and bought the rights to produce a DVD of Joking Apart. A professional videotape editor, Craig used his skills to remaster the sound and vision on the recordings. In 2006, he issued a DVD of series one, and then last month, released series two (a double-DVD set, no less).

I bought them both last week, and eagerly watched all twelve episodes over the weekend, and this post is by way of both a review and a hearty recommendation; these are extremely high-quality productions – the shows presented are still very funny and clever, but rather than just leave it at that, Craig’s created extras for the DVDs – ‘making of’ features and new cast and creator commentaries.

As you can see from the picture above, these DVDs don’t look ‘home-made’ in the slightest (the two DVD boxes even match when stood alongside each other on the shelf), and Craig has done what I consider to be a brilliant job of turning his enthusiasm into something that others can enjoy. So, in case you hadn’t already guessed, I urge you to buy these DVDs – if nothing else, it’d be a great way for you to show your support for quality comedy DVD releases when so many huge firms seem to feel that an ‘Interactive Menu’ constitutes an extra feature.

Craig’s set up his own firm, Replay, whose website can be found here. The site is as professional as the DVDs, and I received my DVDs within a day of ordering them, so I can’t fault the service on any level. And you get a discount if you buy the complete set.

Go on, support the independent folks instead of giving money to Global Omnicorp Inc. You won’t regret it.

(My thanks to Craig – obviously, for all his hard work in making a fun show available once more, but also for his permission to post about the history of the project).