Brian Pern: The Life of Rock/A Life In Rock/40 Years of Prog and Roll is a British mockumentary written by Simon Day and Rhys Thomas. It follows the life of musician Brian Pern (Simon Day) and his attempts at making music and raising money for charity, as well as his day to day life. Brian was the lead singer of progressive rock group Thotch in the 1970s, but left the band and has since worked as a solo artist.
His manager, John Farrow (Michael Kitchen), spends most of his time swearing and rejecting jobs for Brian that come along, much to Brian's irritation. The other members of Thotch - including Pat Quid (Paul Whitehouse) and Tony Pebble (Nigel Havers) - hate Brian for quitting the band, and Brian hates them too, so they can rarely stand to be in the same room as each other. Other characters include Rhys Thomas OBE (Rhys Thomas), the director and producer in universe, and Pepita Sanchez (Lucy Montgomery), a Mexican singer who works at Brian's studio and later becomes his girlfriend.
As each series has a different title, here is a breakdown of their names and content:
- Series 1 (Brian Pern: The Life of Rock) is a documentary, presented by Brian, about the history of rock. In this series, Brian takes the audience through the birth, life and death of rock, we meet Thotch, and a lot of celebrities do very out-of-character cameos.
- Series 2 (Brian Pern: A Life in Rock) follows Brian in his day to day life. In this series, Thotch have their own jukebox musical, Brian stages a musical version of 'Day Of The Triffids', and Brian puts together a Christmas album... And has a heart attack.
- Series 3 (Brian Pern: 40 Years of Prog and Roll) follows Brian's return to the music industry after his heart attack. In this series, Brian meets his fan club, celebrates the fortieth anniversary of his solo album 'Shelf Life' and reunites with Thotch for a one off concert.
On 17th February 2017, it was announced online that Brian had 'died' in a segway accident. 'Brian Pern: A Tribute' was aired in March 2017.
This series provides the following tropes:
- Adorkable: Pat when he starts talking about his guitars or liquorice.
- The Alcoholic: Pepita is implied to be one. She is prone to getting very drunk before performing, probably because of performance anxiety, and when she is stressed.
- Artistic License History: In universe, Kathy Burke finds the script of the jukebox musical too boring, so she decides to insert some false-but-more-interesting moments into the play. Brian and Pat are not impressed:Pat: In act two you've got Mike dying of a sexually transmitted disease.Kathy: And?Pat: Well, Mike's never had a sexually transmitted disease, and he's not dead!
- Cameo: There are loads of cameos from musicians and other celebrities, especially in series 1.
- Comically Missing the Point: In the final episode of series 3, Brian finds out that John set up the entire bankruptcy claim to force them to reform the band. Trying to prove his point to the others, Brian shows them the anonymous letter that tipped him off and the good luck card John gave him, and asks them to compare the handwriting. Suddenly, Tony stands up:Tony: I can't believe this, John. You sent Brian an individual card and we only got a group one!Brian: Not that, you bimbo, Pebble!
- Drunk on Milk: Bennet St John somehow become addicted to cod liver oil capsules.
- My love is a window and yours is a pane...
- 'Rock This Nation' is also pretty catchy.
- Henpecked Husband: Brian is one of these when he is living with Astrid. To be fair, Astrid is horrible to everyone, so it isn't just Brian who is henpecked when she is around.
- Hypocritical Humour: Brian insists that everything associated with his concert must be meat free, but can later be seen eating sausages.
- It's Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Tony insists his surname is pronounced Pebb-lay, with an accent on the second e.
- Jerkass: Most of the characters are jerks. The biggest jerk in the series is probably Astrid, Brian's wife in series 3.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Unlike Astrid, most of the characters are actually this deep down. Especially John Farrow, who clearly cares about the band, and the members of Thotch, as they care about each other when they get ill and will go to the lengths of paying off debts for each other.
- Left It In: Several times over the series, Brian will say something and then ask Rhys if they can cut it out to make him sound better. Rhys agrees, but is obviously lying, given that the scene then appears in the televised episode.
- Like an Old Married Couple: Brian and John Farrow fall into this pattern a few times over the series. This is a very good example:Brian: [Outraged] John!John: [Mimicking his outraged tone] Brian!
- Literal-Minded: Pat in this conversation:Rhys: Pat, what do you think is the worst thing that could happen at a festival?Pat: ...Probably murder. (Beat) ...Yeah.
- Malaproper: Barry, Thotch's first base player, does one of these when discussing why he hates the rest of the band:Bary: They're all horrible people. Especially Pat. I wouldn't piss on him if he was drowning.Rhys: Don't you mean 'if he was on fire'?Barry: [Confused] Well, whatever, I wouldn't piss on him!
- Mistaken for Racist: Due to a microphone malfunction, Brian's microphone is still live when he is on the phone to John Farrow in the ad break of The Wright Stuff. This means the entire country hears him say "I'm not a fan of Blacks, to be honest," and, as they don't know the context (he and John are talking about the sponsors for his concert, one of whom is the store Blacks), everyone assumes Brian is racist. This leads to musical remixes of the quote appearing on the internet and people throwing eggs at Brian.
- Name's the Same: Invoked and Played for Laughs when Roger Taylor of Queen is interviewed, but is credited as Roger Taylor of Duran Duran.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The producer during Thotch's unfortunate disco phase is a man called Nigel Rogers.
- Obfuscating Disability: John makes Pat pretend he has dementia to get Brian to agree to doing the reunion concert. It works... Until Brian finds out the truth.
- Running Gag:
- There's a running joke in episode 3 of series 2 that every time Thotch or one of their solo tracks came close to getting a number one, it was always released at the same time as a really big song, so they didn't get the top spot.John: And it would've been number one if it wasn't for Bohemian fucking Rhapsody. Oh well, bad timing.
- The gag of the guest stars getting the wrong name tags appearing on-screen. They either mix them up with another person or band, or give them the wrong name entirely. The best example is whenever Roger Taylor is on-screen, and the caption can't ever decide whether he was in Queen or Duran Duran.
- There's a running joke in episode 3 of series 2 that every time Thotch or one of their solo tracks came close to getting a number one, it was always released at the same time as a really big song, so they didn't get the top spot.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Most of the characters swear, but John Farrow pretty much says the F-word every other sentence. Tony is almost as bad.
- '70s Hair: The whole band in their music videos and filmed performances.
- Take That!: 'Poundland Polly' is not the nicest parody of Oasis.
- Team Dad: John Farrow is this to Thotch. It is only thanks to him that the band reform in the first place, and he keeps them together despite the fact they are always arguing.
- That Syncing Feeling: To Tony's amusement, there was once an occasion when the four other members of Thotch had to mime to a song on which their instruments weren't even playing (it was the B side to 'Black Christmas', which Tony composed alone on his keyboard). They were unimpressed, and it shows.
- Trying Not to Cry: Pat when recounting the time he crashed his car into a horse box and killed a foal.
- The Voiceless: Michael Phillips rarely speaks, and John never says a word. This is reflected in the Thotch jukebox musical, in which they both have no lines.