“Look at this and this and this. Really exciting isn’t it?”
All you could really do was reply with a half arsed ‘yes,’ and go back to reading your comic. Well this is exactly what Ford Kiernan’s documentary Just Dandy is like. It’s just a shame it’s about The Dandy: the thing you’d rather be reading.
The documentary looked at a number of things including the history of The Dandy, as well as featuring interviews with its staff and celebrity fans. For once the celebrity fans are the most interesting part. Men (and it was all men) talked about the role the Dandy played in their lives. Apparently it taught Frank Skinner to read, and he wasn’t the only one.
However, throughout these talking head moments one of the shows main problems started to become apparent. Many celebs would often introduce themselves with the phrase, “I was more of a Beano boy myself.” Indeed the Dandy’s sibling rival was almost totally ignored throughout the show, something that became problematic when the programme moved on to talk about the Dandy’s demise.
Did the programme makers not wonder how one comic is still going strong while the other has been retired to the great newsagent in the sky? Also, the reasons it did provide weren’t given any real analysis. There was a brief discussion about the ‘elf’n’safety gone mad’ culture of the 90s – which was when I read the Dandy and it never stopped my enjoyment – and a deal with the devil style agreement made with a kids’ film producer from Hollywood.
This decision seemed to backfire when the film companies brought out their own magazines, taking the Dandy’s readers with them. Well, at least I assume that happened – the show didn’t actually provide the answer.
However, while disappointing, this lack of analysis isn’t a major issue. Just Dandy was clearly designed as a warm and fluffy nostalgia piece, highlighted by the fact it was first shown on Hogmanay at 9pm. So it’s a shame that Kiernan chose to pop that nostalgia bubble with one of the most annoying gimmicks I’ve seen in a long time.
At various points throughout the show Ford Kiernan read extracts from The Dandy aloud while providing a series of annoying voices for each character. The strange faux Texan accent he gave Desperate Dan was awful – especially as it never managed to escape Kiernan’s own Glaswegian tones (it’s ok, I’m allowed to say that- I’m Scottish).
The whole exercise would have been much more interesting as a three or four-part series of thirty minute episodes. The saddest thing is, like the overly enthusiastic parent, the delivery of the show gets in the way of why the topic is so interesting and enjoyable.
If you really want to know what made The Dandy great, pick up a second-hand copy from eBay.