November 16, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

Great Performances Sir Norbert Smith: a Life

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
run date
We gave it a B

Try to imagine a cross between Woody Allen’s Zelig and Monty Python’s Flying Circus and you’ll have some idea of what this agreeably silly little show-biz satire is up to. Sir Norbert Smith: A Life is a pseudo-documentary about a fake, supposedly legendary actor. Twenty-nine-year-old British comic Harry Enfield plays the 80-year-old Smith. The hour follows his career, from his start as a knockabout vaudevillian on through acclaim as a Shakespearean actor. The jokes underneath it all are that the people interviewed either didn’t like or didn’t know Smith, and that Smith’s own doddering reminiscences aren’t to be trusted (”I knew Sir John Gielgud before he was ‘Sir John,’ when he was just plain Larry Olivier”).

If you get the references to British theatrical lore, the Carry On movie series, chat-show host Melvyn Bragg, and in-jokes about Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed, you’ll have a good time. If you don’t, there are enough bits of free-standing wit to keep you watching. B

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