Written by newcomer Tim Whitnall, the 90-minute one-off about Everett’s rise to fame is described as a “roller coaster ride through a golden era of popular culture, lifting the lid on the complex life of a much-missed entertainment icon.”
The action centres on the “unconventional love story” between Everett and his wife Lee Middleton, played by fomer Coronation Street star Katherine Kelly. The couple remained married for almost a decade and a half, even as Everett came to terms with his sexuality.
Middleton – or Lee Everett-Alkin as she is now called, having remarried – was a consultant on the drama, meeting with the lead actors and opening up her personal archive.
“Lee met with Oliver and Katherine early in pre-production,” said associate producer Luke Franklin, “sharing with both actors details and insights from her life with Kenny which could inform the events dealt with in the script.”
Jo Gurnett, a friend of Everett’s and for many years his manager, also advised on the authenticity of the script, as did comedy writer Barry Cryer and Everett biographer David Lister.
Lansley is not a familiar face on television – he is better known as a writer, having co-created the comedies FM and Whites – but was, said Franklin, the standout choice to play Everett.
“Within moments of Oli walking in the room, there was a sense that he was our man,” Franklin said. “The brash swagger of his Sid Snot bore an uncanny closeness to the original. His readings from the most emotionally delicate moments of the script were a stark contrast, and equally compelling.”
In next week’s Radio Times magazine, TV editor Alison Graham describes Lansley’s performance as “sensational” and a “tour de force”.
Lansley, who plays Everett as his various screen characters as well as in private, said: “I wouldn’t say I was a natural impressionist. For me, the key to getting those characters right was to understand what it is Kenny sees in the character that he wants to grab on to. He has a real passion for language which, as a writer, is something I share.
“His characters are incredible but they’re still always him. A perfect example is Cupid Stunt, when he dresses as this wonderfully glamorous woman but has still got the beard. Underneath the make-up and façade you can always see Kenny Everett.”
Guest-starring in Best Possible Taste are Adam Garcia, James Wilby, Jonathan Kerrigan, James Floyd as Freddie Mercury, and Simon Callow as Richard Attenborough.
BBC4 controller Richard Klein said: “In many ways Kenny Everett was a very modern celebrity, wearing his heart on his sleeve while coping with a complex life. Re-evaluating this talented and exuberant personality, enabling audiences to re-consider Kenny’s undoubted impact and legacy, makes this a very BBC4 drama.”
Best Possible Taste: the Kenny Everett Story is on BBC4 on Wednesday 3 October at 9pm.