Hope no-one was holding their breath for number two of my favourite Howard and Vince moments, but here it finally is: Howard (in Electro) being surprisingly lovely to Vince about his attempts to successfully join Kraftwork Orange (surprising, that is, considering how much of the episode Vince willfully ignores him for).
I don’t know whether it’s the effect of his swimming hat (only noticed the little yellow flowers on it when rewatching, yesterday) making his expression more open and alert than usual, but Howard is so intent on Vince throughout this scene, watching the two of them is like eavesdropping on secret confessions.
Howard SO wants to help Vince, and Vince SO wants him involved – it’s a really sweet moment before yet more bickering ensues. Vince really should have listened to Howard when he first told the story of the Spirit of Jazz, but here he just wants to convince his best friend to share in the fun. He looks at Howard so adoringly – despite the ridiculous way Howard is dressed at this point – they’re both entirely redeemed by the other’s love.
Whereas in my previous choice I gave all the kudos to Noel for beautiful acting, here I’m giving it wholesale to Julian, for his handling of Howard’s unhappy desperation: not being able to help; not being listened to by the only person he trusts to care, and again, that quiet hurt which both men are capable of bringing to a BAFTA level of performance (see also: Flowers).
I must also add, though it isn’t a Howard/Vince moment, the later scene in which the Spirit of Jazz appears to Howard and threatens to enter him again – it’s Julian’s first couple of lines – ‘What’re you doing here?’, ‘I, I’m not playing,’ & ‘I don’t want that; please, I can’t have that,’ which are far more terrorised up against the Spirit’s ‘now it’s time for me to get inside you again… oh, yeah, baby, I’m coming inside… come on baby, you want to feel the warmth of me, deep inside you, don’t you?’ than anyone has a right to expect from a stand-up comedian in a comedy show that was too often dismissed as ‘surreal whimsy’ by stupid critics. Julian didn’t need to bring that to Howard here, but he did, and I take my hat off to him for it.
Noel may enjoy playing evil characters, but I don’t think he’d ever do it quite so well against anyone else. God, but these two needed each other.