1 9 8 3 – 1 9 8 8 (UK)
22 x 45 minute episodes
9 x 60 minute episodes
This trendy “cutting-edge” comedy sketch show from Channel 4 starred Tony ‘Baldrick’ Robinson, Rory McGrath, Julia Hills, Philip Pope and Jimmy Mulville. The show – which recalled Not The Nine o Clock News in its brashness – began as a single special to celebrate Channel 4’s first anniversary.
The programme was screened live, with new material written right up to the evening of the broadcast – a habit that writers Jenkin and Hamilton continued with Drop The Dead Donkey.
The initial opening show and the eight programmes that constituted the first series all had subtitles to follow the Who Dares, Wins… tag, such as A Week In Benidorm, A Camping Holiday In Beirut, Frank Bough’s Cardigan, Martina Navratilova’s Wristband and A Mysterious Rash.
Throughout the four seasons the material was plentiful, fresh, witty and provocative, and occasionally quite base – the title sequence was a tracking camera shot showing somebody returning from the pub, including walking past a drunk who had pissed himself.
Religion, though, remained a taboo, and one early show that included a joke about Jesus brought a cascade of complaints.
Notable sketches included Philip Pope singing a Barry Manilow-style song, initially praising a lost love, but realising how horrible she was and changing his lyrics accordingly; Tony Robinson appearing in a sketch as the emperor (as in The Emperor’s New Clothes), and appearing on stage totally naked – and then hanging around in following sketches, still naked, seemingly not knowing what to do with himself ; and a parody of Channel 4’s “red triangle” series of films which showed explicit content (usually foreign films), in which an Eskimo film is shown complete with explicit nose kissing and nose masturbation.
A sequence of skits featuring two zoo pandas, variously plotting their escape (under the alias of a Belgian dentist) and abusing Japanese tourists, remains solid gold.
All the cast went on to other things (even if it was only 2 Point 4 Children in the case of Julia Hills) and from the show evolved the influential independent TV production company, Hat Trick.