1 9 8 2 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Whoops Apocalypse painted a frightening but fantastic picture of international politics and brinkmanship, as lunatic world leaders made awesome decisions with nary a prior thought but with devastating effect.
As such, it was then, and remains, an extraordinary sitcom – topical, anarchic, inspired, alternative – of a kind and style familiar, perhaps, to viewers of BBC2 or the emerging Channel 4, but a real departure for ITV.
In Whoops Apocalypse, as in then ‘real’ life, the balance of world power is held by the leaders of Russia (the ageing Dubienkin) and the United States.
The American president, much despised in his home country and cravenly seeking restoration of his popularity, happens (no coincidence, obviously) to be a former screen actor, the recently lobotomised Johnny Cyclops.
Stranded in the middle of the pair is the lame, moronic British PM, Kevin Pork, aided by his Foreign Secretary (Dave) and Chancellor of the Exchequer (Brian). Also queering the picture is the mad master-of-disguise Lacrobat – the world’s most hunted international terrorist and nuclear-bomb-stealer – and, perhaps most frighteningly of all, the Deacon – the fanatical, God-fearing American security adviser, a man who believes he has a direct hotline to the deity (at the time, although Whoops Apocalypse authors Marshall and Renwick claimed prior ignorance of the fact, the US security adviser, General Haig, was known within White House circles as “the Vicar”.)
All the while, the Shah of Iran has been deposed and secret Western attempts to restore his brother to power fail to amount to much (at one point, he is stuck on a cross-channel ferry).
Disastrously, in the final episode, a Quark nuclear bomb accidentally destroys Israel, sending the planet cascading towards the Third World War and nuclear holocaust.
The casting of Whoops Apocalypse was exceptional: the players included John Cleese (as Lacrobat) appearing in his only sitcom outside of his own Fawlty Towers, John Barron and Geoffrey Palmer from The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, Richard Griffiths, Peter Jones, David Kelly, Ed Bishop, Bruce Montague, Richard Davies, Barry Morse and, from the new so-called ‘alternative comedy’ movement, Rik Mayall (who appeared in one episode) and Alexei Sayle.
It might just be stretching belief to suggest that every one of these and the remainder of the huge cast understood all that was going on in their scripts, for certainly much of the series left viewers baffled, but, then again, since the world has always been governed by decisions of uncomprehending madness then the sitcom was merely an exaggerated but otherwise accurate reflection of the fact.
A less impressive feature film version of Whoops Apocalypse was released in 1987 (director Tom Bussmann), again scripted by Marshall and Renwick and featuring a stellar cast, including Loretta Swit, Peter Cook, Michael Richards, Alexei Sayle, Rik Mayall, Ian Richardson, Herbert Lom, Richard Wilson, Graeme Garden, John Sessions and Richard Murdoch.
President Johnny Cyclops
Kevin Pork, PM
Dave – Foreign Secretary
Brian – Chancellor of the Exchequer
Shah Mashiq Rassim
Newsreader Jay Garrick