1 9 9 0 (UK)
4 x 30 minute episodes
As a counterweight to the histrionics of the World Cup, Billy the Fish, the half-man, half-fish goalkeeper hero of Viz comic, was inspired television from Channel 4.
The footballing cliches tossed around on BBC1 and ITV and taken in so avidly by millions were sent up beautifully in the fulsome but deadpan animated comic strip.
Chris Donald’s original cartoon lost nothing in the translation to the screen. Billy Thompson’s thick hair curling over his forehead and his ingenuous grin made him look, as ever, the classic footballer, allied in his case to a fish tail with which he floated invincibly in goal.
Harry Enfield’s voices were superb, adding another dimension to the knobbly-kneed crew for whom the game was all. He gave Gus Parker, the scheming manager of Fulchester United’s arch-rivals, Grimthorpe United, a smooth and ingratiating voice in brilliant contrast to his facial stubble and blackened teeth.
Each episode ended with some earth-shattering disaster which was solved within seconds of the storyline being taken up again.
So when millionaire Maxwell Baxter ordered that Fulchester’s ground be demolished in mid-match to make way for a supermarket, he was soon shown to be a cardboard cut-out with a tape recorder stuck to his back.
Despite the presence of a popstar chairman who turned into a Martian or a crippled 64-year old striker who proved to have nimble feet and bat-like vision when called upon to play, Billy The Fish worked because it was only a step removed from the earnest heroes of the comic strips of our childhoods.