1 9 8 9 – 1 9 9 5 (UK)
26 x 30 minute episodes
Amidst the ‘alternative’ comedy chaos of the 1980s, A Bit Of Fry & Laurie arrived almost unnoticed on 13 January 1989 (following a one-off pilot in 1987), laden with literary sophistication and innuendo.
Highlights included It’s A Wonderful Life starring Rupert Murdoch, ‘Kickin’ Ass’, and the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy send-up with Fry as a Smiley-type intelligence boss who comes out with such cryptic phrases as “you know I can’t stick the department up my arse, George”.
Regular segments included Fry’s monologues railing against Thatcher’s Britain, Laurie’s music parodies and a section dealing with viewers’ fictitious complaints.
As a double act, former Cambridge Footlights members Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie were peerless.
Unusually for a sketch-based series, the duo wrote every single word; penning 153 sketches for the first run. Many sketches set off along a clichéd route but, with mounting wordplay, would turn themselves on their heads.
A joy in language found expression throughout. Words were explored to their fullest comic potential, notably in a sketch based around the ampersand of the programme’s title.
After three excellent seasons, the show moved to BBC1 for its final run, which predictably became bogged down with guest stars (not Fry and Laurie’s idea) such as Caroline Quentin. The pair then split to pursue successful solo careers.