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A series of 39 short British TV comedy films, mostly produced in the 1980s and early 1990s but running intermittently until 2011. A retrospective was produced in 2005. The programmes were originally shown on Channel 4, though one season aired on The BBC.
Most episodes are standalone shorts, although some are connected, such as the two Famous Five parodies, and "Bad News Tour" / "More Bad News". Many episodes are pastiches of one or more standard genres, for example British sex comedies ("Dirty Movie"), spaghetti westerns ("A Fistful Of Travellers' Cheques", about British holidaymakers in Spain) or post-apocalyptic dramas ("The Slags"). As such, a lot of the humour is of the "clever" variety rather than the laugh-out-loud funny variety. Other episodes, such as "Five Go Mad In Dorset" and "Five Go Mad On Mescalin" are more direct parodies. Yet others, such as "Bad News Tour" and "Eddie Monsoon, A Life" are mockumentaries. The episodes are usually well shot in a cinematic, artistic style that echoes that of the genre in question.
The core cast was a group of alternative comedians including Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmonson, Nigel Planer, Dawn French, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Richardson, Robbie Coltrane, and Keith Allen.
Led to the feature film Eat The Rich about, well, eating the rich.
Many of the tropes used in pastiche episodes are exaggerated and parodied.
By the way, not related to the 1987 The Comic Strip animated series.
Includes examples of:
- Author Appeal — several episodes written by Adrian Edmondson feature his long-term work partner Rik Mayall in various stages of makeup and femininity, a trope often seen in their other works.
- Black Comedy Rape — Specifically, Double Standard Rape (Male on Male).
- Blackmail Is Such an Ugly Word — In "Space Virgins From The Planet Sex" the kidnapped earthmen are informed that they will not be referred to as sex slaves, although until every woman aboard the ship is pregnant they will be forced to have sex with those who have yet to conceive.
- Blah Blah Blah — "Five Go Mad In Dorset"
- Blond Guys Are Evil
- Bolivian Army Ending — "A Fistful of Travellers' Cheques"
- Cardboard Boxes — spoofed in "The Bullshitters"
- Censorship by Spelling — In "The Beat Generation":
Girl: I'm having my P-E-R-I-O-D.
- Contrived Coincidence — a brilliant lampshading in "Five Go Mad in Dorset", when the Five see the villains must have vanished into a secret passage and are wondering how to open it. "I'll try tugging this branch three times!" says Julian, selecting a random branch and doing so, which of course works.
- The Danza
- Deal with the Devil — in "Demonella" the devil (Jennifer Saunders) offers a record producer success, power and fame in exchange for his mother's recipe for chicken soup.
- Deliberately Monochrome: "The Beat Generation", "The Hunt for Tony Blair"
- Dying Dream — "Les Dogs"
- Exact Eavesdropping — "Five Go Mad In Dorset"
- Fake-Out Fade-Out — "Consuela"
- Fluffy the Terrible — Jayne and Mr Lovebucket in "Mr Jolly Lives Next Door"
- Fruit of the Loon — "Meryl Streep" in "The Strike"
- Hey, It's That Guy! — Anthony Head in a couple of episodes. (Also these days Robbie Coltrane is Hagrid, of course, although probably unrecognisable so this may not count...). Soap star Ronald Allen, well-known from Crossroads in his day, also appeared in some early episodes.
- Historical Re Creation — "Summer School" is an early send-up of the genre.
- Hot as Hell
- Ho Yay — Bonehead and Foyle in "The Bullshitters"
- Colin Grigson and Vim Fuego in "Bad News Tour/More Bad News"
- I'll Take Two Beers Too — with steaks in "A Fistful of Travellers' Checks"
- Improbable Aiming Skills — Spoofed in "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown", when the Seventies TV detective's aiming skills stop working because he's shooting at a Nineties TV detective who uses different conventions.
- Left It In — In More Bad News, Vim/Alan breaks the fourth wall and threatens to sue the producers if they leave in a particularly embarrassing item about him. Unfortunately for him he later gets beaten up and left in a coma, so the item stays in.
- Mars Needs Women — The premise behind "Space Virgins From The Planet Sex" is that the last man on an alien world is too old to procreate but they have been lucky enough to find the voyager probe with its illustration of what naked human look like and it seems their men will suffice.
- Mistaken Message — "Mr Jolly Lives Next Door"
- Mystery Magnet — Complained about in "Five Go Mad in Dorset"
- Pretty Boy / Bishonen — Adrian Edmondson, and consequently, many of his characters.
- This Is Reality — Lampshaded in "Detectives on the Edge of a Nervous Breakdown"
- Real Dreams Are Weirder — "Didn't You Kill My Brother?"
- Shirtless Scene — "The Bullshitters", "Five Go Mad In Dorset"
- Soundtrack Dissonance
- The Movie — The Supergrass, Eat the Rich
- Transformation Trauma
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot — many episodes. Not a good programme for emetophobes.
- X Meets Y — Detectives On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown: The Sweeney Teams up with Department S, Spender and The Professionals to find out who is killing TV Cops.