The Comedy Vault – The Vicar Of Dibley.

The Vicar Of Dibley (BBC1, 1994-2007)

Here’s another 90s sitcom that became a big success. One of the interesting things about the comedy double-act French and Saunders is that they have also had success individually in sitcoms. Jennifer Saunders was in Absolutely Fabulous (and I plan to review that one soon too), and Dawn French was the star of this one, and the combination of all this resulted in a show that couldn’t fail really.

The small Oxfordshire village of Dibley is rather sleepy, nothing much of note has ever happened there. One day their rather elderly vicar dies, and the locals anticipate the replacement, presuming it’ll be someone similar. They are rather surprised when they discover that it’s a woman, Geraldine Granger, who is also much younger than who they are used to, and it takes everyone a while to come to terms with this. vlcsnap-00600

The locals are a group of rather unusual and memorable characters. These included Hugo, Frank, and Owen. But the one that stood out to me most was Jim Trott, one of those really bizarre comedy creations where you are just fascinated by his personality and everything he says. Or at least you would be if you knew what he was on about. And there was also the young Alice who is rather dense, and eventually marries Hugo. vlcsnap-00598

The villagers soon begin to accept Geraldine though, even though they have to deal with things like her love of chocolate. Most episodes ended with Geraldine trying to tell Alice a story, which often amusingly fails. I remember that there was much interest in the first series, and I do remember watching the episodes at the time, and the first episode where Geraldine comes to the village seems to have been repeated lots of times. vlcsnap-00596

Because of the top-level cast, they were much in demand and often working on other TV shows, meaning that there wasn’t much of a chance to do a regular six episode series, so most of the episodes were specials that were usually shown at Christmas, and these rare chances to catch up with the villagers would always do rather well in the ratings. They always managed to find the time to do a short special for Comic Relief though. vlcsnap-00597

There have been 20 episodes of The Vicar Of Dibley, and they have all been released on DVD. As it’s a high-profile show, it has received several leading accolades, including several British Comedy Awards, Radio Times covers, and being voted as one of Britain’s best sitcoms. It’s also another one of those shows that has been repeated endlessly on various channels including UK Gold.

The Comedy Vault – Bottom.

Bottom (BBC2, 1991-1995)

As I’m sure you’ve realised by now, I really am a fan of lots of comedy shows, but you might be surprised to know that I have never seen The Young Ones. I am aware that it was one of the most successful sitcoms of its era which really helped the Alternative scene to make their impact (and they had a Number One single and everything), and its importance has been acknowledged. Maybe I could give it a try one day.

I am more familiar with some of the later comedy shows that the cast worked on (including Filthy, Rich And Catflap that I also plan to review soon) and this one. Bottom was created and written by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, who starred as Richie and Eddie. In an era when BBC2 seemed to be full of enjoyably quirky comedy shows, this one still managed to stand out. vlcsnap-00501

It’s rather hard to describe the idea behind the show, because there wasn’t one really. Richie and Eddie lived in a rather smelly flat in Hammersmith, and we see them try and get through life. Most of the episodes simply seemed to build up to a piece where they would be rather violent to each other, and they rather enjoyed poking each other’s eyes out, or closing their head in a fridge door. vlcsnap-00516

There weren’t too many other regular characters, although we did occasionally see their friend Spudgun. Bottom has been described as a show that had no plot or message to offer, it simply existed to make viewers laugh, and it definitely succeeded. And my goodness, Richie and Eddie really could sweat whilst doing this. The show definitely has a claim to being Britain’s Sweatiest Sitcom as well as its most outrageous. And you can clap along to the closing theme too. vlcsnap-00496

There were three series, but that was only a small part of the show’s success. Firstly, there were rather a lot of outtakes, and these were complied into a special called Bottom Fluff. There were also five stage shows that didn’t have too much trouble attracting people who wanted to watch their antics, and if anything they took the anarchy to the next level, endlessly punching each other and totally forgetting the script whilst doing so. vlcsnap-00592

It was then determined that there should be a film version, and this was Guest House Paradiso which was released in 1999. Unfortunately this received rather bad reviews all round, and it was at this point it became fairly clear that the idea had been exhausted somewhat. All 18 episodes of Bottom have been released on DVD, and it has also been repeated several times on various channels including Dave.

The Comedy Vault – Whoops Apocalypse.

Whoops Apocalypse (ITV, 1982)

This is a sitcom that was shown on TV before my time, but when I found out about it I thought that it sounded rather interesting, and I wanted to watch it for a few reasons. Firstly, the show was created and written by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, who were behind a few other unusual comedy shows around this time, including End Of Part One of course.

Some people consider Whoops Apocalypse to have been the most anarchic sitcom that has ever been shown on ITV, and although there were only six episodes, it definitely contained lots of moments that viewers remembered. This was a sitcom that was all about world politics, and contained lots of satirical comments. It’s not usually the kind of thing that I go for, but I just had to see this one for myself. vlcsnap-00485

The first thing that stood out for me was that the American President Johnny Cyclops (who was a former actor and seemed to have little knowledge of the situation he was in) was played by Barry Morse, who was from Bethnal Green. Now as I have said before, this is where I live in London. An American President who was from Bethnal Green? Well he’s done well for himself hasn’t he, as if the show wasn’t far-fetched enough already. vlcsnap-00478

Also appearing are other world leaders including the British Prime Minister Kevin Pork, along with many other politicians, and whether by accident or design, together they all seem to be pushing the world closer to the brink of disaster with their decisions that they haven’t thought through properly. Causing the apocalypse probably won’t help Cyclops’s chances at the next election. What did ITV viewers make of it all at the time. vlcsnap-00488

Another thing that was very impressive was the cast, packed so full of high-class names that some only appeared in one or two episodes including Geoffrey Palmer, John Cleese, Alexei Sayle, and Rik Mayall (proof of the up-and-coming Alternative scene making an early TV impact). Some of them probably didn’t know what was going on half the time (the actors that is, not the viewers), but it all amounted to something rather memorable. vlcsnap-00492

Following on from the only series, about five years later, the idea was expanded on in a film version of Whoops Apocalypse, which although they played different characters also contained a great cast, but this seemed to be less well received. The show has been served rather well by its DVD release on Network. As well as the series and the film, there are also some interesting extras. vlcsnap-00479

When I buy comedy shows on DVD sometimes, I think wouldn’t it be good if it featured, whether the show was famous or forgotten, a 150-page article analysing the show from its creation to its characters and everything else. Well this one actually does contain a 150-page article (in PDF form) that takes an in-depth look at what made the show stand out. Also featuring are some scripts and press releases that are an interesting read too.

The Comedy Vault – Birds Of A Feather.

Birds Of A Feather (BBC1, 1989-1998, ITV, 2014-2017)

This is a popular sitcom that became a big success very quickly, and it has gone on to be part of an elite group of British sitcoms of which there have been over 100 episodes. What made the show was two double acts coming together. Firstly, there were Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who have worked together on TV on various comedy shows going back to the early-70s.

The others were Marks and Gran, a writing duo already behind several sitcoms, who created this one and also wrote most of the early episodes. Birds Of A Feather starred Quirke and Robson as the sisters from Chigwell, Sharon and Tracey. The show begins when their husbands Chris and Darryl are involved in a robbery, and end up going to prison for several years. vlcsnap-00476

This ends up changing their lives, and Sharon moves back in with Tracey and her teenage son Garth after leaving her flat. As the episodes go by, we see how the pairs of women and men deal with their new situation. The only other regular character is the next-door neighbour Dorien, who really made the show for most viewers, often carrying on with various men (despite being married too) and sharing all of the details. vlcsnap-00125

Birds Of A Feather became a ratings success to the point that it had the opportunity to do various things. For example, there were several Christmas specials, including being shown on Christmas Day for five consecutive years from 1990 to 1994. Some of these were up to an hour long and featured some ambitious ideas, such as an episode being set in America. vlcsnap-00477

But best of all though was just after the third series in 1991 when I saw Quirke and Robson themselves in pantomime at the Hackney Empire, what a terrific moment. In 1992 there was briefly an American version of the show. Later episodes featured the ladies running a cafe, and the original BBC1 version ended after nine series with one more Christmas special when Sharon became a mother too. vlcsnap-00458

Then, just over 15 years later, the show was revived by ITV for three more series. Sharon and Tracey’s lives had moved on a little since we last saw them, but they really picked up from where they left off. The chemistry between them was clearly still there all these years on, although this would be because Quirke and Robson had now been good friends for about 50 years. Dorien also returned, a new regular was Sharon’s now teenage son Travis, and Dorien discovers a shock secret daughter. vlcsnap-00459

There have now been 128 episodes of Birds Of A Feather in 12 series, and even more haven’t been entirely ruled out it seems. It has also been repeated rather frequently on various channels including ITV3, meaning that it actually still seems to be on TV every day. All of the series have also been released on DVD by Network in a boxset with rather a large number of discs.

More TV Memories – Doc Martin.

Doc Martin (ITV, 2004-2019)

I have never really been a big fan of those cosy drama series that have filled up the Sunday night schedule that try to leave viewers feeling good and finish off the weekend in a nice way, including Heartbeat, Monarch Of The Glen, and so on. But the reason I was attracted to this one was because it starred Martin Clunes, who had already been a success in various shows including Men Behaving Badly, although of course this was something rather different.

Doc Martin was a long-running comedy-drama that was built on two basic ideas. Firstly, Clunes played Dr Martin Ellingham, who lives behind the bright lights of London to move to Portwenn, a sleepy village in Cornwall, and he tries to adjust to his new surroundings. I wouldn’t suggest that this was a show that consisted of more shots of nice scenery than any actual story happening, but it did help to attract the viewers. And secondly, despite being an efficient doctor, he can’t stand the sight of blood! vlcsnap-00999

Martin isn’t rude to his patients as such, but he can be very blunt with them, often telling them to “stop talking” and insist that they take his advice. The basic structure of an episode wasn’t complicated. Most stories featured Martin walking around and noticing that a ruddy-cheeked bumpkin is about to do something rather unsafe. His ticking off is often greeted with a “no, Doc, I’m alright here”-type comment, before they conveniently fall off their ladder and do themselves a damage just before the final advert break to set up an exciting climax. vlcsnap-00997

Martin then rushes to their rescue, and also does his “what on earth were you thinking?” lecture, whilst hoping that there’s little blood. Martin didn’t take any nonsense, even from a small dog that always liked to run after him. There were a few other characters that would soon became familiar. One of the teachers at the local school is Louisa, and despite his grumpiness she soon falls for him, and they eventually get married and have a child. vlcsnap-01000

There is also the local policeman, who was originally PC Mylow, who was later replaced by the rather dense PC Penhale. And there is the pharmacist Mrs Tishell, and Martin also goes through various receptionists including Pauline and Morwenna who never really seem that interested in their job. And we mustn’t forget Bert Large, who runs various businesses including food stalls alongside his son Al. Finally, a few of Martin’s relatives turn up including his aunt Joan. vlcsnap-00996

Doc Martin unsurprisingly ended up doing rather well for ITV. There were 70 episodes in nine series (I think that it has now come to an end, although maybe it could return one day), along with a two-hour Christmas special in 2006. There have also been plenty of repeats on ITV3. The show has been released on DVD containing all the episodes, and extras include outtakes and a look behind the scenes.

The Comedy Vault – Outside Edge.

Outside Edge (ITV, 1994-1996)

Time for another “were they any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” entry. And would you believe it, this is one that really can be classed as a success! Outside Edge started out as a stage show in 1979. In December 1982 there was a one-off feature-length special on ITV that was more of a drama. Over a decade later, the show returned to ITV, and this time it was in a sitcom format and also featured a different cast in the same roles, including Robert Daws and Josie Lawrence.

Roger Dervish is the captain of his local village cricket team, a job that he does take rather seriously, even though the team consists of fairly useless elderly players, who can barely hit the ball, and when they do they end up running each other out. He enjoys the authority though, and is there every summer without fail. His wife Mim is also at the matches, but only to make lots of sandwiches for the players. vlcsnap-00987

Also on the team is Roger’s friend Kevin. And although his wife Maggie is much more glamorous than Mim with her stylish look, they soon bond as they both watch their husbands play. It may look very picturesque, but it was far from it for Roger, who is often out for a duck, both in the actual game, and as far as his social skills go, which creates a lot of awkward moments with Mim. vlcsnap-00992

Having to deal with things like who should be on the team and whether he can beat his arch-rival is about as much as Roger can handle. Roger and Mim also have two children who are away, and he not so much talks to Mim as constantly mutters though gritted teeth at her. Kevin and Maggie have a much happier marriage, even though they seem to be more mismatched. vlcsnap-00991

There were 22 episodes of Outside Edge in three series, and it achieved most of the successes that were available for a sitcom at the time, including several British Comedy Awards, a TV Times cover, and an hour-long special on Christmas Day in 1995. There aren’t many other ITV sitcoms from that era that can boast that. In more recent years there was a repeat run on ITV3 as well. vlcsnap-00994

I also remember that series two and three began in the first week of January in 1995 and 1996, so I always associate watching them with the “about to take the Christmas decorations down” feeling, and looking forward to what the next year has to bring. I wonder if there’s a proper word for that. All of the episodes (including the play) have been released on DVD by Network over four discs, but they don’t contain any extras though.

CBBC Memories – Thundercats.

Thundercats (1985-1989)

This is a cartoon that was shown rather often on CBBC, and it was one of the more popular ones for a while. Thundercats was another show that contained a lot of fantasy and action, along with many memorable characters. “Thundercats are loose!” according to the opening theme music, which is good to know. Some shows promise their viewers an adventure, and this one definitely delivered on that.

The show featured various half-human/half-feline alien characters, and they all had a look that was very distinctive. The story begins when their home planet Thundra is destroyed, and they all need to find a new place to live, while trying to keep the ideals that they were raised on alive. After much travelling, they eventually settle on Third Earth where they meet all kinds of creatures, but they also visit many other places. vlcsnap-00980

All these years on the characters are still rather familiar. There’s Lion-O, Mumm-Ra, Panthero, Snarf, Cheetara, and many others. And it’s rather clever how they can all talk as well isn’t it. They always run into enemies though, especially the likes of the Mutants. If this ever happens, and they really end up in a tight spot, Lion-O simply gets out his trusty Sword Of Omens and says “Thundercats, Ho!”, which often helps. Of course, their enemies wouldn’t mind getting their hands on this sword.vlcsnap-00982

Thundercats was first shown on CBBC in 1987, and episodes regularly appeared in the afternoon strand for the next few years. There were a lot of cartoons on TV at this time, all trying to get people’s attention with their bizarre ideas, but I do still remember that this one still stood out more than most, and it became popular with lots of viewers, including myself. vlcsnap-00981

There were 130 episodes of Thundercats over four years. There was also a huge amount of merchandise, including action figures, comics, computer games, and so on, the fans were definitely well served with this one. The show was repeated until 1994, although by that point it had fallen out of favour a little and was usually only seen in a very early-morning slot on BBC2. Good news for any children who get up about three hours before they have to go to school I suppose. vlcsnap-00986

The memory of the show was lingered though, and there have even been films, and in more recent years there has been a revival series. All of the episodes have been released in a DVD boxset containing 24 discs no less, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get this one. I am pleased that this is one of the cartoons I remember that I own in full. It would take about two days to watch all the episodes from start to finish though!