Believe Nothing (ITV1, 2002)
Rik Mayall was someone who provided a lot of energetic performances in many comedy shows over the years, the best-known of these including BBC2’s The Young Ones (which I must admit I have never seen myself – I know, shocking) and Bottom. There was also ITV’s The New Statesman, a satirical sitcom where he played a politician that was written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (also behind such memorable sitcoms as Birds Of A Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart).
About a decade after that ended, Mayall reunited with those writers for a similar sitcom that was shown in the Sunday 10pm slot. If you thought that Alan B’Stard was outrageous… just wait until you see this guy! Believe Nothing starred Mayall as Adonis Cnut (how very amusing, I’m sure that some of the publicity for the show at the time used the phrase “Rik Mayall is A. Cnut”), a professor who is the world’s cleverest man but has became somewhat bored by his own brilliance.
One day he is hired to join the Council For International Progress, a somewhat shadowy organisation containing the world’s greatest minds that makes all the important decisions. The other main cast members are Adonis’s servant Brian Albumen (Michael Maloney), and Dr Hannah Awkward (Emily Bruni), a young professor who Adonis is rather fond of, but she doesn’t really like him. Adonis was also prone to random bouts of violence that drew comparisons with Bottom.
Among those making guest appearances were Barry Cryer as the host of the big money game show Get Rich Quick (that’s another game show parody appearing in a comedy to add to my list), Melvyn Bragg as the host of discussion show What’s The Big Idea?, and Rory Bremner as the American president. Tim Vine also made a brief appearance in one episode.
Adonis didn’t seem to have much time for ordinary people, and carried on like he wouldn’t be satisfied until he had taken over the world, seemingly knowing everything about everyone and using his influence to consult high-ranking politicians as to what they should do, which usually had disastrous results, and he would then take out his frustration on the faithful Albumen.
Believe Nothing ran for only six episodes, and it is one of Mayall’s lesser-remembered shows, but it has been released on DVD, and extras include some outtakes. The show did come across as something of a lively cross between The New Statesman and Whoops Apocalypse (which Mayall also appeared in about two decades before this), and it was a satirical statement on the bizarre world of politics at the beginning of the 21st century.