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S01E10

He’s-a my brother, innit? I conquer ze country, I give-a him ze crown. I can’t buy him socks anymore — he’s got a wool allergy!

In which the show digs down deep… finds one last rich vein of historical comedy… and it’s in Sparta?

In this episode:

Song: The Plague Song (Ben as Corpse Collector, Mat, Sarah and Larry as Corpse Chorus)

Recurring sketches:

Ready, Steady Feast — Tudor Diets: Peasant vs. Aristocratic

Historical Hairdressers — Tudor Beauty Treatments

Computer Game: Warrior! — Roman Legionary vs. Celtic Warrior

Fractured Fairy Tales — The Pied Piper of Hamelin, the Middle Ages version (See, they were in the middle of a plague epidemic, and rats carry plague…)

This is Your Reign — Napoleon Bonaparte

HHTV News: Mike Peabody Live — from the Battle of Thermopylae

One-offs:

Rotten Romans

Sponge on a Stick (two parts) — On the bright side, we’ve moved up from animal to human toilet habits…

New! Viper Deodorant — “Do YOU smell like a barbarian died in your armpit?”

Vile Victorians

Genuine Victorian Slang — Surprisingly enough, not actually made up by Charles Dickens. (Bonus educational tip, kids: try listing this sketch in the bibliography of your next paper on Oliver Twist! Your teacher will love it!)

Great Victorian Inventions: The Car (animated) — True story: at one point engineers were seriously concerned that ‘horseless carriages’ would suffocate their riders, as the air was rushing by them too fast to breathe. That is, once they hit roughly around 30mph. Really.

Cut-Throat Celts

Better Homes & Severed Heads — You do have to admit, nuked-noggin decor probably cut way down on annoying Celtic telemarketers.

Groovy Greeks

This! Is… Wait! — Detailing how actual, normal humans would’ve reacted to being sent to Thermopylae… in other news, nobody ever accused Spartan warriors of being normal.

Field Notes:

  • Oh thank goodness, it was only temporary. Also, my profound thanks to Ben and Katy Wix, not forgetting Larry and Martha later at the Prom. The evolution of HH musical genius gets right back on track this ep, with what to this day is still one of the most offbeat, interesting musical things the show has to offer. So just imagine what it feels like when you’ve only been reviewing the first series for six weeks straight.
  • Seriously though, the Black Death as Danse Macabre…how awesome is that? Possibly not the most original staging idea ever, but — and this is very much the point — a brilliantly apt way to both be a historical comedy and avoid making light of 25 million agonizing deaths. (Also, to shoehorn zombies in there. I have a lot of fun imagining the potential outtakes from this one. “Brainnnnsss…”) In the annals of HH’s revelatory “Hey, we really could be a whole lot more than the source material!” moments, this one’s a doozy.
  • ‘Doozy’ is also a good way to describe Ben’s performance in the prep-for-Thermopylae sketch, although “I think I’ve figured out which script they used to get him to sign on” works too. Honestly, I’m not sure the man even realises he’s supposed to be giving a comedy performance here, or for that matter cares; he’s off in his own private 300, living the dream, rocking the Gerald Butler ‘do… except opposite Larry and Mat instead of comely servant wenches. Thus handily explaining why he also seems so convincingly ticked whenever they speak… or not, depending on just how deep into the Spartan experience he is.
  • It also helps the offbeat vibe to remember, when watching Mat’s final freakout, that as per what the show has just established ‘Mommy’ will be clocking him upside the ear and throwing him right back out into the battle. I would be making further snarky comments about how Mat’s continued failure to have been left out on a mountaintop at birth undermines everything the show is trying to establish about Spartans… but I’m too busy smiling at the aforementioned mental picture.
  • So yes, wow, Spartans, obviously still pretty darn cool in 2008-ish, when all of the writing would’ve started going down… shortly after which the writers, much like the rest of us, found the testosterone-crazed warriors increasingly hard to take seriously. By the time we arrive at Thermopylae, in company with ever-credulous Mike Peabody, they’re ready to have a whole lot of fun with the same phenomenon they straight-up celebrated just last ep. Watching Mike repeatedly being forced to assure Hellenic generals that their hair looks fine, this is another thing that makes my brain grin all over.
  • In this sketch even Mat’s unconvincing armour-wearing works in context — of course the pretty boy with the great hair is the king in this reality! And this reality is hilarious! So, hell, why not try the combo out in other realities too? In short, it’s taken awhile, but relentlessly earnest warrior-next-door Mat finally has a campy, adult archetype of his very own. This will become a trifle more obvious in the next series — as will a lot of other adult implications surrounding Mat — but for now, it’s just seriously funny.
  • Speaking of jacking up the adult content… erm… look, generally, I like the Historical Hairdressers sketches, I really do. Martha works the first of several feisty modern blue-collar gals with all the verve they demand (I gather her native accent is considered kind of annoying, but I rather like it). However… how do I put this… meth, is it a thing in the UK? At least, you do watch Breaking Bad? ‘Cos I’m looking at Shelly’s sore-covered face post-‘treatment’, and I’m not seeing ‘standard, if slightly gross, HH gag’, I’m seeing ‘convincingly authentic PSA’.
  • On the further subject of convincing… DAMMIT LARRY THAT IS THE MOST EMBARRASSING PSEUDO-IRISH THING I HAVE EVER SEEN SINCE THE TIME BOB THREW UP THE GREEN BEER AT THE GREEK RESTAURANT. Sorry, this one’s been building up through several viewings. I realise the man was likely excited at being upright onscreen for the first time in ages, but really, watching Lucky Charms commercials does not count as research. Mind, Jim and his Eye-talian accent aren’t far behind — you lot are just lucky the sketch itself is generally cute enough to dim the memory of Tudor Traitors on Parade. And that Rattus gets a darling little brocade armchair of his own. Squee!
  • I will refrain from commenting on the Roman toilet sketches, on account of I can figure out no way to do so without sounding like, well, a puritanical old poop. Just not my thing, kiddies, sorry. I’m a cranky grownup who takes much more glee in noting that the 2nd bit here was obviously meant to follow on from the main ‘communal toilet’ sketch — which doesn’t happen until epIsode 13.

95% Accu-rat:

  • OK, the naked Celtic warrior? Totally a thing. The reasons are disputed, and the frequency probably exaggerated by Romans interested in painting the enemy as wild irrational freaks in dire need of the civilizing Latin influence, but they did really charge into battle in the nude… so yeah, point goes to the Romans here, mostly.
  • Contrariwise I couldn’t find much info re: deadly snake as Roman man-grooming staple, but this recipe for a depilatory is intriguing: Resin, pitch, white vine or ivy gum extract, asses’ fat, she-goat’s gall, bat’s blood and powdered viper. Apparently the belief was that the viper, or asp, made its nest in lavender plants, which as a rationale for cosmetic ingredients is at least up there with “hey, this musk deer gland smells great!”
  • This isn’t a scientific forum I know — and very grateful I am for it usually — but the Plague Song lyrics always make me go ‘hmmmm?’ right around “Bites the rat and gives it germs…” In the interest of biological clarity, shouldn’t that be “bites the rat and picks up germs?” Otherwise, we’re missing a step in the transmission. I think. Yes, I’m a hopeless nerd.
  • According to most sources “half the people on the Earth/are simply blown away!” seems to be a rather massive exaggeration — although this was undoubtedly one incredibly, horrifically huge Very Bad Thing That Really Happened, so I doubt there’s much point in anyone being offended at a little post-millennial artistic license intended to get that across. The (impromptu?) revision to “Half the children...” in the Prom version probably helps though.
  • Speaking of exaggeration to make a point… the Tudor diet wasn’t actually that sharply divided along class lines, or at least not along the lines suggested here. A peasant diet would be much more veg-intensive, but the nobles did eagerly eat veggies too. In fact Henry VIII was known to have grown artichokes at Hampton Court palace. The real difference was that the upper-class had the ability (from which our modern notion of haute cuisine descends) to spend time and money on making food snazzy instead of merely sustaining. Hence more sophisticated preparations, like delicate salads and cabbage boiled with spices.
  • On the other hand, bunging random poisonous substances on your face (or, in the case of Victorian ladies and arsenic, in your face): totally the province of the rich, or at least those who wanted to appear so. The coveted clear, luminous pink-and-white complexion indicated not only aristocratic birth — ‘blue-blooded’ likely refers to the veins visible under a truly delicate skin — but innocence, femininity and purity: the historical Holy Grail of womanhood. (Olive skin was dismissed as ‘brown’ and thought of as a major defect — was one of the objections to Anne Boleyn, in fact.)
  • Right, not to put too fine a point on it, but: Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. Aka the ‘Iron Duke’. Not a dude prone to breaking into jigs in public. (Although as the hero of all the papers after Waterloo he did star — along with his sons — in the Brontes’ earliest juvenile writings… which were more or less romantic fanfic. Seriously.)
  • That sketch’d overall be a lot more fun if they skipped the comic-opera accents and told the real story: according to my Treasury of Royal Scandals (don’t leave home without it!) the ‘Battling Bonapartes’ would, in fact, have made fabulous modern reality-show fodder. The only thing this clan could agree on is that their Nap was doing it wrong. Whatever it was. He thought he was running a realpolitik empire; they pictured it more as a sort of extra-glittery Mafia, in which everybody’s honour was being offended at once.
  • Oh, and Josephine — aka the ‘Great Whore’ — not impressed with her either. In fact, ‘strong-willed’ Meré Bonaparte and her daughters, in a move familiar to anyone who’s ever tried to plan a wedding reception, refused to attend the Imperial coronation over their fear of being one-upped by the scandalous (and middle-aged, yet!) Empress.
  • Everybody else spent Napoleon’s reign haughtily (and in at least one case, insanely) miffed that their baby bro was now treating them as mere puppets in his empirical schemes, to the point of wholesale refusal to take their advice, breaking up inconvenient marriages and/or abandoning them in the face of rebellious natives. Napoleon, on the other hand, was understandably ticked at what he saw as their ingratitude for his raising the whole dysfunctional, spendthrift, sexually irresponsible lot to the First Family of Europe. Something to remember, next time you start wishing you had a nice normal family like everyone else…
 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Series One

 

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S01E08

Leader of the Gaulish hordes — so deadly, he could wear pigtails and still look hard!

The road to credibility goes back to being uneven, but the awesomeness of being children’s TV writers and performers with unbridled access to adult comedy inspiration remains…

In this episode:

Song: Caveman Love (Sarah as Random Lonely Cavegirl, Mat & Ben as Cave Backup Singers)

Recurring sketches:

Stupid Deaths — Edmund II (took a Viking dagger up the bum while squatting in a latrine pit)

Ready, Steady Feast — Stone Age Special

Historical Hairdressers — Saxon Hair Treatments

One-offs:

Vicious Vikings

Valhalla Tours — Burning and pillaging your way through Ancient Britain: because even if you’re a Viking, you’re sure as hell not going to come for the sun and sand.

Rotten Romans

Caesar vs. Vercingetorix — Proto-French barbarians give ‘fighting style’ a whole new meaning… also, possibly, “French accent”. (“Us Gauls don’t fight in ze rain! Ve’re orff!”)

Roman Decimation — OH HAI ‘BIGGUS DICKUS’ SCENE FROM LIFE OF BRIAN DIDN’T SEE YOU THERE.

Smashing Saxons

Have Yourself a Stinky Little Christmas — In which a few more painfully obvious gags get (literally) aired… on several demographic levels. (Kids: “Ha ha! They said ‘poo’!” Adults: “… still beats dealing with Aunt Millie’s candy-cane eggnog.”)

Gorgeous Georgians

This is Georgian Food — And perfume-style adverts don’t get any more comprehensible when they switch out Brad Pitt for maggots.

Georgian Dentistry — Ow. Also, ewwww. More entertainingly, also explaining the reason why George Washington is so tight-lipped in all those official portraits.

Frightful First World War

Causes of WWI — Had PG Wodehouse ever decided to write realistic drama (and, naturally, had a nervous breakdown in the attempt) it probably would’ve gone a little something like this…

Fly the Unfriendly Skies (animated) — Here’s the wannabe WWI Flying Ace trying out his new prototype planes… which, sadly, didn’t include a red doghouse.

Measly Middle Ages

Wat’s the Peasant’s Rebellion — Things were so desperate for serfs during the Dark Ages, their leaders had to resort to having really stupid names just to eke out a little comedy.

I’m Not a Knight After All — “The peasants are revolting!” “Yeah, pretty much…”

Field Notes:

  • Well, the revelatory excitement may have gpne off a bit… possibly a lot…  but this episode is good value anyway. By now, the only people still completely committed to HH the kiddy series are the editing team, who continue to randomly shuffle the animated segues around at a rate that strongly suggests the amphetamine dosage needed to at least be halved. Other stuff happens that I don’t think was ever repeated before or since; what works really works, and what doesn’t is still quirky fun. Even the little details, like Rattus vs. the invisible director and the Georgian dentist’s windowless office, are on point.
  • Also, more two-part tuneage. I can see where the song-sketch-song split appealed as a way to cram in more details without losing interest, but it’s a clunky one in a half-hour show and I’m not crushed it was dropped. (They have Bob Hale for that, after all.) Of course, what’s really becoming noticeable is that the problem of memorable music was solved in the very first episode, absolutely irrefutably nailed, and since then we’ve been watching the inevitable bumbling trial-and-error along the way back to that point.
  • This one’s about half-way along the timeline. We have achieved the idea of genre parody, but are not yet 100% sure what to do with it, nor even whether or not to care. Also: first-series budget. They’ve clearly just hauled everyone over as-is from the other Stone Age bits (Jim still in saucer-eyed “Sharp Stone” pitchman mode, explaining why for once he’s the boyfriend and Ben’s the backup). Thus if nothing else giving the whole a pleasingly offbeat ‘Hey guys, let’s put on a show!” vibe — Andy Hardy meets 10,000 BC. We’ve even got Mat (aka Grunt) winking again — don’t hear near as much about this wink, though. Can’t imagine why.
  • Something else they hadn’t quite thought through yet, priority-wise: messing with the male casts’ faces. Dirt, beards, scars etc can all be made to enhance fanservice under the right circs, but appliances… well, let us just say that, however historically accurate it may have been, Future Julius Caesar’s noble and much-blogged-about visage will be entirely missing the huge putty honker. (Doesn’t help that Ben’s using a remarkably non-nasal voice for someone theoretically carrying about five extra pounds on his face.)
  • In other ‘Hey we’re still wearing this stuff so what the hell’ action, great to see more of Steve Punt in the followup ‘Knights’ sketch — wish he’d stuck around generally, he bounces off the regular gang really well. Makes the throwaway sketch into almost more of a hilarious treat than the song. Good for Ben, too, getting a look-in in on the noble action; it just wouldn’t have been a properly sly subversion of romanticized machismo without him… uh, yeah, that’s supposed to be a compliment. Really.
  • The ‘Causes of WWI’ sketch… ohhhhh boy. The genuinely hilarious part is that it might actually be the most technically impressive sketch of the entire show — worth watching again just to appreciate how masterfully they keep it all straight while also keeping a straight face. Especially Ben (whose awe-ful knack for convolution will be further exploited later). It also gets some unexpected cred for — intentionally or not — referencing anime hit Axis Powers Hetalia, in which anthropomorphic amour between Austria and Germany is totally a thing. (So is Blenkinsop/Maltravers slashfic, despite strong evidence that neither would be able to manage even the basic act without a manual.)
  • Death continues to discover new and cruelly hilarious possibilities in his corpse parade — although this is a rare case in which the stupid totally wasn’t the dead man’s fault, poor — ooh, ooh! The poofy royal robes from the Saxon Family Feud sketch are back! Sorry, Edmund, at least you look so exactly as my inner child has always been convinced royalty should: fairytale luxury, as run past the Muppets, with just a dash of grandma’s La-Z-Boy recliner (mini-me always worried about how hard those thrones looked). Further happifying evidence that sometimes, budget limitations aren’t a bad thing.
  • This episode also treats us to the fabulous debut of Mat’s just-authentic-enough-to-be-hilariously-terrible French accent — later to be recycled as his equally baroque Spanish accent — which, along with his distinctively Mediterranean colouring, will ensure his future prominent presence in every Iberian Penisula-set sketch (not to mention nearly every Egyptian/Mesoamerican sketch). Hey, the French don’t get their own regular segment until Series Three, so this still counts as praiseworthy cultural restraint. Also, this particular Gallic sketch may have helped inspire the ‘Armada’ one in Series Four, which earns it all the bonus points.
  • The colouring thing may also help explain why the producers seem determined to stuff Mat into Roman armour, which it is past time to concede will never, ever look convincing. I do have to admit, though, he musters a very decent wooden-headed military haughtiness; of course, there’s not much excuse for any British comedian not to be able to channel the Life of Brian on command. It’s a bit too distractingly blatant a ripoff, honestly, but it’s a ripoff of the best, and Mat’s also got Jim around to ensure the mutual chemistry and timing does it justice. (“Troops! You will stay after battle every day this week!” “…That’s detention.”)
  • Also gotta admit, I really like the WWI plane prototype animated bit, specially since Ben’s narration sounds like he’d come straight from the ‘Causes’ sketch. There’s something about the combination of dashingly heroic and goofily whimsical that just works no matter what… as Charles Schulz discovered around fifty years ago. Given which, bit unsporting to throw in the ‘but you did just hit a dog!” gag, eh, old chaps? (Oh, also: lawn darts… FROM HELL!)
  • Ideas the HH Producers Fell in Love with Early On, Vol. 457: Marauding Vikings steamrolling over helpless English monks. This one will provide just endless opportunities for gore-intensive hilarity — which, as you may recognise by now, ranks in the HH Scale of Writer Gleefulness just below fart jokes — all on the helpfully obvious premise outlined here. I would complain about the repetition, but it will go on to spawn an all-time classic song, and rather surprisingly turns out to contain absolutely no mutilated genitalia references. Reviewing Horrible Histories: some days, all about deciding where to pick your battles.

95% Accu-rat:

  • One of the major reasons I can’t fault the ‘Causes of WWI’ sketch is that I myself got interested in the challenge of explaining it during HS history — rather as you would memorising pi to umpteen places — so I can both sympathise with the HH gang and verify that yes, that is not only the correct explanation but the most concise version of same you’re ever liable to hear. It helps to realise that at the time the entirety of Europe was more-or-less locked in a military-industrial game of chicken, just waiting for any excuse to rev up their shiny new war toys (what media romanticizations of the ‘Gilded Age’ tend to leave out is that an era of unparalleled possibilities & progress includes arms designers, too.) So… yeah, the adult version of schoolyard politics, pretty much.
  • As per previous notes, this week’s knightly sketch gets their actual attitude to chivalry across much more accurately — especially the part about it really only applying to fellow nobility. Frankly pausing to consider anything but their own bloodlust would be unusual for real medieval serf-oppressors, given that in the Dark Ages the sociology basically boiled down to ‘Yo, you’re a stinky vermin-ridden hellhole-dwelling starving serf ‘cos it’s God’s will, so anything I do to keep you there is totally your own fault.” (See also: The Crusades, rationale for.)
  • Neither actually invented the practice (as is shown here), but there’s much more evidence that ‘Decimation’ was revived in the ‘modern’ Roman era by General Crassus, not Pompey. Still, hey, they presumably all used it at some point, and a lot more people recognise the latter’s name (if only as way easier to make sound dirty in primary-grade history.) In real life, of course, they used a blind ballot (like blackballing) to get the thing done, and afterward everybody else got to sleep outside the encampment and eat nasty sour barley instead of wheat. Thus ensuring that if nothing else the troops would be more terrified of their own leaders than the opposition.
 
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Posted by on January 13, 2013 in Series One

 

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S01E01

Me, I would`ve been more at home in a zoo…

The pilot is launched… and lands not only in the lap of a delighted juvenile nation but straight between the eyes of their parents. Four King Georges sing, pirates pontificate, good-looking men cavort at funerals, and a valuable lesson is learned about the perils of basing opening credits on Windows95 screensavers.

In this episode:

Song: Born 2 Rule (The 4 Georges: I [Ben], II [Mat], III [Simon], & IV [Jim])

Recurring sketches:

Ready, Steady Feast —  WWI Shortages & Substitutions

Computer Game: Warrior! — Vikings vs. Monks

Historical Hairdressers — Viking Ear Spoons

Fractured Fairy Tales — The Three Little Pigs, the Georgian version (the brick house walls were blanked to avoid the window tax, so the third little piggy never saw his brothers coming…)

One-offs:

Rotten Romans:

Funeral Fight Club — How the Romans elevated tacky graveside behavior to a legendary sport.

High School Confrontational — What if “The Gladiators” weren’t just the mascots? The first of several imagine spots courtesy Rattus, complete with wavy dissolve cut and “Oooh, I’m imaginin’ it… I’m imaginin’ it!”

Frightful First World War:

Lice Warfare — Life in the trenches was so gross it requires a closeup of Jim’s cartoon-vermin-ridden stomach to explore fully.

Putrid Pirates:

The Black Spot(s) —  No, really, apparently this was an actual thing. Because obviously if you’re just gonna show up and put a knife into someone, then what’s the point of being a pirate?

The Pirate Rulebook — Arrrr, maties, now this is more like it!… sort of. The dreaded Captain Black Bart abruptly drops the timber-shivering to explain that on his ship, there’s no fighting, everyone has a vote and bedtime’s at 8pm sharp.

Savage Stone Age:

Sharp Stone, Blunt Stone — Now you too can own the (literal) cutting-edge cave tech! …Relentlessly adorable pitchman not included.

Stone-Age Burial — We know not with what rites the cavemen buried their dead, but we’re pretty sure it… didn’t go anything close to like this. (“And a little extra something to confuse the archaeologists who dig him up in years to come…”)

Gorgeous Georgians:

Window Tax — A short explanatory bit carrying on from the fairy tale, featuring the cartoon noblewoman from the title card and more live-action/animation interaction (thankfully no longer involving Jim’s stomach).

How to Vote in a Georgian Election — In which same is dissected with frank and funny (if mildly inadequate) outrage.

Field Notes:

  • Seriously, those opening titles are so eye-sporkingly not working as intended, which out of charity I will assume was to evoke the bright, cartoony feel of the book layouts. I do have an alternate and I think plausible theory involving quietly moving some extra $$ into the costume budget by outsourcing the F/X to somebody’s nephew who ‘fools around with that Photoshop thingy all the time’.
  • The theme tune, on the other hand, kicks all kinds of inappropriate-for-minors butt, basically turning a list of book titles into simoultaneous raw anticipation for the kiddies and mounting horror for their parents.
  • The general idea was clearly to impress a much older audience; except the ‘Ready Steady Feast’ skit of course, which was purely and patently designed to send same — including me! — running to the loo, thereby cementing it in children’s minds as THE MOST AWESOME TV SHOW EVER. Or whatever kids are using to mean ‘awesome’ these days, it suddenly occurs to me I don’t know. Have I mentioned I’m forty? At any rate, whatever it is, that’s what they were calling it.
  • For a pilot, though, generally the sophistication is impressive. Front-loading the first ep of a new series with the critical bait would actually become something of a tradition, and in keeping, this one resembles a later ep much more than anything to come in the first series, right down to the proto-music video. The few overtly kiddie/educational elements — the random animation segues and strict “era sketch-quiz-sketch” structure — were the only ones later abandoned.
  • In related news, for some reason cartoon German lice are red, thus ruining a perfectly good Communist lice joke opportunity for future WWII sketches.
  • Fun with media realities: In the press release for the series debut, none of the eventual main cast are mentioned. In the actual series debut, the Two Really Hot Ones are blatantly front-and-centre in nearly every sketch, with able support from… whatever wildly-inappropriate thing Jim’s doing in the ‘Sharp Stone’ sketch. (My viewing notes at that point read “relentlessly eye#@!-ing the camera?!”, and frankly I can’t find a better way to put it.)
  • Funny all round, how many of their signature schticks arrived fully-formed — Ben even gets to exclaim “Oh look! Sausages!” in a campy German accent. Besides which I do love me some Incongruous Yuppie Ben… also Pirate Mat, despite some very questionable facial hair.
  • Meanwhile, Larry’s off enjoying a rare lead role in a sketch. You can already tell he doesn’t expect this front-of-the-camera gig to amount to much, because his gladiator school instructor is simply Cleese’s drill sergeant in “Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit,” with the serial numbers just barely filed off.
  • Somehow, Mat in a WWI trench sketch always makes me really uneasy, in a sort of “things must be massively bad if they let HIM past the physical” way. I spend the whole sketch — even the ones where he’s not actually dying of exposure — imagining him dying of exposure ten minutes later.
  • Something else that always startles me a little in this ep is the flat-out political ranting, Gleefully exposing stupidity will of course become a hallmark in future but I don’t ever recall it being this specifically angry.
  • “Born 2 Rule” got a lot of attention for its audacity and attention to detail (specially Mat’s), and deservedly so. But in retrospect, it’s clear the music took centre stage because of it, not before. The set is minimal, the choreography is offhand at best (compare the snappy, complex moves in “The Few”, three series later), and, well, Ben and Simon are singing lead. Frankly we’re all really lucky they didn’t put up the bouncing-ball lyrics (again, look critics, sophistication, always sophistication!)
  • Still, it’s taken on a whole new level of loveliness, watching the four of them together and realising it’s just the first step of the journey. And what a long, strange trip it would be…

95% Accu-rat:

  • The obvious bloopers in the song — ie., ’twas George II actually died on the loo, and George III was in reality his grandson — are legendary by now. All the props to the producers, though, for very publicly correcting themselves in the Prom Special.
  • There was a [REDACTED] paragraph in here complaining about the Black Spot being an entirely fictional concept, prior to the show’s historical consultant informing me personally that it’s been ‘attested to prior to [Robert Louis] Stevenson’. Not that I could find, but will be shutting up now in keeping with my new policy: Don’t Argue With the Man Who Reads History Books for a Living.
  • On the other hand, the ‘Pirate Rulebook’ is a deservedly classic example of sorting the stranger truth from the fiction — although the ‘8pm bedtime’ rule apparently in reality went “The lights and candles should be put out at eight at night, and if any of the crew desire to drink after that hour they shall sit upon the open deck without lights“. This distinction became very important one morning when Captain Bartholomew Roberts’ crew were still too drunk from a victory celebration the night before to repel an enemy boarding party… exit Black Bart, unceremoniously.
  • Somehow, everyone manages to work their panties into an unprecedented bunch over Georgian elections without (audibly) mentioning the most egregiously corrupt aspect of the whole thing — the ‘rotten borough‘, basically an electoral district with few-to-no actual inhabitants, controlled as shown by the nearest aristocratic family. The hapless sole landowner in the sketch would in reality have long since realised his vote was the merest formality.
 
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Posted by on December 16, 2012 in Series One

 

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