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alt.comedy.british FAQ (3/4) Specific Questions

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Archive-name: tv/british-comedy/general-faq/part3
Posting-Frequency: every 14 days
Last-modified: 23 May 1995
Version: 2.01

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alt.comedy.british FAQ 

Part 3: Specific Questions

Version 2.01
Compiled by James Kew,

Copyright 1994, 1995 James Kew.
Reproduction in unaltered form for non-profit use is encouraged. Any other
reproduction is prohibited without permission. Vendor details are for
information only. I have no connection with any companies listed in this
FAQ. Do not bend, fold, spindle or mutilate.



  1. Why are British TV series so short?
  2. How many episodes of this show were there?
  3. What else has this actor been in?
  4. What is The Good Life? What's Grace And Favour?
  5. Wasn't Craig Charles charged with rape?
  6. Will there be a seventh series of Red Dwarf?
  7. Will there be a fifth series of Blackadder?
  8. What is the Absolutely Fabulous song?
  9. What were the characters in Captain Pugwash called?
 10. What does this phrase mean?
 11. What's the difference between England, Great Britain and the UK?


1. Why are British TV series so short?

Unlike the long seasons common in US television, British series tend to be
short, typically six episodes. Generally UK series are written by the same
writer (or often, the same team of two writers) throughout, who don't have
the time to turn out more than about six episodes. Most US series have a
large team of writers, each of whom writes a few episodes a season.

2. How many episodes of this show were there?

Check the relevant episode guides or FAQs! These shows are frequently

Absolutely Fabulous
     Three series of six episodes each. No plans for any further episodes.
The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin
     Three series of seven episodes each. An early BBC Video release was
     two tapes, containing edited versions of the first and second series;
     these tapes are missing almost half the transmitted footage.
Fawlty Towers
     Two series, twelve episodes in total.
The Young Ones
     Again, two series, twelve episodes total.

3. What else has this actor been in?

Chris Barrie ("Rimmer", Red Dwarf)
     Worked as an impressionist on Spitting Image (a British
     "rubber-puppet" satire show). Cameo appearences in The Young Ones,
     Filthy Rich & Catflap, and Blackadder III. More recently, The Brittas
     Empire, a sitcom in which he plays the inept manager of a leisure
Craig Charles ("Lister", Red Dwarf)
     A stand-up comic and poet before appearing in Red Dwarf. Presented
     Them and Us, a BBC consumer programme.
Jane Horrocks ("Bubble", Absolutely Fabulous)
     Films include The Wolves of Willoughby Close, The Witches, Life Is
     Sweet and Deadly Advice; starred in the Donmar Warehouse production of
     Cabaret, recorded for TV. Cameo in Red Dwarf (Holoship). Various other
     "straight" roles for TV and stage.
Danny John-Jules ("Cat", Red Dwarf)
     Sighted in the film Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) as a "Doo-Wop Street
     Singer"; various roles in West End stage musicals (Starlight Express,
     Cats, Barnum, Time, Carmen Jones). Appears (in dreadlocks!) in Maid
     Marian (qv).
Joanna Lumley ("Patsy", Absolutely Fabulous)
     Appeared in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). For TV, The New
     Avengers, Sapphire and Steel. Stage roles. AbFab was her first TV role
     for quite a while.
Tony Robinson ("Baldrick", Blackadder)
     Who Dares Wins, a 1980's late-night satirical sketch show. Writes and
     stars in Maid Marian and her Merry Men, a (somewhat Blackadder-esque)
     childrens comedy series; presents Stay Tooned, a history-of-cartoons
Julia Sawalha ("Saffron", Absolutely Fabulous)
     Press Gang, a childrens comedy/drama; Second Thoughts, an LWT sitcom
     transferred from radio. Minor roles in various shows, including a
     cameo in Bottom (Parade). Recently starred in the BBC production of
     Martin Chuzzlewit.

4. What is The Good Life? What's Grace And Favour?

These shows were retitled for the American market. "The Good Life" became
"The Good Neighbours", to avoid confusion with an earlier US show of the
same name. "Grace And Favour" became "Are You Being Served Again?",
presumably to emphasise the fact that it was an AYBS? spin-off.

5. Wasn't Craig Charles charged with rape?

>From the Red Dwarf FAQ:

     Yes, but he was cleared of all charges.

     On 8 July 1994, Esther Harman (a former stripper and Charles's
     ex-girlfriend) filed a charge of rape against him. Charles was
     arrested, imprisoned, and denied bail. On 25 October, after being
     attacked (but not wounded) by a fellow inmate wielding a homemade
     knife, Charles was released on bail.

     The trial began on 20 February 1995 and lasted for two weeks. No
     forensic evidence was shown to exist proving that a rape had
     occurred. In his instructions to the jury, the judge stated that
     just because a woman claims to have been raped doesn't mean she
     actually was. The jury took less than ninety minutes to find
     Charles not guilty. Afterwards, Charles made an emotional appeal
     to the press for the anonymity of those accused of rape.

6. Will there be a seventh series of Red Dwarf?

Again, from the Red Dwarf FAQ:

     Apparently so. In October 1994, Grant Naylor made the following
     announcement: "A new series of RED DWARF has been commissioned,
     subject to contract, and will go into production in the middle of
     1995." However, Craig Charles's arrest and trial reportedly
     delayed production of Series Seven until sometime in 1996.

7. Will there be a fifth series of Blackadder?

No. The Blackadder FAQ cites this article from the Times (London), 22
October 1989:

     When the fourth series comes to what its co-writer, Richard
     Curtis, darkly describes as its "very definitive last episode" on
     BBC1 in two weeks, it is almost certainly the last we will see of
     the most slippery dynasty since -- as Captain Blackadder might
     have said to Private Baldrick -- the incredibly mean Emporer Ting
     covered his grandchildren in yak grease, pushed them down the
     Great Wall of China and said he'd bought them a roller coaster
     for Christmas...

     ...Curtis says: "It's possible that we'll all work together
     again, but we're not likely to meet up two years from now and
     decide to do something we've already done four times. There were
     only four gospels, for God's sake."

8. What is the Absolutely Fabulous song?

>From the episode guide:

     The theme tune is entitled "This Wheel's on Fire", and is sung by
     Julie Driscoll & Adrian Edmondson. "This Wheel's on Fire" is
     written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko, and is available on Dylan's
     "The Basement Tapes" and The Band's "Music from Big Pink".

A single entitled "Absolutely Fabulous" was released by the Pet Shop Boys
in 1994 in aid of Comic Relief; it features samples of Edina and Patsy over
a techno background. Released in the UK:

     Pet Shop Boys: "Absolutely Fabulous" ( CDR 6382)
     1. Absolutely Fabulous (7" Mix)
     2. Absolutely Fabulous (Our Tribe Tongue-in-cheek Mix)
     3. Absolutely Dubulous
     4. Absolutely Fabulous (Dull Soulless Dance Music Mix)

Non-UK fans may be able to find it as an import; the catalogue number of
the Dutch pressing is 7243-8-81535-2-2. There's also a version on the Pet
Shop Boys remix album "Disco 2" (7243-8-30852-2-4), although it's remixed
and contains less AbFab dialogue than the single or video versions.

9. What were the characters in Captain Pugwash called?

It's frequently claimed that some of the characters in the children's show
Captain Pugwash had somewhat suggestive names: "Master Bates", "Seaman
Staines" and "Roger the cabin boy". Not so; this is a classic urban legend.
The crew of The Black Pig were: Captain Pugwash, Master Mate, Pirate
Barnabas, Pirate Willy, and Tom the cabin boy. Several British newspapers
have fallen for this UL and were forced to print retractions.

It's possible that, on occasion, the name "Master Mate" was slyly altered
to "Master Bate". In the episode Fair Exchange (BBC video, "Seafaring
Tales"), the final line, spoken by Pugwash, sounds like "I certainly did
Master Bate." Pugwash's voice is rather indistinct, so it's hard to be

alt.folklore.urban discusses such matters; they've heard this one many
times and remain unconvinced. If anyone can provide concrete, documented
evidence they'd love to hear from you. More information, including an
apology printed in the Guardian and a .wav file of the quote above, is
available from the a.f.u archives:

10. What does this phrase mean?

Much British comedy is a little parochial; it can be confusing trying to
understand British expressions and slang. The alt.usage.english FAQ
recommends the following dictionaries:

     "The Hutchinson British/American Dictionary", Norman Moss (Arrow,
     1990, ISBN 0-09-978230-8)
     "British English, A to Zed", Norman W. Schur (Facts on File, 1987,
     ISBN 0-8160-1635-6)

A British-American dictionary, compiled by Jeremy Smith,, is available on-line at:

The Bottom FAQ includes a dictionary of British slang and public figures
mentioned in the show; an expanded version of the dictionary with many
extra entries can be found at:

Here's a few expressions that have come up recently:

Coventry, Sending to
     To "send somebody to Coventry" is to ostracise them socially. The
     phrase dates back to the English Civil War, during which royalist
     prisoners were sent to be held in custody in Coventry, then a
     parliamentary strong-hold.
     A sticky, dark-brown savoury spread made from yeast extract, regarded
     with great fondness by many Brits who were reared on it. For more
     information see Dave Chapman's Marmite FAQ:
     (Bottom, Smells: mentioned as a condom flavour.)
     1. (sl) n. Sexual intercourse. v. Have sex with. 2. Coarse-cut pipe
     tobacco. 3. Albatross.
     (Blackadder Goes Fourth, Major Star: "I'm told he has a very good line
     in rough shag.")
     A baked dish of sausages cooked in a batter pudding.
     (Are You Being Served?)
     Knobbly, twig-shaped savoury flour snacks, with a light coating of a
     Marmite-like substance.
     (Mr. Bean "makes" Twiglets from twigs and Marmite in one episode.)

11. What's the difference between England, Great Britain and the UK?

The UK is short for the United Kingdom, or in full The United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain consists of England,
Scotland and Wales; the term "British" is sometimes loosely applied to mean
"of the UK".

Saying "England" when you really mean "Britain" or "the UK" belittles the
significance of the other constituent territories and is quite offensive to
many UK citizens. It's like using "Californians" to mean "all Americans".


James Kew,, May 1995

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