After they brought the second (and final) series of The Young Ones to a climax with an exploding bus, people wondered what would be next for Rik Mayall, Adrian Edmondson and Ben Elton. Apart from cameo roles here and there (Blackadder, Happy Families, Saturday Live), occasional Comic Strip films and a generation defining appearance on Jackanory (George’s Marvellous Medicine), there was no new sitcom on the horizon. The only thing that was certain was that these guys were good, real good.
The sleazy, angry and hyperactive wonder of Rik Mayall (at his real peak), combined with the loud, violent, hyperactive Edmondson was a dream ticket for (most) audiences during the 1980s. They were older brothers to the naughty kids growing up and playgrounds everywhere were full to the brim with children impersonating Vivian or Rick while pretending to punch each other. Ben Elton became involved with the faltering Blackadder saga and reinvigorated it, Blackadder 2 (co-written by Elton) is still to this day one of the best sitcoms ever made (the Third and Go Forth aren’t bad either).
Then in 1986 Elton, Mayall, Edmondson and Nigel Planer reunited for Filthy, Rich and Catflap on BBC2. Unfortunately no one seemed to notice. The truth is that Filthy, Rich and Catflap was nowhere near as good as The Young Ones, however, it was still brilliant and deserves a lot more attention than it currently gets, which is none. In these days of repeats and multi channel Shangri-la, it is a shame that Filthy, Rich and Catflap was only shown once in 2008 during the day on UKTV G2. The episodes were highly edited, to the point of making the plots nonsensical.
Filthy, Rich and Catflap was a sitcom about a B-list out of work actor called Richie Rich (Mayall), his bodyguard Eddie Catflap (Edmondson) and Richie’s sleazy manager Ralph Filthy (Planer). During the run of the series Richie kills several milkmen, Eddie blackmails Richie with a paternity suit scam, Ralph gets sent to prison and hanged, Richie is blackmailed by the Nolan Sisters and they spoof newspaper tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Richie appears as a guest on a panel game called “Ooer!! Sounds a Bit Rude!!” which bore more than a passing resemblance to the BBC quiz show Blankety Blank. Richie finally becomes famous by becoming a journalist (or “joining the scum” as he puts it) and slandering everyone in showbiz, thereby becoming the only person censors deem clean enough to host every show on television.
As well as being hilariously funny, the programme was a fascinating time capsule into what constituted “showbiz” during the mid 1980s. Names like “Tarby”(Jimmy Tarbuck), “Lessie Crowthery” (Leslie Crowther), Brucie (Bruce Forsythe), “Terry Wogany” (Terry Wogan) and “Lynchy” (Kenny Lynch) were bandied around by Richie throughout every episode. Richie liked to think that he was friends with all of them, though chances were he had probably only met them once or twice. Not only did Richie have showbiz friends, he was also part of the ridiculous back slapping world of 1980s variety and TV showbiz. A world in which game shows were king and performers who were once true greats were making a living appearing on shows like Blankety Blank and Give us a Clue. A world which died a death in the 1990s. It would seem that life does indeed imitate art however, as at one point Richie was trying to sell a programme idea to the BBC called “All-Star Golfing Secrets”, something that seemed outrageous and hilarious at the time, only to sort of come true in 1996 when Jimmy Tarbuck popped up on BBC1 with “Full Swing” ; a game show that combined general knowledge questions and Golf.
Mayall is on brilliant form. A cyclone of machine-gun driven line delivery and highly excitable performances make for a seriously funny character in Richie Rich. Edmondson is also on top of his game. A very subtle performance when compared to the two other parts that define him in most people’s eyes (Vivian in the Young Ones and Eddie in Bottom), Eddie Catflap is more of a realist, a mild alcoholic with a penchant for violence, piss stained clothes and a brooding dislike for his employer. Nigel Planer brilliantly plays Ralph Filthy like a low rent Fagin, a dirty, dare I say filthy, showbiz agent who works out of a broom cupboard and lives for booze and fags. The only work we see him secure for Richie is an appearance on a game show and a short residency in a peep show. Filthy’s speech is peppered with Polari and he often calls Richie “Daughter” and everything is “tres bona”. A highly memorable character.
The writing is something that cannot be overlooked. There are more traditional jokes contained within Filthy, Rich and Catflap than The Young Ones, more feed and punch lines and less of a reliance on cartoon violence. This was a platform for Elton and Mayall to have their say. There were swipes at Thatcher, Murdoch and mudslinging at the so called “showbiz establishment”. While today most jokes may fly over the heads of everyone that is under 30, the performances transcend any ignorance at the subject matter. The names of some of the characters also should not go unmentioned. Such names as “Eggy Guffer”, “Jumbo Whiffy” and “Dingo Wukka” tend to stay in your memory for a long, long time.
It wasn’t just the main cast that were brilliant, F, R & C also featured cameos by Barbara Windsor, Lynda Bellingham, Jools Holland and a then-unknown David Baddiel. Contemporaries from the alternative comedy scene who also appeared included Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Helen Lederer, Gareth Hale, Norman Pace, Chris Barrie, Lee Cornes, Andy de la Tour, John Bird (who played the Rupert Murdoch-alike “Dingo Wukka”), Harry Enfield, Arthur Smith and Mel Smith (who played the fictional Head of Light Entertainment at the BBC; ‘Jumbo Whiffy’).
Filthy, Rich and Catflap was released on DVD in 2004 by independent DVD production company Playback. The VHS and DVD versions were cut for musical rights. These included Richie singing “Where Is Love”, “Morning Has Broken” and “Consider Yourself”; and Eddie singing “Roxanne”, “You’ve Got To Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Message in a Bottle”. The cuts are to the severe detriment to the show, particularly during the songs from Oliver! These cuts remove an entire hilarious segment about Richie and Eddie becoming pick-pockets and practicing on each other. It can only be hoped that one day the BBC will release this long forgotten comedy great in its entirety so it can be appreciated once again as a whole.
While many channels repeat shows like Friends, Goodnight Sweetheart and Only Fools and Horses endlessly, Filthy, Rich and Catflap has somehow become lost and forgotten. A real shame.
Originally posted 2013-04-06 11:15:44. Republished by Blog Post Promoter