A 1980s BBC sitcom, set in Occupied France during World War II. Lasted from December, 1982 to December, 1992. A total of 85 episodes in nine seasons.Very much a parody of Secret Army, it starred Gorden Kaye as René Artois, owner of a restaurant (who broke the Fourth Wall with his monologues to camera at the beginning of every episode) and a whole host of other characters. For a character list see here.This show has its own tropes:
Bad French accents. In fact, all of the accents were bad, including the British ones. Whilst all the dialogue was actually in English, comical 'national' accents were used to imply the language being spoken — several times, a 'French' character overhears a conversation in e.g. a British accent, then tells another 'Frenchman' (in the show's default French-accented English) they have no idea what was said, as they don't speak English. Maria's accent in particular became so extreme that other characters would reach for towels to wipe away the spit.
Multiple character and actor replacements of various types - Suspiciously Similar Substitutes for Leclerc, and various waitresses. The Other Darrin, for the Italian Captain. The Nth Doctor, for Herr Flick in later seasons, whose actor is replaced, and the change explained by Magic Plastic Surgery. Subverted, inverted, or simply trashed completely by Rene himself, who spent most of the series' run posing as his non-existent twin brother - ie, the same actor playing the same character, posing as a non-existent different character, well-known or undetected in-universe as the plot required....
At least four Put on a Bus schemes involving various characters leaving Nouvion. (Maria, Hans Geering, the original Leclerc and eventually, the British Airmen.
A very big Story Arc involving a MacGuffin painting. (Namely "The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies")
Two very stereotypical British pilots and the Resistance's disastrous plans to get them back to England.
The British agent disguised as a French policeman, who got his words wrong ("Good moaning").
Virtually all the Resistance are female, and they almost always all wear black berets and long beige raincoats ("like all other French girls"). The Communist Resistance dress in a different, but uniform fashion and only do things for money...
"Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once". Catchphrase of resistance leader Michelle.
René's failed attempts to have illicit romance with three of his waitresses (two of them at the same time, mind you).
The radio hidden under Edith's mother's bed, complete with flashing knobs.
More double entendres than you can (ahem) shake a stick at. See immediately above for one of the milder examples.
As You Know: René recaps, originally meant to merely ape similar, more dramatic shows.
Attending Your Own Funeral: René was executed by the Nazis but the Colonel and Hans save him by giving the firing squad fake bullets (and the real bullets as well, but they were lucky). René then poses as his own twin brother and has to organise his own funeral, and pose as the dead body when the undertaker arrives.
Back Up Twin: An in-universe example, after René stages his death he pretends to be his own twin brother... who's also called René.
Becoming the Mask: Agent Crabtree. Almost immediately, Crabtree starts to live his assumed role of policeman, practically forgetting that he's supposed to be an undercover agent. Leads to much consternation and hilarity on several occasions as when Crabtree reports Gruber's little tank as missing (Rene and Capt. Geering have 'borrowed' it for a secret task) and bravely confronting Bertorelli's gang trying to break into Secret Gestapo Headquitters, *ahem* Headquarters, and getting knocked out as a reward. In fact, in the reunion special set years after the war, Crabtree is still in Nouvion and still a gendarme.
René: Bill... Bill... Bill... I do wish he would stop writing to me.
Blatant Lies: Nearly every single character ends up uttering these at several times per episode, usually when trying to explain the bizarre situations they find themselves in. And of course, René's increasingly ridiculous explanations to Edith when caught in compromising situations with his waitresses.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Many episodes begin with René addressing the audience, recapping the previous episode to explain why he is in whatever bizarre situation du jour that he is in. ("You may be wondering why...")
Break Out the Museum Piece: One plan to get rid of the British Airmen evolved around stealing an old plane out of a museum and using the engine from the General's lawnmower.
Bride and Switch: One of the many Gambit Pileups had Rene due to marry the leader of the Communist resistance, who was replaced by his waitress Yvette, who was then replaced by his wife Edith (although Rene at that point was playing his own twin brother). The vicar had also been secretly replaced by Officer Crabtree, so we aren't sure exactly whether anyone had managed to get married.
Played straight with most of the show's seasons, which usually had between 6 and 8 episodes each.
Averted big-time by the fifth season however, which had 26 episodes, the same length as a season of most live-action American sitcoms, in an attempt to appeal to transatlantic audiences.
The seventh season is a borderline case, as it had 10 episodes; still way short of what most American sitcoms would have in a season, but longer than the average Britcom season.
The Bus Came Back: When René and Edith go to England they meet Hans, who has since been brainwashed into working for the British government. Plus, the two airmen reappearing in the final episode after disappearing at the beginning of the 8th season.
Camp Gay: Gruber. Also General von Flockenstuffen.
Catch Phrase: This show is probably a prime example. Not only does every character have at least one, but in later episodes, the characters occasionally "borrow" them from other characters. In fact, Harry Enfield once claimed that the show had so many catchphrases, all of which appeared at least Once an Episode, that there were only about ten minutes' worth of original dialogue per show. It nonetheless stayed fresh because so many situational spins could be put on the catchphrases.
Officer Crabtree's "Good Moaning!" is probably the most famous of the lot and the most likely to be repeated by those only familiar in passing with the show.
Michelle of the Resistance's "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once". (There was a tie-in book that included a note from Michelle, which ended "Read this very carefully, I wrote it only once.")
Anytime Edith would catch René in a compromising situation with one of the waitresses (almost never innocent) and ask him what they were doing, René would growl "You stew-pid woman! Can you not see...?!" followed by some ridiculous explanation that, despite its obvious implausibility, Edith would either believe or let slide. This notion was subverted in the series finale with "You stew-pid woman! Can you not see? I am eloping!!!"
" 'Tler!" was Hans' substitute for "Heil Hitler". This caused rumors that this was due to Sam Kelly (who is Jewish) refusing to do the full salute, which he denied, claiming that the "'Tler!" was meant to emphasize Hans' laziness. No - he was not saying "Klop".
Madame Fanny: "Zee flasheeng knobs!" Used whenever Nighthawk received a message from England.
Character Outlives Actor: Jack Haig, who played forger Roger Leclerc, died of cancer in 1989 toward the end of Series 5. He was written out as having voluntarily returned to prison (finding the food better than that at Cafe Rene) and being replaced by his brother Ernest. (The first actor to play Ernest, Derek Royle, also died after one season, but the role was then recast with the much younger Robin Parkinson.)
Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Played with. Rene himself, the supposed "hero" of the resistance, is in fact an unabashed coward who only works for the Resistance because if he refuses, they'll shoot him for collaborating with the Germans (who also threaten to shoot him if he doesn't work for them). He also mentions the French surrender so often it becomes a Running Gag. On the other hand, most of the remaining French cast do not fit this trope. The Italian version of the trope is played absolutely straight in the case of Bertorelli and his men, though.
Chekhov's Gun: Subverted with the three suicide pill rings; they all turn out to be duds.
Clark Kenting: The running gag of LeClerc, whose disguises are inevitably pathetic, is that he always goes through the formality of taking René aside and revealing himself to be LeClerc by lifting up his glasses. Since he always wears glasses anyway, it's not much of a reveal at all. Or removing his false moustache to reveal the almost identical real moustache underneath.
Herr Flick and Von Smallhausen pretend to be female German soldiers so they can visit Helga... and they're forced to do gym in their underwear and the obviously fake breasts go flying.
The British Airmen are disguised as resistance girls once (René also takes on the disguise for one episode) and as nuns when they're in hiding.
In a multi-episode example, Herr Flick is disguised as "Fraulein Von Kinkenrotten" to spy on the general. When the General discovers the deception, he has Kinkenrotten, stripped to 'her' rather alluring lingerie, chained up in the dungeon, where 'she' remains until next season. The eventual escape plot results in René betrayed into exchanging places with Herr Flick, chained up in the same underwear (which is rather less alluring on him.
The female characters were also regularly disguised as male:
Michelle: You will be disguised as a small boy. Maria: Why can I not be disguised as a small girl? Michelle: Because you ARE a small girl!
One time, Colonel von Strohm was planning something that would have put René in danger, and he knew that if given the chance, Lieutenant Gruber would have run off to warn René. So he ordered Gruber to remain in the office, and even went so far as to demand he strip off his uniform so he wouldn't be able to leave. Undeterred, Gruber then swiped a set of clothes from Helga, including her spare wig, and showed up at Café René dressed like an army woman.
Colonel von Strohm and Lieutenant Gruber disguised themselves as female nurses to sneak into a hospital so they could place an exploding bedpan under Monsieur Alphonse.
Colonel von Strohm and Lieutenant Gruber disguised themselves in Spanish Flamenco dancer dresses, trying to flee / sneak across the border into Spain. The plan didn't work, so they returned to the Café René to hide there. The waitresses suggest the two men disguise themselves as ladies of the night, but put them in less classy dresses first so they'll "blend in" better.
René was in the café disguised as a Resistance girl, when Lieutenant Gruber saw him and asked him to dance. note This is sort of a running joke. Gruber is extremely attracted to René. And he also tends to be extremely drawn to him, even when he's in disguise and he doesn't actually know it's him. All the more funny here, since the only reason he's asking a "woman" to dance in the first place is because it's a really manly-looking woman.
René also wore a dress in the can-can number the various characters put on for the POW camp inmates.
Herr von Smallhausen once dressed up in a very matronly pink dress and hat and sat at a table in the café across from Herr Flick, the two of them apparently disguised as a husband and wife pair.
Distant Finale: Takes place in The Nineties, several decades after the end of the war. The now elderly principal characters get together one last time, "The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies" is reunited with the missing piece, René steals it and finally succeeds in eloping with his waitress.
Enemy Mine: On multiple occasions, the German military officials find themselves forced to cooperate with the French Resistance in such as plots as helping the British airmen escape or blowing up train tracks to derail a train bearing a superior officer.
Even Evil Has Standards: After Helga has her underwear stolen she demands the Colonel execute some peasants in retribution. Colonel von Stromm responds by saying that "even Germans cannot execute people for stealing a pair of knickers".
Everybody Did It: In the second season Christmas special (included as the finale on the American release of the second season), the French Resistance, the German military officials, and the Gestapo all try to kill German general Von Klinkenhoffen (separately, however).
Face Palm: René facepalms frequently when Michelle introduces another of her brilliant plans, when his wife sings, when Leclerc messes up, when Crabtree opens his mouth... Poor guy.
Fainting: Lieutenant Gruber faints after seeing what he thinks is the ghost of the "first" René.
Faking the Dead: René fakes his own death though he wasn't sure if he was even going to survive. Fortunately he does and returns to be his own twin brother and has to organise his own funeral.
Fanservice: The series is full of fanservice in general, though it never quite keeps pace with the double entendres. It probably doesn't counts as typical fan service. Both female and male characters with various shades of attractiveness are forever baring legs for increasingly spurious reasons. Were people tuning in to see Helga or Yvette get undressed? Who can say, but Allo! Allo! was a family show. Quite a lot of British comedy from the 70's and 80's had girls dancing around in their underwear for no obvious reason. It was more a genre convention than a deliberate attempt to boost ratings.
Farce: If you, as a Brit of a certain age, were to describe Farce chances are the description will resemble an Allo! Allo! episode.
Food Slap: Accidentally, but General von Klinkerhoffen gets a big dosage of ice-cream splashed into his face. The ice-cream truck was broken and not fuctioning well.
The Fun in Funeral: René's funeral. As René isn't dead his coffin is filled with garbage and bombs the resistance need to get rid of. While on the way to the cemetery the cart with the coffin gets away. It explodes when it reaches the end of the road.
Gainaxing: the vibrating ice cream truck, in particular.
Gambit Pileup: Nine seasons of three different parties trying to steal away one painting and/or return the airmen to Britain, with constant foulups and incredibly hasty improvisationsevery single episode. There was also the second painting, the Colonel's gold, the two forgeries of the two paintings each (Because General Klinkerhoffen thought he was getting the original while sending the forgeries to Hitler but they both got forgeries. The real paintings would go to René and the Germans in theory but with everyone trying to short everyone it all got horrible confused.), a whole season focused on getting the Invasion plans, and certain Macguffins that lasted two or three episodes, the forged Gestapo money, the T5 land mines, the exploding Christmas puddings etc. And that's just in one season imagine 9 SEASONS of this mess. And enough gambits by the resistance and the Germans to try and liberate France/Get the British Airmen home/ Defeat the communist resistance and the Germans to make some money out of the mess/ not get sent to the Russian front. This is ignoring the bumbling by the Gestapo, Communist resistance and Bertorelli.
Germanic Efficiency: Parodied. The Gestapo and the Wehrmacht have a manual for every occasion, including "Learning To Swim Very Very Fast", the "Manual on Interrogation", and a gramophone record entitled "How To Fool French Peasants Into Thinking You Are English In One Easy Lesson".
The Ghost: Clarence who drives Lt. Gruber's little tank.
Girls with Moustaches: Frequently used, whenever the female Resistance fighters and waitresses have to pose as gendarmes, engineers, soldiers and so forth.
"Good Luck" Gesture: "The Execution" has an example which is probably a mix between thumps-up for good luck and signalling that everything is ok, and crossed fingers gesture is ambiguous between Lying Finger Cross (false reassurance) and intense wish. René is about to be shot by Germans, but he was promised that they would use wooden bullets. Hans however brought two boxes: one with those fake ones as well as real bullets, and Lt. Gruber accidentally took both boxes. However, Colonel and Captain smile at René and give him a supportive thumb-up and hide their crossed fingers behind their back.
Hangover Sensitivity: Colonel was heavily hangover once, and Helga distressed him by her strong voice.
Human Mail: Maria leaves the show this way, getting accidentally mailed to Switzerland. She's replaced by Mimi in the next episode.
"Ah! Colonel! How nice that you should come into my Cafe at this precise moment!"
Many of René's opening monologues to camera feature the tendency to lampshade the implausibility of events surrounding him.
A priceless cuckoo clock is stolen, hidden and used as a MacGuffin for the better part of a season, then apparently forgotten by the writers. When, several seasons later, it's once again included in the list of stolen artifacts, René remarks "I had forgotten about the cuckoo clock..."
The British airmen Carstairs and Fairfax don't speak French, and Michelle is the only one in the Resistance who speaks English. People from Café René who hide them don't understand them a single word.
Averted with other characters who presumably speak their national languages (French, German, Italian) all the time, but understand each other just fine.
British agent Crabtree who poses as a French policeman speaks horrible "French" and speaks nearly entirely in malapropisms. What he means is usually confusing, but there is always someone who gets it and translates it to others.
La Résistance: Two different ones, reflecting the Real Life situation in France; all female and all wearing the same grey trenchcoats and berets. The Gaullist lot, which Michelle is part of and the Communist lot, whose leader wants to sleep with René.
Letting Her Hair Down: Helga always wears her blond hair in beautiful milkmaid braid. When she wants to seduce somebody or when ordered, she gladly lets her hair down.
Lovable Coward: René, who freely admits he's working for every side in the war because he doesn't any of them to shoot him.
Love Martyr: Poor Edith, despite being a clever woman, always falls for René's transparent lies when she catches him cheating on her.
Lying Finger Cross: Episode uses the crossed fingers gesture, but the meaning is a bit ambiguous. René is about to be shot by Germans, but he was promised that the firing squad would use wooden bullets. Hans brought two boxes to the execution: one with fake ones and one with real bullets. Lt. Gruber accidentally took both boxes. Nevertheless, Colonel and Captain smile at René and give him a supportive thumb-up. They are shown to have crossed fingers behind their back, meaning they either wish the plan worked or that they acknowledge their reassurance was not sincere.
MacGuffin: The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, most notably. A second painting was added in a later season, and other MacGuffins show up as the plot demands.
Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Herr Flick's inordinate pride in all things of Gestapo manufacture. "Come Helga, stand beneath the brim of my wide Gestapo hat." "Come, von Smallhausen! To the special Gestapo disguise cupboard!"
The last name of the Gestapo officer Herr Flick comes from Flic — an insulting French term for a police officer. "Fick" is also the F word in German, causing some confusion when Otto introduces himself as "Flick, the Gestapo." And then there's his comb-over hairstyle - literally a "hair flick".
Typographically speaking, kerning the name FLICK inattentively could lead the "LI" being viewed as a "U".
Also could be meant to evoke real-life Gestapo man Wilhelm Frick.
René's wife Edith has a similar repertoire to Edith Piaf, except that she's a terrible singer, and her middle name Melba is also an ironic reference to a famous singer.
All of the waitresses have Double Entendre last names — Yvette's last name is Carte-Blanche, Maria's is Recalmier, a type of bed, and Mimi's surname, LaBonq has an obvious meaning.
Many of the German officers, including a meeting which included, among others, a General Stiffenwalken and an Admiral Sinkenquicken. And there's the time Flick's diminutive sidekick von Smallhausen (get it?) tries to pass himself off as Field Marshal von Crackenfart.
In the play you also get General von Schmelling.
Minion with an F in Evil: Colonel von Strom and especially Captain Geering are sometimes this to General von Klinkerhoffen (on an ordinary days they just fit the role of Punch Clock Villain). And Gruber for them. Von Smallhausen is this to Herr Flick.
Mistaken for Cheating: Invoked and played with a lot. Edith often catches René making out with one of his waitresses or some other woman, and each and every time he just comes up with a lame excuse to make her believe it's this trope. The kicker of course is that he is very much cheating on her. And she buys it every single time. He only drops the act in the final episode.
Nobody Here but Us Statues: Happens to René when he pretends to be a (very) lifelike wax figure of himself that Monsieur Alphone was supposed to be sculpting. Unfortunately for René, Lieutenant Gruber is very impressed with said "statue." And even more unfortunately, René was wearing only a dressing gown, which Gruber promptly proceeds to lift up to see if the statue is anatomically correct.
Noodle Implements: The accessories that the waitresses would use in bed with Nazi officers, most notably the wet celery and the egg whisk, but also on occasion the flying-helmet. Word of God has stated that any idea they could actually make sense of was rejected.
No Swastikas: In the early seasons, swastikas are only mentioned. The Nazis gain swastika armbands from about season 3/4 onwards — perhaps once the show was established enough to get away with it. The exception to this was that the painting of the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies was hidden originally in a sausage whose only distinguishing mark was a small swastika which you can hardly see on screen. There are swastikas present in all seasons. They are simply used realistically. Majority of the scenes are shot in and around the Café René and virtually all Germans are either Wehrmacht or Gestapo officers (swastika armbands were worn only by members of the SS). Whenever their presence is required (flags in front of German command post, insignia in Herr Flick's office, authentic photograph of Heinrich Himmler etc.), swastikas are in place. They are prominently displayed during René's execution in season 1. Helga wore swastika lingerie, too.
Not What It Looks Like: When René cuddles with one of the waitresses and his wife suddenly bursts in and gets suspicious, he promptly utters the catchphrase "You stupid woman!" and offers an improvised explanation. And Edith always buys it.
(raise his glasses) "It is I, LeClerc!" His disguise was so obvious it was painful.
Happens in a different way with Herr Flick and Herr von Smallhausen. Usually their disguises are a lot more convincing than those worn by the French characters, but they undo this by continuing to act like Gestapo officers, regardless of what they're supposed to be disguised as.
Virtually every single disguise (which are numerous given the nature of the show) is as paper-thin as possible (including moustached nuns) for purely comedic purposes.
Averted with Lt. Gruber's nurse disguise. He was quite convincing.
Also averted another time that Lieutenant Gruber was Disguised in Drag. He was so convincing that General Klinkerhoffen tried to pick him up for a date.
Maria is way too feminine and cute to be even an adolescent errand boy.
Phrase Catcher: Nearly every character on the show has a Catch Phrase. Sometimes they are directed at s specific person, the one and only.
René keeps getting "Oooooh, René!" from Yvette. Maria, Mimi or Madame Edith are little less hammy, and it's mostly "Oooh, René". Lt. Gruber often exclaims "Ooh, René" as well.
René from his wife: "What are you doing holding that serving girl in your arms?" Whenever he's caught in a compromising position with one of the waitresses.
Madame Edith, whenever she catches her husband René hugging his mistress, gets: "You stu-pid woman! Can you not see that <insert ridiculous explanation>?"
Herr Otto Flick from Gestapo always says to Helga: "You may kiss me." She kisses him very passionately. He seems to like it, yet he remains poker-faced.
Playing Gertrude: An unusually aged version; Rose Hill (67 when the show began) was only eight years older than her onscreen daughter Carmen Silvera (59 at the start). Disguised better than usual as Hill spent most of the series almost invisible under her huge night-cap, with her body hidden under blankets.
Pragmatic Villainy: In the final series, General Von Klinkerhoffen plots to assassinate Hitler... but only because the war is going badly for the Germans and he considers Hitler responsible.
Maria and Hans both disappear from the series after attempts to escape from the POW camp in which most of the main characters find themselves at the end of Series 3 do not go according to plan (Maria posts herself out in a Red Cross package that gets misrouted, Hans is catapulted over the fence and mistakenly taken back to Britain by the Resistance).
Roger Leclerc returns to prison between Series 5 and 6, finding the food there better than that at Café René. (This move was necessitated by the death of actor Jack Haig.)
Subverted with the British Airmen: the cast spent the entire series attempting to put them on a bus, but it never stuck.
Queer People Are Funny: Gruber. As an example when Captain Bertorelli is introduced to the Colonel, Helga, and Gruber he gives the first two kisses on the cheek, then shakes Gruber's hand.
Gruber: Ah, the General told me about you. Bertorelli: The General told ME about YOU.
Captain Bertorelli is an in-universe example, mostly because the Germans tend to view the Italians as their poor cousins, though Bertorelli's personal mannerisms certainly don't help him any.
In-Universe Played With by Mimi; Rene isn't all that keen on her, mostly because of how insane she is. He seemed to be really torn between Yvette and Maria, but when it was Yvette or Mimi, Yvette became his number one girl. Most of the other characters actually seem to prefer her over Maria because she's really into fighting.
René is always embracing Yvette when Edith comes in, yet manages to think up a halfbaked excuse to explain the awkward situation.
Leclerc always enters in an obvious disguise, yet he still feels the need to explain who he is.
Self-Deprecation: Pretty much all the British characters are presented as complete idiots, happy to be confined for years in cupboards, latrines, meal trollies and the like.
Serenade Your Lover: Parodied. Lieutenant Gruber sings love songs to René on several occasions, once singing "Mad About the Boy" to him, and another time gazing at him as he sang the line "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" from the song of the same name.
Series Fauxnale: The last episode of the second season was written as the Series Finale, because the show's producer thought there was zero chance of it being renewed for a third season. As it turned out though, he was quite wrong.
Serious Business: Most of the show, but especially anything Herr Flick does. You might think his excessively serious persona is a facade to make his Gestapo work easier, but if it is he has long since become the mask.
During the season two Christmas special multiple people were trying to kill General Von Klinkerhoffen during the chicken dinner. Herr Flick was trying to get Helga to kill him with a poison dart and to make a long story short Flick got hit with it instead causing him to convulse on the floor. After Rene and Helga give him the antidote and get him back to his meal, Klinkerhoffen asks Helga what was wrong with him. She answers: "He had the fish."
During the "escape from the prisoner of war camp" arc there's a number of little shout outs to The Great Escape, as they put dirt in Rene's trousers so he can dump it around the camp (in the original they had inside pockets that released the dirt).
One of the two MacGuffin paintings is actually a variant of Van Gogh's Sunflowers. Pity they value it less than the fictional Madonna with the Big Boobies.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Le Clerc's brother. In a parody, René also has his death faked in the first season and spends the rest of the show posing as his identical twin brother with the same name, although this is forgotten by most of the characters (even the Colonel, despite him being the one who orchestrated the deception) after about a season and only brought up in order to make a joke.
In one episode, an accordionist is heard wandering the town square outside the cafe, playing a slower version of the theme on his accordion.
Episode "Leclerc Against the Wall" featured the usual opening shot of Rene in his cafe as the instrumental theme song plays. It fades out as Rene begins playing the exact same song on the cafe piano.
Those Wacky Nazis: And they actually are wacky as they are Played for Laughs. Some of them manage to be completely endearing or loveable. The show was sold all over the world, though there was one notable exception Word of God is that when a delegation from German TV was received, they loved it, and found it hilarious. "But," they said sadly, "we'd never be allowed to show it."
Time Skip: The first seven seasons took place over only a few months, then two years pass between the seventh and eighth.
Translation Convention: Since the English dialogue is "really" in French, other accents denoted other languages. Michelle would adopt a plummy I-say-chaps accent when speaking English to the British airmen, and Officer Crabtree's malapropisms - "Good moaning! I was just pissing by..." - are due to his poor command of French. An odd syntax is used to help suggest French's different grammar (such as René saying things like "it is the bed of the mother of my wife!" without possessives).
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Not hot wife, but numerous hot women lusted after René... not to mention Lt. Gruber. And his affairs with his two waitresses have, according to Herr Flick in series 7, given him the nickname "Menage Artois".