Series: The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer
Like a shrimp in a suitcase lying on a window ledge,
Like a pair of tartan slippers and they're underneath a hedge,
Like a scout master at daybreak putting peanuts in his glove,
Like a specially formed ice arch for climbing over doves,
Like a sardine in a hair net and he's staring at a priest...
These things you'll find constantly irritate our minds!
— opening song for episode 1, very much setting the tone
The second surreal comedy show put together by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, following Vic Reeves Big Night Out
. Considered to be some of Vic and Bob's best work. Had two series, in 1993 and 1995.
Rather than Big Night Out
`s parody of variety shows, The Smell
was a sketch show interspersed with Vic and Bob sitting at their desk and doing surreal things before an audience, a format which would later be built upon for Shooting Stars
. An intermittent character was the incoherent Uncle Peter (comedian Charlie Chuck) and guest actors included Matt Lucas and David Walliams (later of Little Britain
) and Simon Day and Paul Whitehouse (later of The Fast Show
In 1999 the two revived the format under the name Bang Bang It's Reeves and Mortimer
, which will also be covered here as it is essentially a third series in all but name. Even more surreal than their earlier work, Reeves and Mortimer considered it superior but it was less popular with the fans, perhaps because each episode was weighed down by a large part of it being devoted to a single recurring setting called The Club
, which was somewhat Love It or Hate It
. Bang Bang
also developed some characters and concepts that had been introduced in The Smell
, such as Tom Fun.
This TV series displays examples of:
- Absurdity Ascendant - Always the case with Vic and Bob.
- Particularly noticeable in the parodies of TV shows, which insert completely random aspects as often as they actually play on real characteristics of the people and shows involved. For example, Melvyn Bragg of The South Bank Show is obsessed with his bicycle, Hugh Scully of The Antiques Roadshow is constantly surrounded by stuffed monkeys, and John Craven of Countryfile is a lecherous pervert who always finishes every sentence in a Dalek-esque monotone yell.
- All Just a Dream and Or Was It a Dream?: Played with in the final episode of the first series.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: In an episode that started with a number from 'Footloose', Vic burst out in disbelieving laughter every time Bob tried to explain the idea of homosexuality to him. Especially arbitrary considering that in another episode Vic accidentally doses Bob with a love potion and ends up uncontrollably attracted to him.
- Ascended Extra: A few examples:
- Greg Mitchell ascends from a one-off series of jokes on Big Night Out to having his own background plot arc.
- The Stotts get a progressively bigger role over time until they get a Once an Episode segment in Bang Bang.
- Tom Fun went from a one-off joke in series two of The Smell to getting his own Once an Episode segment with Derek in Bang Bang.
- British Accents - Characters are often given incongruous Geordie accents for comedy value. Everyone in the Slade segments has a Birmingham accent.
- Butt Monkey: Greg Mitchell, the gorgeous sandy-coloured labrador.
- Catch Phrase - Lots.
- Men with Bras: "What you lookin' at mate?! Are you looking at my bra?!" and "Howay!"
- Whisky and Brandy Bolland: "Almost too wee!"
- Tom Fun: "And I'm sure that's gonna be a lotta fun"
- Otis Redding and Marvyn Gaye (said in Geordie accent): "We're here sittin' on the dock o' the beeyah watchin' the ships cummin' in and gooin' aht agin"
- Greg Mitchell (suddenly gaining a broader Cockney accent): "Oh naw! Wha' am I sayin', mah wife's gonna kill me!"
- Cloudcuckoolander - Everyone to some extent, but especially Whisky and Brandy Bolland.
- Cool Versus Awesome: One version of the "I Love the Smell" closing number consisted of an argument between Vic and Bob about which was better, Communist Cuba or electrical appliances.
Vic: Yes, but he'd be lost without his Flymo!
- Early-Bird Cameo - Swiss Toni appeared once to sell the Men With Bras a car before he became a regular on The Fast Show, much less before he got his own series.
- Everyone Went to School Together - Not quite this trope, but in the 'Slade' segments it appears that every rock star in Birmingham live next to each other.
- Everything Is Better With Explosions - On Bang Bang the Stotts insist on starting every interview with "a nice explosion", and in a variation on Every Car Is a Pinto, perhaps the most surreal sketch of all involved a car whose bonnet and boot lids would blast off into the air, then land and explode in an absurdly oversized detonation.
- The Faceless: Averted with the intro narrator, who appeared on-camera at the start of one episode as part of an unexpected, surreal swerve.
- Fake American: Kinky John Fowler.
- Fake Band: A subversion - Slade, a real band, are spoofed, but in such an exaggerated parody fashion that they're unrecognisable.
- Fartillery: Le Corbussier et Papin - literally, in one episode when the former uses the latter as a howitzer against passing Tour de France cyclists.
- Insane Troll Logic: Constantly. For example, when Vic claimed he was upper-class because he owned a colour television.
- Inventional Wisdom: The Reeves and Mortimer products.
Bob: How does it work?
Vic: I don't know - but it does!
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Half the Reeves and Mortimer products, as well as the start-of-episode sketches. Everything, in fact.
- Le Film Artistique: Le Corbussier et Papin.
- Mockumentary: The Club, covering hapless attempts by the owners of the "fourth best club in Hull" to keep it going. Nearly all the characters were played by Reeves or Mortimer, and despite the comedy one perceives an oddly serious sorrow on their part for the death of the traditional variety club that it symbolises and from which they originated (see Vic Reeves Big Night Out). Quite similar to That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights in a way, but predates them by a year.
- Series 1 and 2 also begin each episode with a short nonsensical "historical" film in documentary style which finishes with a very awkward segue to introducing Vic and Bob.
- The Musical: Each episode starts with a different musical number (some original, some ironic covers) and ends with the signature "I Love The Smell". The last episode of series 1 had an even bigger musical sequence at the end.
- Once an Episode: The vegetable advert Dream Sequence from Series 1.
- Later in Bang Bang each episode involved someone dying, a shell-less egg emerging from their mouth, and then their body fading away in a dramatic fashion (usually this was in the very surreal car sketches, but once migrated to the studio). Vic and Bob explained in interviews that the egg was supposed to represent a soul.
- Oop North: Like many R&M characters, Pat Wright and Dave Arrowsmith are from the North East (Hartlepool to be exact).
- Also, the duo incongruously gave Geordie accents to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Barry White.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: "The fourth best club in Hull"
- The Parody: A few remarkably surreal examples, more towards the earlier part of the show's run. Some examples of shows parodied include Stars in their Eyes, Noel's Addicts (and Noels House Party), Countryfile, Masterchef, The South Bank Show and The Antiques Roadshow.
- Product Placement: Parodied - Vic and Bob take every opportunity to mention (in an anvilicious way) that this problem could be solved with the new "Reeves and Mortimer (name of product)".
- The first series also had short films with high production values (presented as an Imagine Spot on Vic's part) which replicated an iconic scene from a film, such as running on the beach from Chariots of Fire, before crudely inserting a vegetable in place of someone's head or similar, with a label declaring low prices on veg. This was eventually explained as Vic blowing the budget on advertising, having forgotten that Reeves and Mortimer don't sell fruit and veg.
- Recursive Reality: Uncle Peter once showed Vic and Bob a jug, inside of which was Uncle Peter's band playing music—including Uncle Peter himself.
- Scatting: Used in the "I Love the Smell" theme tune.
- Shaggy Dog Story: The opening narration usually establishes a tenuous link between the events described and Reeves and Mortimer before introducing them. On one occasion though the narrator simply stops the story and immediately segues to "Ladies and gentlemen, Reeves and Mortimer!"
- Slapstick: Series 2 introduced Vic and Bob's trademark frying-pan Bigger Is Better Escalating War fight.
- Speak of the Devil: Hercule Poirot appears when Vic misreads Bob's note asking for "dancing marionettes and Pierrot" as "dancing majorettes and Poirot".
- Stylistic Suck: A segment where Vic and Bob do a video-diary tour of the Reeves and Mortimer factory, complete with lack of editing and arguing over who's filming whom.
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: When Greg Mitchell's wife appears at the end of the first series, it's the same puppet plus these.
- Trademark Favourite Food: Cup-a-Soup for all the members of Slade.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: All the time, and especially how Vic and Bob seem to freeze in time whenever Greg Mitchell and Corky appear.
- Verbal Tic: Uncle Peter's "Woof! Bark! DONKEY!"
- The Verse: Some recurring characters, particularly the Bra Men, also showed up as contestants in parodies of game shows.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Kinky John Fowler, introduced in Bang Bang as compere of the Club, later reappears as a policeman in Catterick with no explanation.
- In addition, a recent tribute to Steve Coogan featured Kinky John as a TV executive, Tom Fun and Derek as cameramen, and Carl and Chris as BBC security.
- Artistic License - Biology: A segment parodying the overuse of metaphors in public information films, in which Vic and Bob explained the human body in terms of the appliances in a house...but wrongly.
Vic: Your body has its own central heating, in the form of your lungs. Hot foods such as steak, pies and soup are transferred directly to the lungs whereupon they heat the entire body.