ostensibly about the humorous misadventures of a Roman slave, Lurcio, before Vesuvius erupted. In reality, it was merely a vehicle for comedian and actor Frankie Howerd, who would frequently drop out of character to speak to the audience and complain about the quality of the scripts, plots, acting and even the audience themselves.
Based on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
, itself based on the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, which were in turn based on the Greek New Comedy of Menander.
The series got a film adaptation in 1971. The film was followed by two sequels, Up the Chastity Belt
and Up the Front
, which also starred Howerd and relocated the setting to Medieval England and World War I France respectively.
This show provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: One episode centres around an assassination attempt on Caesar - who coincidentally looks exactly like Lurcio, Naturally, Frankie Howerd does not miss a single opportunity to lampshade this and is constantly stepping out of character to comment on his own incredibly acting skills in playing two different characters.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Lurcio/Howerd's asides to the audience.
- British Brevity: Only 13 regular episodes were ever made (2 series), plus a pilot and two (much) later one-off episodes. Is an unusually concentrated example even for this trope, as all 13 aired within a single year, 1970. The second series was made and broadcast just four months after the first.
- Catchphrase: Several, most enduringly "Titter ye not", as Lurcio would admonish the audience after another Double Entendre.
- And "The Prologue" (which he never quite finishes, and sometimes barely starts).
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Frankie Howerd would constantly upbraid the audience for the dirty spin they would put on supposedly perfectly innocent lines.
- Galley Slave: In The Movie, Frankie has a Have We Met?? moment with another slave. He doesn't recognize the other guy at first, and the other guy only realizes when he sees the back of his head. He sat behind him in the galley, so that's all he saw of him for all those years, but he would recognize the back of that bonce anywhere after that.
- Identical Grandson: At least two canonical examples — Sir Lurkalot in Up the Chastity Belt, and Mr. Lurk in Up the Front — and an implied third, namely the museum curator in the present-day epilogue of the Up Pompeii film.
- The Movie: Which replaced nearly all of the cast, barring Frankie Howard, with different actors.
- Rocks, Lava and Ash Fall, Everyone Dies: The Movie may well be the only seventies British comedy that ends by killing the entire cast. And in the manner that you'd expect as well, given the title.
- Though The Goon Show also killed off its cast with the eruption of Pompeii in one episode, a couple decades before this (They got better, thanks to No Continuity).
- Running Gag: Lurcio's inability to finish his prologue.
- Servile Snarker: Lurcio
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Nausius's odes.