Follow TV Tropes


Creator / Ben Elton

Go To

"Comedy will always be central to what I do, it's just an instinct for me, but I am a writer and always have been."

Benjamin Charles Elton (born 3 May 1959) is an English writer, director and comedian who co-wrote Blackadder (from its second season onward) with Richard Curtis. He also wrote and produced The Thin Blue Line, co-wrote The Young Ones with Rik Mayall and Lise Meyer, and was solo writer on Filthy Rich & Catflap and the now largely-forgotten sketch show Alfresco.

He has also written three West End plays, several "jukebox" musicals including We Will Rock You, and 11 novels.

His published books to date are:

  • Stark (1989)
  • Gridlock (1991)
  • This Other Eden (1993)
  • Popcorn (1996)
  • Blast From the Past (1998)
  • Inconceivable (1999) - adapted into the film Maybe Baby (2000), also written by Elton
  • Dead Famous (2001)
  • High Society (2002)
  • Past Mortem (2004)
  • The First Casualty (2005)
  • Chart Throb (2006)
  • Blind Faith (2007)
  • Meltdown (2009) - Probably his best known novel in America due to One Direction.
  • Advertisement:
  • Two Brothers (2012)
  • Time and Time Again (2014)

He also had a short-lived comedy show in 1998 on The BBC. The opening of each show spoofed BBC 1's hot air balloon ident of the time.

In America, he's probably best known for one line from his 2009 novel Meltdown. "'No!' Jimmy protested." The reason the quote became so popular is because One Direction's Louis Tomlinson read it out of a copy of the book on one of the band's web diaries, and it has become a popular joke with Directioners ever since.


As well as his clever use of tropes in the TV series Blackadder and The Thin Blue Line, they can also be found in his novels:

  • Animal Wrongs Group: Woggle in Dead Famous is a one-man example.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Geoffrey in Gridlock adopts the nickname "Geoffrey Spasmo", to destigmatise his condition.
  • Asshole Victim: Many of the murder victims in Past Mortem though Christine, while an Alpha Bitch as a teen and a shallow ditz as an adult is sympathetic and her murder comes across as a Moral Event Horizon for the killer.
  • Bedlam House: Subverted in Dead Famous when a contestant on a reality TV show pretends to have been abused in a mental institution, in order to boost her appeal with the public. The producer knows this is a lie because both of her own parents were institutionalized, and decides not to broadcast the footage.
  • Betty and Veronica: In Past Mortem, where Newson had relationships with Helen (Betty - albeit a rather warped version) and Christine (Veronica), who later reappear in his life as an adult in the run-up to a school reunion. Over the events of the book Christine is murdered by the serial killer, Newson discovers that Helen is chronically depressed and mentally ill, and the story ends with him asking out the Third-Option Love Interest: Natasha, the woman he believes he loved all along.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Sandra Dee in Blind Faith.
  • Bittersweet Ending
    • Blind Faith: Trafford is burned as a heretic by the Temple, but he tricks Sandra Dee into triggering an auto-system that will send Humanist emails to thousands of homes. As he shouts "EV LOVE!" ("evolve", backwards - a code word used by the Humanists) he sees people in the crowd nodding and trying to catch his eye, indicating that they received his emails. This gives him hope that the Temple will one day be overthrown.
    • High Society: Peter is convicted, sent to jail, and Angela divorces him. His disillusioned kids are suggested to be on the first steps towards drug abuse. As a result of the media outcry, the King of Thailand refuses to release Sonia, whose lawyers continue to petition for her to be deported on mental health grounds. Tommy finds Jessie (who has just been released from prison) and takes her on the holiday she dreamed of.
    • Blast From the Past: There is a huge scandal over Jack's death and the details of his involvement with Polly, just as he feared; and Polly is left with nothing. Harry contacts her, wanting to know more about her and her relationship with his brother. At the end of the story he comes to visit Polly, and she notices how much he looks like Jack, only that his voice is "kinder, somehow"
  • Brainless Beauty: Several, often used to deliver an Aesop about shallowness or vanity. A more sympathetic example is Kelly in Dead Famous. Christine Copperfield in Past Mortem is similarly somewhat sympathetic and likewise ends up murdered.
  • Broken Bird: Helen in Past Mortem, Jessie in High Society, to some extent Sally in Dead Famous.
  • Butch Lesbian: Played with in Dead Famous: Sally, although outwardly the textbook example of this trope, is one of the most sympathetic characters in the book. Also inverted with Trish, who is in the closet and resents people assuming she is heterosexual simply because she's not butch.
  • Butt-Monkey: Robbo in Meltdown. After he is killed while drink driving, the protagonist Jimmy reflects on how the joke doesn't seem so funny any more ...
  • Camping a Crapper: The whole plot of Dead Famous turns out to be based around this. Geraldine realised that at least one of the girls would have to go to the bathroom and planned for the murder to take place there.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: In Dead Famous, there's public outrage when Dervla is found to have been cheating by secretly communicating with a cameraman; this results in her ultimately not winning (despite previously being the most popular contestant) because people refuse to vote for her. It's also mentioned that something similar happened in a previous series of the show when a contestant found to be tampering with microphones was disqualified. All of this is presented as rather hypocritical given the manipulative tactics used by the housemates and production team alike.
  • Coitus Ensues: In several books, to the point where The First Casualty earned Elton a nomination for the Bad Sex Awards (an annual prize given to the author of the worst sex scene in fiction that year.)
  • Crapsack World: Blind Faith and This Other Eden are set in this.
  • Creator Thumbprint: His male heroes—CD, Geoffrey, Max, Newsom—tend to be on the short side.
  • Depraved Kids' Show Host: Chloe in High Society. Tommy mentions that almost every children's TV presenter he has met was a drug user, because, he imagines, it is too much stress for them to constantly act perky and cheerful for their audience.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: What kick-starts the plot of Identity Crisis. Inspector Matlock receives huge press backlash and becomes the subject of a nationwide witch-hunt when he states during a press conference that a young female murder victim was "in the wrong place at the wrong time" - meaning that if it wasn't her it would likely have been some other unfortunate girl, but the public takes this as victim-blaming. His subsequent efforts to remedy the situation only end up making it worse.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Digby in Gridlock when he learns a newspaper article is going to out him as a homosexual.
    • Sally in Dead Famous attempts suicide on-camera when she becomes a prime suspect in the murder. She survives.
    • In Meltdown, Robbo's friends and family suspect his death - ostensibly a road accident - to be this.
  • During the War: The First Casualty is set during World War I.
  • The Elites Jump Ship: The premise of Stark is that a cabal of Earth's wealthiest people are conspiring to escape Earth, which is dying from global warming and associated ecological catastrophes, and set up a new home on the Moon. They get away with it, but the epilogue shows that, because they really have nothing in common beyond being very rich and very ruthless, they quickly get on each other's nerves when they're cooped up together, and suggests that it's not going to be long before they all kill each other and/or themselves.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: Seems to be the case for Dervla in Dead Famous, as even Sally says she'd like her to be her date at Pride.
  • Expy: Blind Faith didn't do as well as Elton's other books, partly because of criticism that its plot was too heavily borrowed from 1984.
    • Scout and Wayne in Popcorn are obvious Expies of Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, the entire book being a satire of the moral panic over media violence.
    • Calvin, Beryl and Rodney in Chart Throb are Expies of the real life The X Factor judges.
    • Several characters in Identity Crisis are Expies of controversial political figures in the UK, including Germaine Greer and Jacob Rees-Mogg.
    • Almost all the housemates in Dead Famous are blatant imitations of notable contestants from the first two series of Big Brother.
  • Fat Bastard: Barbieheart in Blind Faith, who uses her position as the online moderator for everyone in Trafford's housing complex to bully and exploit the residents. It's suggested that she was given the role of moderator because her size renders her unable to leave the house, so she is perfectly placed to spend the whole day monitoring everyone via screens.
  • Fiery Redhead: Jessie in High Society.
  • Funetik Aksent: High Society, ad nauseam.
  • Granola Girl: Layla in Dead Famous. Polly from Blast From the Past was one as a teenager.
  • His Name Is...: Happens in Past Mortem. Christine Copperfield left a message on Newson's answerphone just before her death, but was interrupted by the arrival of her killer at the door, and hung up so she could talk to them. Her message indicates that the killer is someone she knows; she just never got to say who.
  • Holding the Floor: In Dead Famous, Inspector Coleridge talks on television for five and a half minutes to delay the end of the show so his colleagues can arrive with faked evidence to prompt a confession from the murderer.
  • I Let Gwen Stacy Die: Much of Trafford's motivation in Blind Faith is due to his first child's death from an illness easily preventable by vaccination.
  • Lad-ette: Kelly and Moon in Dead Famous fit the trope, with Geraldine referring to Kelly as "the little ladette slapper."
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Prince Charles is a major character in Chart Throb, but is never named.
  • Little Miss Badass: Anna Leman in High Society
  • Mystery Meat: In Stark, Sly Moorcock orders a meal of swan, just because it seems like something an insanely rich person would eat. When it's served, he compares its taste to cat, with good reason. In the same novel, the author defines the filling of meat pies as "minced string in gravy", although they still taste delicious.
  • Never My Fault: The core theme of Popcorn, and an attitude held by almost all main characters.
  • New Eden: The basic plot of This Other Eden.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Bruce Delamitri, of Popcorn, has an attitude and a filmography that are strongly reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino, to the point where one of his movies even includes a scene where two gangsters need to get their suits cleaned after killing someone they weren't intended to and getting spattered in blood.
  • Only One Name: In Dead Famous, we never find out Trish's surname, or Sergeant Hooper's first name.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: One of the central themes of Identity Crisis.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Captain Shannon in The First Casualty, Geraldine Hennessy in Dead Famous.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Most of the cast of Meltdown begin like this, until the recession hits and they are left with nothing.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Peter in Blast From the Past, Carlisle in Dead Famous.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: A literal example in Meltdown. Jimmy and Monica donate £1 million to asylum seekers and then can't afford new shoes for their children.
  • Tomato Surprise: In Time and Time Again the hero is sent from 2024 to 1914 to prevent World War I. Toward the end readers learn why it's never referred to by number, but occasionally called "The Great War". In their timeline it was the only world war, but it lasted twice longer.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: The world of Blind Faith has all laws passed by mob assent, and the Temple enforces its rule partly by whipping up the public into frenzied mobs against any perceived transgression. High Society has an incident where a family whose child died after accidentally eating his sister's Ecstasy pills is attacked by an angry mob; Peter Paget uses the subsequent press attention to publicise his campaign to legalise all drugs in the UK.
  • Transgender: Identity Crisis involves the murder of a transgender woman, with the lead detective on the case (who knows very little about trans people) having to learn about it fairly quickly and investigate whether the victim's gender identity might have been a motive for the crime.
  • Unable to Cry: In Blind Faith, where child death is rampant due to vaccination being outlawed, a colleague in Trafford's office is ostracised because she is unable to cry over the death of her baby son. Trafford seems to understand that this reaction doesn't mean she grieves any less than everyone else.
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much First Casualty and Two Brothers in a nutshell.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • In High Society, Paget has an affair with the rather unhinged Samantha, who becomes very vindictive when he tries to end the relationshp.
    • Rupert trades in his wife for a younger, prettier model fairly on during Meltdown. When he loses all his money, the now ex-wife gets revenge by suing him for the full settlement he promised her at the time of the divorce, and wins.
  • Worthy Opponent: Sam Turk does this with Deborah twice during the climactic scene of Gridlock. Both times she throws it back in his face, and justifiably so.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: