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Series / Big Train

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Big Train was a very surreal BBC sketch show, devised by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan (of Father Ted fame), starring something of a British comedy supergroup: Simon Pegg, Mark Heap, Kevin Eldon, Julia Davis and Amelia Bullmore, amongst others, as well as several prominent comedy writers. It delighted in leftfield takes on standard comedy fare in a similar vein to Monty Python, ridiculous pop-culture parodies as well as some fairly uniquely off-the-wall fantasist humour. It ran for two series in 1998 and 2002.


  • Absurd Phobia: One sketch had a new manager on his first day since his promotion mentioning that he has a crippling fear of an object that he has written down on a card to pass around: Spoons. Unfortunately, one of his staff was late for the meeting and enters the room stirring a coffee. The manager ends up jumping out the window to his death.
  • Animal Testing: Inverted in a series of sketches about a man who has second thoughts about his impossible-to-get-out-of situations.
    "You have volunteered to remain in this cell for 10 years with nothing but three books for company, simply so our scientists may ascertain how such treatment may affect an ape of roughly the same size as yourself."
  • Announcer Chatter: Spoofed in the commentary for the World Stareout Championship, a recurring animation from the first series.
  • Ax-Crazy: One of Mark Heap's, who interprets everything as a slight about not being married, and cuts off the end of his own finger with a cigar cutter.
  • Black Comedy: A lot of the sketches are pretty dark.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Kevin Eldon plays a drunken husband at a dinner party who keeps telling embarrassing stories about the other guests, especially his wife; eventually, she stabs him to death with a carving knife and immediately apologises to the other guests, who are a little bit uneasy but very understanding ("We've all done it, haven't we..."). In the meantime, Eldon's corpse is still sitting at the dinner table oozing copious amounts of blood.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Spoofed in a sketch where Chaka Khan is battling with The Bee Gees in The Wild West - It Makes Sense In Context (actually, no it doesn't). Used in combination with not one but two Big "NO!"'s, Chaka pumps Robin Gibb with at least fifty shots from her revolver.
  • The Cast Showoff: Mark Heap's circus training, lots of conversations in Gratuitous French, plus a few musical interludes.
  • Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Florence Nightingale, the Lady with the BLEEP-ing Lamp.
    Florence: I don't give a BLEEP what you think, you BLEEPing Jerrybag!
    Sir Douglas: I mean, what is that? I don't even know what that is! I mean, what is that? A Jerrybag?
    Florence: It's what you put your BLEEPing BLEEP into!
  • Crazy Enough to Work: A sketch involving a man who attempts to distract his boss from the fact that he and his team haven't finished their assignment by dressing up in a bra and panties made out of paper and doing a funny dance. It fails miserably.
  • Precious Puppies: One of the distractions a manager uses on his staff to avoid paying his staff their bonus.
  • Creepy Doll: A man gets turned into a ventriloquist's dummy. He even describes himself as "one of the old-fashioned scary ones".
  • Epic Fail: "We'll try again, and this time... try not to go on fire."
  • Faux Horrific: One sketch had a guy jump to his death over a fear of spoons.
  • Le Film Artistique: Parodied in a sketch performed entirely in French with subtitles, where a woman (played by Catherine Tate) announces to her boyfriend that she has fallen in love with "something else" - a set of traffic lights. After he tries and fails several times to win her back, she eventually wants to go back to him, but by now he has begun a new relationship with a lawn sprinkler.
    • There's also film about the war-weary French soldier reminiscing about his teenage love for Une Grande Pomme de Terre (i.e. a large potato), who was stolen away from him by his best friend.
    • Another example has a French woman played by Catherine Tate explain all her woes to her dinner companion at length... at which point, he informs her — in English — that he doesn't speak or understand a word of French. She continues rambling on despite his protests.
  • Funny Animal: Used frequently, by way of a wide array of animal costumes. The most notable example is probably the "Cat & Mouse" fight, which is played entirely straight, except for the costumes.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Used as a plot point in a sketch about a radio DJ who keeps a gang of child slaves in the basement of a radio station to keep him supplied with inane chatter.
  • Language Fluency Denial: Played with in a sketch where a driver whose car has broken down asks two locals whether they speak English. They reply, in perfect English, that they don't speak English, and start a conversation (in perfect English) about how they really should have paid more attention to their English lessons in school. When the driver tries to explain that her car broke down, they apologise (in perfect English) for not being able to understand a word of it. She then asks them, in broken German, if they speak German. One of them replies in fluent German that he's sorry but he doesn't, "nür ein oder zwei Worten, aber ich bin nicht fließend" (only one or two words, but I'm not fluent.) They eventually tell her there's a village five miles away where she might find someone who speaks English. As she walks off toward the village, the locals jokingly admit to each other that they do speak English.
  • Learning to Ride a Bike: One sketch had Simon Pegg attempting to teach his son to ride a bike. After trying, three times, to push the kid (or, rather, an obvious dummy) on the bike and having him simply flop over, then throwing kid and bike together into the bushes for some reason, he attaches training wheels... which somehow cause the kid to burst into flames.
    We'll try again, and this time... try not to go on fire.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Simon Pegg playing a character who gives an incomprehensible mumble of a Rousing Speech before shouting "CHARGE!" and running off towards the enemy alone. He is promptly shot.
  • Limited Animation: Used intentionally in the Stareout sketches, which were mostly composed of a few static frames, with commentators breathlessly extolling what an exciting match it was.
  • Male Gaze: Spoofed in one sketch where several men start leering over a brightly coloured puppet.
  • No, You Hang Up First: Between a surgeon and his consultant... during the middle of an operation. It doesn't end well for the patient.
  • Obviously Evil: Tim the Evil Hypnotist, who appears to have walked straight out of a 1920's movie. Subverted in that he does exactly what his patient wants, except with an echoing "BWAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! It worked!" at the end of the session.
  • Poor Communication Kills: One of the Cavaliers, prior to a pitched battle.
    "Listen carefully. This is the most important thing I will ever tell you, and I shall not say it again! Mblmblbmblbmblmblbmlbblbl. CHAAAAARGE!" *gunshot*
  • Pantomime Animal: A pet dog the size of (and quite obviously played by) a man. One of the few animals in the series not to talk
  • Rule of Personification Conservation: Generally ignored in favour of Rule of Funny. A surprising amount of sketches would play out as drama if all the characters were human.
  • Running Gag: Every episode had at least one sketch involving seventies and eighties pop stars in unusual contexts, such as Chaka Khan hunting down The Bee Gees in the Old West, Kevin Rowland from Dexys Midnight Runners as Frankenstein's Monster and Daryl Hall & John Oates as a pair of council estate social workers.
  • Serious Business:
    • The World Stareout Championships.
    • Billie Piper's music career for this chap.
  • Shout-Out: At least a dozen per episode; hardly surprising given the subject matter and people like Pegg on the payroll.
  • Single-Issue Wonk: A character who devolves into aggressive paranoia, misreading almost anything as some kind of slight against 'me not being married'.
  • Smug Snake: Pegg's womanising studio executive, who just happens to pick up the Idiot Ball whenever he tries to open a door.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Parodied in one sketch where an editor is finishing up the final cut of a movie. Soundtrack for the funeral scene where a boy and his father are weeping over the grave of their wife/mother? "Rocking all Over the World" by Status Quo. The live version, not studio.
  • Stunt Double: Also parodied in the same sketch as Soundtrack Dissonance; a white detective gets into a fight with a criminal and the footage immediately cuts to a black stunt double in a blonde wig.
  • Subverted Punchline: A sketch has an employee in a large food company attending a presentation, where someone is explaining that they found their cakes sold better when they were heated up. The character quips: "You could say that they sold like hot cakes!" - which is met very coldly from everyone present. He's transferred under a cloud to the broth department, where his new boss explains that they recently ruined a batch of broth by having too many chefs in supervision, to which he starts to quip "You could say that... you've bollocksed it up."
  • Surrealism: Invoked in a sketch where a traumatised woman (Bullmore) is giving a description of her attacker to a police sketch artist, and she slowly drives him up the wall with the increasingly bizarre language she uses, such as saying his eyebrows needed to be more "mainstream" and that "There was rage behind his nose."
  • Take Our Word for It: A man orders an escort, only for the company to send another man, who calls him naive for thinking he would look like the woman on the advert. The man protests he's not gay, only for the escort to reassure him that he does straight sex as well. Cut to the lights going off...
    "Oh, I see! Now that is clever!"
  • Talking Animal: A theatre-loving dog and a French tortoise, among others.
    • Also inverted, in a strange way. A number of sketches feature people inexplicably behaving like animals, such as a herd of jockeys being stalked by The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: A lot of the sketches revolve around people taking quite unusual things (such as someone's girlfriend turning out to be a mermaid and a man being stalked Terminator-style by the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz) in remarkable stride.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Used in a spoof of RoboCop; in true British levels of competence, a copper wakes up ensconced in three cardboard boxes plus various plastic spoons and milk bottle tops, plus a truncheon wrapped in foil.


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Postman's Revenge

One postman takes drastic measures when dealing with an annoying hound.

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Main / MailmanVsDog

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