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Series / Chelmsford 123

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In the year 123 AD throughout the known world the Romans were spreading their own particular brand of civilisation. Some places, Britain for example, were proving especially difficult to Romanise, partly because of the weather and partly because of the Britons and their own particular brand of civilisation. But one place above all became synonymous with all that was turbulent, perilous and barbaric. Its very name struck terror into the hearts of decent men...

A British situation comedy from the late '80s produced by Channel 4 and written by Jimmy Mulville and Rory McGrath.

In 123 AD the Emperor of Rome (Bill Wallis) appoints Aulus Paulinus (Jimmy Mulville) governor of Britain after Aulus made the mistake of insulting his love, Portia. To add insult to injury the Emperor then appoints Aulus's brother-in-law Grasientus (Philip Pope) as the aide-de-camp.

Upon arrival in Britain Aulus must contend with the British weather and the British people, especially the local tribal leader Badvoc (Rory McGrath) who'll do everything he can to undermine Roman authority and make some money while he's at it.

In 2021, it was announced that the show had been revived for a four-part audio series starring the surviving members of the cast.

Tropes present in Chelmsford 123:

  • All Just a Dream: First episode of the second series in the following episode's opening reveal.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: Happens to Blag a few times.
  • Bed Sheet Ghost: Played for Laughs by Wolfbane upon Aulus. It doesn't work.
  • Blind Mistake: Seems to only occur in the very first episode.
  • Britain Is Only London: Averted. Most of the series is set in Chelmsford, which in Real Life wasn't even a city at the time of production.
  • British Brevity: Only two series with six episodes in the first and seven episodes in the second.
  • Catchphrase: "They call me Mungo the [placeholder]." He then gives an example as to why he's called that.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Blag.
  • Covered in Gunge: In the fifth episode of the first series Badvoc is kidnapped and, in one scene, is tortured by being stuck in a barrel of... are you ready for this? human faeces. He's totally unfazed.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mungo may come across as this.
  • Doctor Whomage: The TARDIS materializes in the background of the first episode with a silhouette of a man who looks like the Fourth Doctor gets out and looks around briefly before getting back in.
  • The Dung Ages: A little early historically speaking, but the portrayal of Britain certainly comes across as this.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Inverted when it turns out that Badvoc's real name is Rosemary.
  • Intercontinuity Crossover: In the very first episode there's a brief appearance of the TARDIS.
  • Jacob Marley Warning: Wolfbane tries to pull this off on Aulus as the 'Ghost of Next Week'. It fails hilariously.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Lampshaded in one episode where both Badvoc's and Aulus's embarrassing twin brothers turn up in Chelmsford.
  • The Noseless: Justified in one episode when it turns out the sculptor can't sculpt noses.
  • Not What It Looks Like: In one episode Aulus catches Badvoc in gathering his tribe, apparently to start a local rebellion. Badvoc explains they're rehearsing for a sporting event. Subverted, in that it turns out they really were rehearsing for the friendly inter-tribal competition.
  • The Other Darrin: Averted for laughs in one episode when it looks as though Badvoc's been executed.
  • Put on a Bus: Gargamadua, Badvoc's girlfriend, is only present in the 1st Series... as was Functio (Robert Austin).
  • The Queen's Latin: Subverted. The Romans are shown speaking Latin, until they reach Britain where they're compelled to speak the native tongue, which at the time would've been closer to Welsh.
  • Repeat After Me: Happens to Badvoc in the last episode of the first series when he's made King as part of the traditions of the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which he then amends to remain king and one thing and another leads to the following exchange.
    Tutor: Amo.
    Badvoc: Amo.
    Tutor: Amas.
    Badvoc: Amas.
    Assassin: One move and you're dead.
    Badvoc: One move and you're dead.
    Assassin: That goes for you, too, King Badvoc.
    Badvoc: That goes for you, too, King Badvoc.
  • Right Behind Me: In the final episode Aulus is preparing his speech upon becoming Emperor of Rome in the belief that Badvoc's holding him hostage when the real emperor walks in. It gets worse when Badvoc walks in and delivers Aulus's completely unflattering description of the emperor word for word.
  • Shout-Out: In Mine's a Double it's revealed that Badvoc's parents named all their kids after herbs.
  • Shown Their Work: The Latin spoken by the Romans is proper Latin complete with correct pronunciation.
  • Suicide as Comedy: In one episode Grasientus nearly hangs himself in despair of his apparent ugliness before a girl servant cheers him up, only for Aulus to grab the stool he was standing on without thinking.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Used in one episode where Grasientus attempts to poison members of the local British tribe at a dinner party. Since the Romans and Britons suspect each other of attempting to poison the other, hilarity ensues.