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Series / Count Arthur Strong

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Count Arthur Strong is a television adaptation of Steve Delaney's long-running character, an ageing, perpetually unemployed variety act. It ran for three series, between 2013 and 2017, and exists in a separate continuity from Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show! and the stage shows.

Count Arthur Strong is a music hall performer who's never had much success. He spends his days hanging out at his local cafe with his friends and remembering bygone success that didn't actually happen — and getting on the owner's nerves in the process. One day he's approached by Michael Baker, who's writing a book about his father, who used to be Arthur's double-act partner. Sensing an opportunity to spread word about his act and attract new employment, Arthur pulls Michael into all sorts of misadventures with the promise of useful anecdotes.


Although debuting to disappointing ratings, the series proved to be something of a Sleeper Hit and the third series was promoted to a primetime slot.

Tropes seen in Count Arthur Strong:

  • Accents Aren't Hereditary: Bulent has a Turkish accent, his sister Sinem does not.
  • Ambiguously Evil: In-series, Bulent has this opinion of Arthur after a psychiatric report shows up describing Arthur as displaying traits that Bulent considers symptomatic of a classic sociopath. Sinem is skeptical of the report, but Michael is on the fence. It doesn't help that both men find a con-artist imprisoned in his house.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Katya has a wooden leg, as shown in the first episode when Michael accidentally dislodges it while giving her the Heimlich Maneuver. The finale of the first series reveals that Arthur kept the leg after Katya's funeral because they couldn't cremate it, showing Arthur's inability to let go of her.
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  • Asian Rudeness: Bulent is unbelievably foul-tempered and rude, but considering he has to put up with Arthur on a daily basis, you can't blame him.
  • Asian Store-Owner: Bulent, though he's Turkish, and he runs a cafe instead of a shop. Averted with that one Indian guy Michael meets in a newsagent's, who's only a customer.
  • Bad Liar: Michael, according to Sinem. He has this vein that pops up on his neck whenever he's feeling guilty, which is why he can't hide the fact that he went to a social evening without Arthur and not a film as he claimed.
  • Bald of Evil: Downplayed with Bulent. He's a bald Turkish cafe owner with a Hair-Trigger Temper, but considering he has to put up with Count Arthur Strong's antics, you can't blame him.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: Series 2 features Arthur going on a flight course. At the airfield, he meets up with a young man called Jeremy, who's also taking a flying lesson. And each assumes the other one is the flight instructor. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Book Ends: The first and last episodes of series 1 feature memorial services - the former for Max Baker, the latter for Katya.
  • Break the Cutie: Part of the backstories of Michael (by his father), and Eggy (by his wife).
  • Brick Joke: Sort of. In Series 2, when Arthur is trying to get elected as a politician, he offers to legalize betting in cafes. In Series 3... we get to see Arthur and co. organizing a poker tournament.
  • Broken Aesop: In-universe. After going through a case of Greed and joining a Church of Happyology, Arthur reforms and tries warning Michael, "Beware of greed, Michael. It never rests until it is satisfied. And greed is never satisfied." He then gets distracted by the fact that the massive medal he's wearing is actually a chocolate coin and starts chomping it happily.
  • But Now I Must Go: Despite coming to enjoy the company of Count Arthur and his friends, and finally waking up to Sinem's feelings for him, Michael still decides to go home at the end of the first series. But of course he came back.
  • Butt-Monkey: Michael whenever he get's caught up in Arthur's antics.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: Arthur thinks that the events of Planet of the Apes happened in real-life. He's glad that's blown over.
  • Church of Happyology: Arthur briefly joins one in Season 3. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Pretty much everyone except Sinem and Michael.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Michael for Arthur at times.
  • Cool Shades: John the Watch wears these.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Eggy.
  • *Crack!* "Oh, My Back!": When Arthur tries out a dangerous living statue move known as "The Stalking Tiger", he eventually throws his back out and has to be sent home.
  • Creator Cameo: Director Graham Linehan makes an appearance in Series 3 as a guest at Arthur's poker tournament.
  • Dawson Casting: In one episode, Arthur has to fill in for a younger actor after accidentally getting him drunk, and does as poor a job of it as you'd expect. Later on, in-universe, we have a flashback to Arthur's youth as a greaser, and he's still played by Steve Delaney.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Michael, Bulent and Sinem are the primary snarkers of the cast.
  • Deadly Prank: Subverted in Series 3. Two youths try to prank Arthur by gluing a coin to the road right where he can see it. While he's bending down to try picking it up- unsuccessfully- cars start driving towards him, and the youths panic and try warning him, but each car miraculously misses him repeatedly, and eventually he prizes the coin loose with a screwdriver.
  • Derailing Love Interests: Simon, the man Sinem has started going out with when Michael left London initially appears to be a Nice Guy, but ultimately we learn that he only likes Sinem because she's attractive, and once she finds this out, they break up.
  • Dodgy Toupee: John the Watch starts wearing one after he joins Arthur at the Psychic Hotline studio.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In Series 2, Episode 5, Michael decides to start hanging out with John the Watch after Arthur moves into his house and begins to grate on his nerves(well, more than usual). Arthur and Eggy respond as though Michael is Arthur's philandering husband and they eventually have to open up about it. The episode is even called "The Affair".
  • Emotional Regression: Michael ends up undergoing this in Arthur's presence, becoming a lot more immature and temperamental. He even lampshades it:
    Michael: I'm not normally like this, you know. I normally am quite capable. It's Arthur. Arthur's done this to me. He's turned me into a baby.
  • Enforced Method Acting: In-universe. Arthur goes through this by successfully pretending to be a police detective, purely to prove to Michael that he can act.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Those youths in Season 3 who glued a coin to the road to tempt Arthur into trying to pick it up didn't want him to actually get run over in the process.
  • Fan Disservice: Arthur poses nude for a life model painting class, and one of the students actually has to go outside to vomit. Michael himself is traumatised by the sight of Arthur's... landing gear.
    • For his part, Michael also gives Arthur a case of Brain Bleach when he tries attacking Arthur in a hospital... and all Michael's wearing is a hospital gown, so Arthur can tell he's not wearing pants.
    • And in the Season 2 finale, we get to see John the Watch wearing a Modesty Towel after he's taken advantage of Arthur's studio shower. Suffice to say, a middle-aged short bald man in sunglasses is not an ideal sight.
  • Fiendish Fish: Played for Laughs when Arthur recalls a time when he brought a whole salmon home from the BBC running buffet. After he'd spent days eating it, he was sick of the sight of it "staring up at (him) from the plate with those cold accusing eyes" and flushed it down the toilet. The anecdote serves as Brain Bleach to the cast of the radio play he's appearing in.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": both Max Baker's memorial service and Katya's funeral have elements of this.
  • Funny Foreigner: Subverted by Katya and Bulent, both of whom are funny, but he's funny for being rude and temperamental, and she's funny for being a cool, quirky old lady- neither of their nationalities is brought up for funny moments.
  • The Gambling Addict: Bulent joins a poker tournament in his own cafe with Arthur, Eggy, John and Birdy. Too bad for Bulent he sucks at poker. Really, really sucks.
  • Genius Ditz: Surprisingly, Eggy and Arthur's theory about ice-cream van music determining the van's speed proves to be correct.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: John the Watch does this to Michael when he's freaking out over breaking into Sheila's house to make off with the script for Arthur's racy book.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Eggy never recovered from his breakdown upon discovering his wife was cheating on him.
  • Grammar Nazi: Michael is a downplayed version. In Season 1 he enrages Bulent by pointing out that he's spelled the word "chips" with an apostrophe. And again in Season 2, where he goes into a fancy dress shop to get a mask in the window relabeled "Frankenstein's Monster" instead of "Frankenstein".
  • Greaser Delinquents: Arthur was in a gang of these in his youth.
  • Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A flashback in season 2 reveals Bulent had a full head of hair, and a moustache, before he met Arthur and the Count started to grate on him.
  • Hilarity in Zoos: Arthur tries getting Michael and his friends into a safari park for free on Michael's birthday.
  • Hollywood Exorcism: Arthur takes this view of exorcisms, as we find out in Series 3.
    Arthur: Have you ever been to an exorcism, Michael? Heads spin round, books slap priests in their faces!
    Birdy: And the language is terrible!
    Arthur: And I'll wager good money on at least one of us crawling over the ceiling like a spider!
  • I Am Not My Father: Michael's attitude to his late dad.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Arthur, right after boasting of his Memory Man act, then receives a pound from Eggy that his friend owed him, and asks, "What's that for?"
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Michael when Arthur actually shares a heartwarming anecdote about his father at the memorial. Bulent in Season Two when he opens up about his bitterness towards Arthur. Bulent again in Season 3 when remembering how Birdie took a humiliating photo of him.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Michael is this to Sinem, which causes the majority of their problems in Series 3.
  • Introverted Cat Person: Eggy the conspiracy theorist lives alone in his house with a cat that fell asleep in his trousers at one point when he was on the loo.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Eggy and Arthur think that the speed of ice-cream vans is directly controlled by the speed of the music: "If you hear one playing Flight Of The Bumblebee, run for your life!" At the end of the episode, they are proved correct when evading a Ripper tour guide.
  • Jack the Ripper: Arthur does Jack The Ripper tours in an ice-cream van. And he does a terrible job of it.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Bulent and Michael, whenever calling Arthur out on problems he's caused.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bulent, for all his irascibility, allows his sister Sinem to Cry into Chest when she thinks Michael's going to leave for a job in America.
  • Jobber: Arthur used to be this when he trained as a boxer. If he didn't catch his opponent in a One-Hit KO as soon as the bell rang, he was as good as dead. So when Bulent rings a new desk bell to get Sinem's attention, and Arthur happens to be posing for a photo which makes it look like he's about to square off with the local Straw Politician....
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Bulent to Sinem, mainly concerning her attraction to Michael.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Arthur. And he accidentally admits to it while doing a Jack the Ripper tour:
    Arthur: Follow me, and I will show you how little I know... uh, IS known..
  • Large Ham: Count Arthur. He doesn't do nuance... or acting, really.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: From time to time, Arthur seems to address an audience, but he's not truly breaking the fourth wall, he's just *pretending* there's an audience.
  • Lesser Star: In-Universe, Count Arthur himself is implied to have been very much this in the Baker & Strong partnership.
  • London Gangster: John the Watch is implied to have been one in the past, which is why Arthur comes to him for help with stealing a script for a racy book featuring characters based on Michael and his publishing agent.
  • Malaproper: Count Arthur Strong.
  • Manchild: Arthur sometimes behaves more like a Cheerful Child than an old man, but Michael also qualifies, whenever he's feeling irked by the success of his rival Ronald Harrison, or when he feels guilt-tripped by the entire cafe, in which case he'll scream "Stop picking on me!!" and run outside.
  • Mighty Whitey and Mellow Yellow: Inverted. Michael the white Englishman is a Shrinking Violet, his eventual girlfriend Sinem is a mischievous energetic Turkish girl.
  • Mistaken for Racist: Michael in episode 2, when he mistakes an Indian man for an Asian Store-Owner and spends the rest of the episode desperately trying to convince him that Michael's a nice man. Only to end up Digging Yourself Deeper.
  • Mood Whiplash: at least Once an Episode during series 1 and 2. Particularly pronounced at the end of "Doctor Two" when Katya dies and the remaining minutes of the episode are basically straight drama.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: The series' initial premise is that Michael Baker is writing his father's biography. His work becomes less important once the initial story arc is wrapped up, but it's suggested that the biography was a success and his writing career is on the up after that.
  • Motive Rant: Arthur goes on one in the Season 2 finale, when Michael calls him out on his Acquired Situational Narcissism upon getting a job at the Psychic Hotline, pointing out the hypocrisy of this when Michael's obtained a job offer to make a film in America.
    Michael: Oh, come on, Arthur! That's not fair!
    Arthur: Yes, it's not fair! It's not fair that I have to sit in the cafe everyday and watch the world pass me by! It's not fair that your dad left me just when things were looking up! It's not fair that my story- my story- is the reason you're going to America! It's not fair! None of it's fair!
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Bulent takes this attitude towards Michael's interest in Sinem.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Arthur traumatizes several people with a portrait of his nude body. Michael shudders when he's having a sausage and he can't get the image out of his head.
  • Nice Guy: Michael tries to be this. Sometimes he feels like he has to prove it, though.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Arthur and Katya.
  • Oblivious to Love: Michael, at least at first.
  • Obvious Judas: The bloke who grassed on a young Arthur's punch-up with a street urchin gang at Limehouse? He's basically an Expy of Bill Sikes.
  • Oh, Crap!: Michael, whenever he gets caught up in one of Arthur's schemes.
  • One-Hit KO: Arthur, to a political rival in Season 2, when Bulent rings a new bell on the cafe desk and Arthur mistakes it for a boxing ring bell.
  • Only Sane Man: Michael, to a certain degree, though it's mostly because he's so introverted. Sinem is the Only Sane Woman.
  • Parental Neglect: Max Baker doesn't seem to have been full-on abusive, but was seemingly oblivious to his son's emotional needs
  • Parental Substitute: Arthur, to Michael. Lampshaded at the end of the series.
  • Perverse Puppet: Arthur keeps a row of ventriloquist dummies that he brings to a house he's exorcising, disturbing Michael. Then Michael falls asleep next to the dummies and Birdie paints his face to make him look like one of them.
  • Pet the Dog: Michael shares some hospital lollies with Arthur at the end of Season 1, Episode 5 after Katya dies.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Max Baker's.
  • Potty Failure: The last time Michael met Arthur, as a small child, he burst into tears and urinated. Arthur's response? "I hope you've put that sort of thing behind you. I don't care what your excuse is, if you want to go, you go in the toilet in this house. Or in the shower, if you can't get out fast enough."
  • Prophecy Twist: In Season 1, Episode 5, Katya tells Michael in the cafe, "The shadow of death is here. You are in grave danger!" making Michael think that Arthur's trying to kill him. He survives to the end of the episode, only to find out that Katya had foreseen her own death, not his.
  • Real After All: That street-fight between Arthur's Greaser Delinquents and a band of Victorian urchins? That actually happened, it was one of Arthur's rivals trying to get rid of him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Michael gives Arthur such a speech in a hospital, after he finally loses patience with Arthur's antics, and after hearing how he botched a line on a medical drama(Arthur says it as "It's outside my area of expertise. I'm afraid!"
    Michael: Arthur, whatever gave you the impression that you could act?
    Arthur: What?
    Michael: Here's how you say that line: "It's outside my area of expertise, I'm afraid."
    Arthur: No, no, no, doesn't sound like you're afraid of anything if you say it like that.
    Michael: He's not afraid of anything!
    Arthur: Well, what's he saying it for, then?
    Michael: It's a phrase! He's not saying he's afraid of things that are outside his area of expertise! That's not a frightening thing!
    Arthur: Oh, what do you know, eh?
    Michael: I know more than you do, I tell you that! Someone casting you as a doctor, let me tell you what that is! That is mis-casting! You're more of a crazy gravedigger! Or a village idiot! What you're not is someone who anyone might mistake for a person of authority, like a doctor! You can't act, Arthur! You can't act!
    Arthur: That is the dog that bit you talking. You don't know what you're saying.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Birdie, a homeless Irishwoman who becomes a regular in Season 3, presumably introduced in order to avert the Smurfette Principle.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Arthur accidentally does this to a con-man who visits his house. He ends up briefly hospitalising him, scalding him with soup, and putting him in bed in a dead man's pyjamas with splints on his legs. The conman escapes with Michael and Bulent's help, and reforms himself, but weeks later, when a waitress presents him and his date with soup, he doesn't see a waitress- he sees Arthur, in a waitress' clothes.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Arthur accidentally does this to a con-man who visits his house. He ends up briefly hospitalising him, scalding him with soup, and putting him in bed in a dead man's pyjamas. By the end of the episode, the man can't even look at someone serving soup without seeing Count Arthur.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Arthur on putting advertisements in the local newsagent: "This shop window is my... shop window."
  • Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: of Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show!, though some fans of the radio series would dispute this, seeing it as more of a sequel (and a contested one at that) due to its different setting and supporting cast.
  • Spooky Séance: Averted. When Arthur holds a seance, it's about as un-spooky as they come.
  • Squick: In-universe, Arthur has this reaction when he sees a clip of [[Twincest the Lannincest]] from Game of Thrones.
  • Story Arc: Unusually for a sitcom, the first series not only avoids the Reset Button, but actually has a story arc that wraps up neatly at the end.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Arthur, when he's phoning the Managing Director of Miami Fashion UK on Michael's phone.
    Arthur: Are you the managing director? Hello, how are you? I just wanted to say...(tightens his grip on the phone) I'VE GOT YOU NOW, YOU BUGGER! WHY HAVEN'T YOU ANSWERED ANY OF MY LETTERS! THIRTY-EIGHT TIMES I'VE WRITTEN TO YOU ABOUT THOSE SOCKS! Well, I've got you now! BECAUSE I LOOKED YOUR NUMBER UP ON THE Malaproper ILFRACOMBE! SO I'M ONTO YOU! I'M ONTO YOU! WATCH YOUR BACK!
  • Take That!: In Episode 1 of Season 1:
    John: Hey, Arthur, d'you fancy coming to Kempton tomorrow?
    Arthur: Are you going? (to Michael) Hey, you, what day's Max's party?
    Michael: Tomorrow. It's not a party. It's more of a remembrance thing, 'cos he's dead.
    Arthur: Dead? Oh, that is very inconvenient. Are you sure?
    Michael: Quite sure.
    Arthur: Dear, oh dear. I was looking forward to going to Kempton.
    Michael: You've only just heard about it.
    Arthur: Well, you can look forward to things you've only just heard about. Like when you turn on the TV and they tell you The Hairy Bikers is just finishing.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Michael certainly thinks so when he falls into Arthur's cellar and finds himself surrounded by his stuffed animal collection.
  • Took a Level in Cheerfulness: After Katya dies and Arthur stops frequenting the cafe, Bulent(traditionally the grump of the cast) becomes a lot more energetic and cheerful, in a way that disturbs Michael. This is both Played for Laughs and Played for Drama when Bulent comes clean to Sinem about why he's doing this:
    Bulent: I HATE THIS!!! HOW DOES HE DO THIS?! All this goddamn stinking positivity goes right up my arse! Is this how he feels?
    Sinem: Who?
    Bulent: Idiot Man. Arthur.
    Sinem: What are you talking about?
    Bulent: Sinem, I can't be Arthur.
    Sinem: Why do you need to be Arthur?
    Bulent: LOOK AT THIS PLACE!!! It's dead!!! It's been dead for weeks, because he is not here! No, no, he has to come back. It's the only way I can be me again. To be rude. To get annoyed at people. It's who I am! It's What I Do!
    Sinem: Do you want to maybe be rude to me for a few minutes?
    Bulent: SHUT UP! STUPID IDEA! Thank you. I feel much better.
  • Troll: Arthur becomes one after Michael gives him a computer, immediately leaving threatening phone calls and trying to write insults to popular celebrities.
    Michael: Oh my God, you are a troll! You've not been online for five minutes, and you're already a troll!
  • Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The first episode doesn't have the regular titles; instead it just has the title come up on screen at the point where we first see the title character.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Arthur has two such euphemisms: "an unexpected bombing mission" for poo, and "landing gear" for private parts.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Essentially the basis of Michael and Sinem's relationship.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: the unfortunate bystander who gets stuck in the cafe's back room with the regulars in "Arthur's Big Moment" decides to take his chances in the riot, and is never heard from again.
  • Witty Banter: Arthur and Katya have such an exchange in the first ever episode. Or at least, Arthur tries.
    Arthur: Oh, Katya, what have I told you about wearing eye-shadow in my presence? (Her other eye has a bandage over it) If you're not careful, I'll end up chasing you around that table!
    Katya: I shall let you catch me if you're not careful.
    Arthur: Oh, dear, eh? (laughs helplessly for a few seconds) (Beat) And Then What?