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Series / Men Behaving Badly

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Tony and Gary, with lager
"Let's face it, Tony, the only way you're gonna be in there is that if you're both marooned on a deserted island and she eats a poisonous berry or a nut which makes her temporarily deaf, dumb, stupid, forgetful and desperate for sex."

Men Behaving Badly is a classic Brit Com written by Simon Nye, very loosely adapted from a not-particularly-successful novel he wrote in the late 80s. The main cast consists of Martin Clunes as Gary, Caroline Quentin as his girlfriend Dorothy and Leslie Ash as Deborah, who lives in the flat above; the first season had Harry Enfield playing Gary's flatmate Dermot, while all the subsequent ones replaced him with Neil Morrissey as Tony. It's generally acknowledged that this second season was the moment when the show grew its beard. There are several reasons for this - Tony was a more interesting character than Dermot and there was better chemistry between him and Gary; the show moved from ITV to BBC1 and the lack of adverts meant that Nye had a few more minutes to play with, and it hit a moment of zeitgeist as the late 80s/early 90s New Man was being brushed aside by a resurgence of laddish masculinity.

Along with Have I Got News for You, it is probably the single most-referenced show title for British newspaper headline writers and has been shamelessly ripped off for the titles of countless documentaries. See The Joy of X for examples.

The show lasted six seasons, with a follow-up trilogy of three extra-long episodes, and a final reunion sketch (though without Leslie Ash or Caroline Quentin) on Channel 4 that was broadcast on the 24th October as part of "Feeling Nuts", a programme broadcast to raise awareness about testicular cancer.

Came sixteenth in Britains Best Sitcom.

Men Behaving Badly provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The US version lasted roughly thirty seconds.
  • Ahem: Gary does this after being dumped by Dorothy:
    Tony: [on phone] Gary's been behaving like an arse!
    Gary: Ahem...
    Tony: I mean a nice arse!
  • All Men Are Perverts: Well, Gary and Tony without question but there are so many variations that they're worth mentioning too. Averted with minor characters like Ken and Les, inverted every so often with Deborah and Dorothy but the big inversion is with George; he and his wife, Marjorie, have a jar in which they must put 10p every time one of them has an unfaithful thought. In his several decades of marriage, George has only blown 50p while Marjorie has spent £2386.
    George: Sometimes I feel I should say something, but it has paid for three caravanning holidays.
  • Babies Ever After: The series ends with Dorothy and Gary having a baby together.
  • Beard of Barbarism: Tony returns with one after his trip around Europe.
  • Beard of Evil: A variation, Tony grows a moustache as part of his transformation into a boring postman in the last episode, and shaves it off again at the end when he returns to normal.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Deborah wants Tony to be more mature and sensible, but when he makes an effort to do this in the final series she starts to miss the old Tony.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Tony and Dorothy...
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: "Sofa" shows us that Gary had a pet tortoise. In the ensuing flashback, we see a young Gary preparing to kick the tortoise like a football.
  • Can-Crushing Cranium: Gary tried this once to prove how tough he was. Not only did he fail miserably but he also managed to skewer his hand with a fork.
  • The Casanova: Tony, until he falls for Deborah, having slept with fifty women and at one point having three girlfriends at once. Gary wants to be one, but is more of a Casanova Wannabe.
  • Cardboard Pal:
    • When Tony and Gary have fallen out, Gary makes a fake Tony out of a sex doll and Tony's clothes so they can continue having their lager-fuelled conversations on the sofa.
    • In the reunion sketch for the 2014 testicular cancer awareness show "Feeling Nuts", Gary and Tony are both divorced and temporarily fill the void with cloth dummies that have Deborah and Dorothy's faces on them.
  • Catchphrase: In the script book, Simon Nye grumbles that he was never able to come up with a good one, his attempts including Tony's "Sod you, then" and "I feel like a king".
  • Celebrity Paradox: In one episode Tony mentions Quadrophenia, which starred Leslie Ash.
  • Christmas Episode: 1997's "Jingle Balls". It's Christmas time, a time of love, food and fun... except at Gary's home as it is a time of hate, burnt turkeys, unwanted presents and deep fat fried phones! Gary is determined to do the cooking, but this inevitably leads to disaster. Tony buys Deborah a mountain of presents, but his immaturity hits a new high with the Christmas season, leading Deborah to decide to split up with him.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Ken. Simon Nye notes he was written as an over-promoted, incompetent Pointy-Haired Boss, but John Thompson played him as being borderline mentally ill.
  • Companion Cube: In "Your Mate V Your Bird", when it looks like Gary will be left living alone in the flat, he temporarily fashions his own "Tony" out of a blow-up sex doll, with a string to make it drink beer.
  • Continuity Nod: Quite a few in the Sofa episode, all of them in flashbacks. Gary having shorter hair, teenage Tony having longer hair, Gary wearing "the suit" on one of his three unsuccessful dates and Gary wearing his trousers on his head when meeting Dorothy for the first time.
  • The Couch: Or rather sofa.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Played for laughs with Tony over Deborah. Gary also gets like this whenever Dorothy gets a new boyfriend.
  • Deep-Fried Whatever: Tony gets given a deep-fat fryer for Christmas. Over the course of the episode he deep-fries an array of unlikely foodstuffs, culminating in him deep-frying the telephone.
  • Directionless Driver: Gary navigating in "Cardigan".
    Gary: Hold on, this is a map of Dieppe!
  • Dirty Coward: Gary in the thematically titled episode "Cowardice". After failing to stand up for Dorothy to a road-rager, he hires a company to send an actor to insult her in the bar and he can then pretend to beat up to regain his image. However, Hilarity Ensues when an actual thug corresponding to the description insults Dorothy and Gary manages to beat him up without realising he's not the actor.
  • DIY Dentistry: One episode has Tony trying to relieve a toothache by tying a string to a doorknob and hitting the string with a chair. His throwing of the chair is not successful at first but he is able to (very bloodily) remove the tooth in the end.
  • Dork in a Sweater: In one episode, the characters discuss how wearing a cardigan makes one seem tame and old.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Looking back, Dorothy was a chronic domestic abuser who often attacked Gary for little reason and to great applause from the audience. One of the more heinous examples was where she lured Gary in for a kiss only to grab him hard by the testicles; even though moments before she had been apologising to him (granted, she was apologising for a lie that Gary had gotten away with, but again, reverse the genders and see if that excuse sticks). Deborah also got a bit handy with Tony on occasion (again to much audience laughter) in a way that no man could get away with, although at least in her case Tony did spend most of the series as a creep who read her diaries, broke into her flat after bugging it, stealing her underwear and just generally begging her for sex after many, many no's. Even back in the 1990s this was unacceptable behaviour.
  • Dream Intro: "Babies" begins with Gary seemingly about to marry Deborah. It's not until the marriage gets weird (culminating with both of them becoming pregnant) that it becomes apparent that it is a dream.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: As the show becoming a hit coincided with Neil Morrissey joining the cast as Tony, it's odd to see Gary with a different flatmate, Dermot (played by Harry Enfield), in series 1.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: In the last episode, all the postmen have nicknames — Tony's is "Nobby No-Mates". Another has one produced by a chain of logical connections:
    Tony: He's been bitten by so many dogs, they call him Costello.
    Gary: Er... why?
    Tony: Abbott and Costello. Russ Abbott. Russ. Jack Russell, little dog.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The episode "Watching TV" takes place over the course of about an hour - only a slightly longer time-frame than Real Time (30 minutes). Gary and Tony are watching the classic Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", though they never mention it by name (it's obvious from dialogue and from the voice clips we hear coming from the TV).
  • Eyelash Fluttering: In "Bed", both Dorothy and Deborah use an exaggerated version of this to convince Tony to fix the loose gate (which is being loudly buffeted by the winds) in the middle of the night.
  • Flanderization: Tony got stupider and more immature with every series.
  • Fake Danger Gambit: Gary hides behind a paper when his girlfriend is being threatened while driving and spends the whole episode worried about his reputation. So he rings up an agency to send over a big bloke in a leather jacket to his local pub for him to beat up. He finds a big bloke in a leather jacket who he quickly beats up. Then a much smaller, skinnier guy in a leather jacket appears wanting to fight Gary. He runs away shortly after.
  • Foreign Remake: Kept the title, but moved the setting to Indianapolis, starring Rob Schneider. It barely lasted on NBC for a season, with several cast members leaving midway through and several episodes left unaired.
  • Friendlessness Insult: Tony is given the nickname "Nobby No-Mates" by his fellow postal workers because of his lack of friends.
  • Friend Versus Lover: The central focus of the show. One episode uses it as the title - "Your Mate V Your Bird".
  • Gilligan Cut: Averted due to Simon Nye disliking them, save for a single example in the episode The Good Pub Guide.
  • The Ghost:
    • Clive, "Gary's Only Other Friend". Often referred to, but never seen save for a brief glimpse in "Wedding" (where he's played by the writer Simon Nye in a cameo).
    • Also, George's wife Marjorie.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Tony to Deborah for most of the series. He's borderline Stalker with a Crush.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Meta version — writer Simon Nye grumbled in the published script book that he inadvertently invented The Royle Family ahead of its time with the episode "Watching TV".
  • I Have This Friend: Tony needs to buy glasses but is embarrassed to tell the optician, so he claims they're for a friend in prison. When she points out that the eye tests she does on him wont be very useful for his friend's eyes, he says that his friend "only wants to see quite well".
  • In-Universe Factoid Failure: Tony faking knowledge of astrology:
    Deborah: What sign are you?
    Tony: I'm a Solero.
    Deborah: That's an ice-cream, Tony.
    • And again:
    Tony: It's the sign of the badger! Symbol of...thing!
  • Inherently Funny Words: Simon Nye thought this about words such as "shed" and "cheese", inserting them wherever he could. Also the names of the foreign beers in "The Good Pub Guide":
    Gary: What's this one called?
    Tony: Er... "Binky". Think it's Indonesian.
    Gary: It's not as good as Sod, but it's better than that Russian one, what was that called?
    Tony: Er... "Plop".
  • Jerkass: All of the main characters have their moments. Dorothy being the most prolific.
  • Medium Awareness: In Sofa, Gary and Tony seem to be very aware of the flashbacks and knowingly trigger them by looking upwards towards the ceiling.
  • Mistaken for Gay: In "Cowardice" Tony becomes convinced that Deborah and her new friend are lesbians.
  • My Local: The Crown.
  • Non Sequitur: One of the main sources of humour.
    [Gary and Tony have been discussing Dorothy's new boyfriend Jamie]
    Tony: What a bastard!
    Gary: Who, Jamie? Yeah! Little piggy eyes-
    Tony: No.
    Gary: My mate Clive? Yeah!
    Tony: No, no, mate.
    Gary: ...Les?
    Tony: No... Tony Blackburn!
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Tony's brother, who moves into Gary's flat with his girlfriend for a week.
  • Porn Stash: At least three separate episodes (and possibly more).
    • Once in season 4 when Tony's girlfriend dumps him when she finds it. The episode is even called "Pornography".
    • Once in the "Last Orders" trilogy where Gary and Dorothy are trying for a baby and Gary trying to overcome his impotence when trying to perform on demand is used as an excuse to "get a picture of the whole genre".
    • In the last episode Dorothy, probably in a throwback to the season 4 episode, finds Tony's old stash. Then, in the absolutely last scene...
      Dorothy: [to her newborn baby] This is Tony... you're going to have his old room where he's had lots of adventures... most of them involving Razzle magazine!
  • Put on a Bus: Dermot is written out between Series 1 and 2, with his absence being explained as having gone on an around the world motorcycle tour.
  • Recognition Failure: The first Comic Relief had Kylie Minogue make a surprise visit. Gary and Tony, naturally, do not recognise her.
  • Rise of Zitboy: Justified in "Cleaning Lady". Tony has signed up with a modelling agency to try and impress Deborah, but a zit ruins his only actual job (despite rubbing his face with a concoction containing caribou's placenta) and he gives up.
  • Seinfeldian Conversation: A lot of the sofa conversations at the end of the episode are like this.
  • Sexy Whatever Outfit: Gary and Dorothy attempt this kind of roleplaying, but...
    Gary: I asked Dorothy to dress up as [sniggers] a nurse.
    Tony: ...She is a nurse.
    Gary: ...Yeah, it didn't work really. And she asked me to dress up as a farmer and come and rescue her.
    Tony: ...Are you sure she didn't say "fireman"?
    Gary: ...Yes, she did actually. Quite embarrassing really. I've still got the smock...
  • Stalker with a Crush: Tony towards Deborah.
  • Surrounded by Idiots:
    • Gary towards George and Anthea.
    • Dorothy towards Gary and Tony. And Deborah towards Gary and Tony. And ANYONE towards Gary and Tony.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Averted when Ken replaced Les as the landlord of the Crown; they devoted an episode to the shift, and Ken was written as a very different character.
    • Tony himself is an aversion as the replacement for Dermot.
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: In the first episode of the second series, where Gary's looking for a new flatmate. The interviewees include an incomprehensible Geordie, a catatonic man (played by writer Simon Nye) and a seemingly normal man who turns out to have a disturbing fetish.
  • 30 Minutes, or It's Free!: The guys tried to take advantage of this by deliberately asking for rare and hard-to-prepare toppings to slow down the response time, and eventually pretending there's no one home in the hope of claiming later that the delivery guy must have gone to the wrong house. Tony messed it up because he wasn't in on the 'pretending no-one's here' bit.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: As the series goes, Deborah seems to become increasing bitchy and occasionally plays cruel tricks on Tony. Dorothy, on the other hand seems to have Took a Level in Kindness
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Tony's even more lay about brother and his Dumb Blonde girlfriend Mandy, who drives Gary to distraction by using up all of all the water and frequently engaging in noisy sex.
  • The Unfair Sex: Diminished in the later series but very frequent early on. One particular episode has Tony mending the fence in the back garden three times and Gary fetching something from the chemist to cure Dorothy's indigestion twice — in the middle of the night in their pyjamas — while the girls ignore their partners' devotion and sit on Deborah's bed to discuss how the prospect of marrying an elderly millionaire is looking more and more attractive.
  • Unwanted Glasses Plot: Not only does Tony refuse to wear them, due to mockery from everyone else, but he has equally huge problems with contact lenses. In the end he simply decides to go without.
  • Vulgar Humor: In the second installment of "Last Orders", the hotel is the... Groyne View.
  • Waxing Lyrical: When Tony is persuading Gary he should get back together with Dorothy.
  • Way Past the Expiration Date: The Series 1 opening briefly shows Gary trying to have a bowl of cereal, only for the milk to come out in chunks, an indicator of his slobbishness.
  • Weirdness Censor: Gary's office workers George and Anthea in the last episode. "No, I can't see that happening", constantly repeated when he tells them the office is closing down, in a faintly creepy, unthinking way.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: While Tony and Deborah are having sex, Tony mistakes an innocent moan for "Jim" and calls her out on it. He's satisfied with her explanation that she really just said "mmmm", but then when they get back to it she cries out "JIM! JIM! OH JIM!" just to annoy him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: at one point, Tony tattoos the word “Deb” on his leg (It Makes Sense in Context). Said tattoo is depicted as painful and messy, and referred to as possibly becoming infected due to lack of aftercare. It is never seen or referred to again