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Series / Rutland Weekend Television

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Top, season 1 title card; bottom, season 2 title card.
"Hello, and welcome to Rutland Weekend Television."

Rutland Weekend Television (RWT) was a Sketch Comedy show on BBC 2, written by Eric Idle and his fellow actors and with music by Neil Innes. The show starred David Battley, Eric Idle, Neil Innes and Henry Woolf, with appearances here and there wherever needed by other actors. Gwen Watford acted as the Carol Cleveland for the group, with model Carinthea West providing glamour and very occasional token nudity.

The title was invented by John Cleese (who received one pound for his idea), on the basis that Rutland was England's smallest county. A Rutland TV station would have to be rather small, so a Rutland Weekend station would be ridiculously puny.note  A second level of humour was provided by the comparison of the puny back-room Rutland Weekend Television with the broadcasting giant known as London Weekend Television, at the time a going concern that had exclusive ITV broadcasting rights to London and the South-East (Britain's richest areas) between Friday and Sunday evenings. LWT was basically a licence to print money. RWT... wasn't.

When the show came into being, the title got another joke to it, as accidental Executive Meddling caused Idle to get a presentation budget, instead of the more lavish budget associated with light entertainment. The weekly patter about inability to buy props or sets was quite real indeed.

Unfortunately, this, along with complicated rights claims, led Idle to never release the series on DVD, because it reminded him of such a bad time in his life. Thus, fans have no choice but to Keep Circulating the Tapes — many clips are on YouTube, for instance.

A typical episode was introduced by an announcer in an oddball manner (either the announcer openly nervous and repeating words, or obviously messing up the titles of the shows that are next in line, or even auditions for the announcer), before cutting to one of the programs, the strange contents of the programs being a great, if not the greatest, source of comedy. Every episode had a song by Neil Innes, with everything from cheerful (like "Good Times Roll") to well known (like "I'm the Urban Spaceman") to melancholy ("I Don't Believe in Santa Anymore").

Tropes that apply to episodes of Rutland Weekend Television are...

  • Affectionate Parody:
    • Rutland Five-o. The sketch starts off slow, but becomes a skit-wide moment of hilarity.
    • Also, "Tunbridge Wells", a parody of 'Classically Bad American Films' — particularly On The Town.
    • And one of the episodes began not with the regular title sequence, but the title sequence of The Old Gay Whistle Test, parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test, particularly the host's continuous whisper. Wow.
  • Aside Glance: An entire group performs one in the "Trapped By The Writer" sketch, trying to rebel against the author. It doesn't work so well.
    Ronald: (following a discussion) ...And now he's made a joke of it.
    Jack: Ah, but he's written what you just said.
    Ronald: Ah, he's a cunning bastard...
    Theresa: Let's stop speaking for a while, that'll show him.
    (collective Aside Glance)
    Jack: No, no, he's written that silence in as well...
  • The Backstage Sketch: The show's actors could be seen sitting around a table ostensibly doing read-throughs, commenting on the quality or otherwise of Eric Idle's scriptwriting and generally fracturing the fourth wall.
  • Badass Normal: Unintentional and casual he may be, but "The Man With A Habit Of Killing People" falls into this.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: In episode 6, (and throughout most of the show, really) the announcer continuously complains about the terrible budget — and a terrible budget was just what The BBC had given them.
    Announcer: How can they expect anybody to do anything with this...? ...Well, I'm not working for this lot again, that's for sure.
  • British Brevity: A total of 13 episodes where made, including one Christmas special. A record and a book were also made, but neither sold well.
  • Brutal Honesty: Another one from the "Trapped By The Writer" sketch.
    Ronald: (speaking of the 'tricky business of sexual freedom') ...Whereas the marriage license is, in fact, a constraint upon liberty.
    Jack: ...Freely entered into.
    Ronald: Freely entered into, may happen, but still considered empirically to be a constraint upon pure freedom!
    Jack: Well put.
    (moment of silence)
    Ronald: ...And that's why I slept with your wife, Jack.
    Jack: (Beat) Well, Ronald, that's rather interesting, because, in point of fact, I slept with your wife.
  • The Cast Show Off: Neil Innes' songs. In a lesser-known example, it seems David Battley had a knack for juggling — though we only see this one-and-a-half times.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: A lot of characters, from the host of "Come Dancing" ("So, without any ado, let's nonetheless as soon as possible.") to the singing gynaecologist (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) to the Ricochet brothers (spelled ricochet, but pronounced rick-ot-chet).
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Mentioned in the "Bad Language" sketch, when the writers are talking about what to cut.
    Eric: Neil, lose two bloodies — Terry, lose four bloodies and a botty — and David, lose the rest of the bloodies on that page apart from 'oh, my bloody hand', where you are actually bleeding.
    David: Oh, this is ridiculous...
    Eric: Look, love, there is a quota laid down of two bloodies per half hour. And last week, you overspent our entire budget for the series.
    David: Yeah, well, I forgot my line...
    Eric: That is no excuse for five minutes solid swearing. That last word you used is never to be seen on television, apart from perhaps by lip-readers on Match Of The Day.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The first episode features a man in a cell playing chess against a guard, with another guard watching.
    Prisoner: ...How much longer is it 'til...
    Playing guard: 'Til what?
    Prisoner: 'Til the...[motions to his neck]
    Playing guard: ...The end of the game?
    Prisoner: N-no, 'til the—
    Watching guard: 'Til the 'anging?
  • Content Warnings: Parodied in Episode 3. It starts by showing what symbols mean what (a lady with bare breasts for sexuality, someone baring their bottom for nudity, a preist for religeon, a foot kicking a ball for football), and then stringing a number of them together as an example (butt+soccer ball+preist=preists playing nude football). It culminates in a weather report done using the symbols as the final sketch.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Played for laughs in the "Tonight's Drama" sketch. A Magnificent Bastard leads an Extreme Doormat into jail, chatting about his trial, where the MB defended him (horribly. "It was interesting to try out for once."), his sentence of twenty years, and the MB even outright commenting on him being the fall guy, and finishes off with saying "And thanks for not squealing", clapping him on the shoulder.
    ED: What, when you hit me?
    MB:, for not telling the authorities about me.
    ED: (chuckle) Well, why should I want to do that?
    MB: Oh, well, to get off with a lighter sentence, y'know. (starts to leave)
    ED: Oh—I never thought of that...
    MB: Hah! No, you wouldn't. (starts to leave)
    ED: You mean, if I told them about you, maybe I wouldn't have to do so long?
    MB: Uhh...well, probably, yes. (starts to leave)
    ED: In order—in order to avoid doing twenty years, all I have to do is tell them about you?
    MB: Well—in theory, yes.
    ED: And they'd probably let me off?
    MB: Uh...well, th-they'd have to, yeah.
    ED: (starts to rush off) WARDEN!
    MB: Uh—I-I think I should warn you that if you did do that, I shall have to kill you.
    MB: ...Yes.
    ED: In twenty years' time.
    MB: ...well...yes.
    ED: I see. So I have the choice between either of doing twenty years, or, on the other hand, getting all your money, your charming lady Gwen, your house, your car, and retiring into the sun.
    MB: Well...yes...certainly a...difficult choice...
    ED: (leaving) WARDEN!
  • Football Hooligans: The "Football" sketch.
  • Good Is Bad And Bad Is Good: The "Ill Health Food Store" sketch.
    Shopkeeper: It tastes just as bad and it's much worse for you!
  • Hurricane of Puns: Occurs for a moment in the "Rutland Five-O" sketch, where they manage to name all the members of The Who.
    Radio: Rutland Five-zero...
    Jeffovich: Hey, that's Daltrey!
    Policeman: (chatting to a lady in the back seat) Hey, that's a nice moon.
    Muttski: Sure is.
    Radio: Rutland, Five-zero...
    Muttski: (picking it up) Rutland five-zero, reading Tommy, come in Daltrey...
    Radio: Proceed urgently to pick up the suspect on the Entwhistle road, the B449 at the town's end...
    Muttski: Roger, Daltrey. (hangs up)
    Jeffovich: The who?
    Muttski: No, the suspect.
    Jeffovich: No, I said The Who!
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Episode 2 has an interview with a perfectly normal English nobody, who sees being "normal" as a tragic thing to be. His family tried to screw him up juuust enough to make him special, but failed.
  • I Let You Win: The guard who plays chess in the "Hanging" sketch. Justified, as it's the prisoner's last game...then subverted, when they reveal there have been times when he didn't let the prisoner win his last game of chess.
  • Inherently Funny Words: An entire sketch revolves around a conversation in these. The announcer follows it up with this line:
    Announcer: Ahah, well, that was, well... you can imagine.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Drama On A Saturday Night. (sniff)
  • Medium Awareness: In an installment of "Rutland Weekend Theatre". The author also goes mad with power.
  • Most Writers Are Male: Pointed out and discussed in one installment of "Rutland Weekend Theatre".
    Theresa: We've had it up to here with your chauvinist, sexist philosophy...and we found some younger men.

    Janice: You know, it hasn't escaped my notice that the men get all the best parts in this sketch...
    Ronald: Well, it's written by a man.
    Theresa: Well, that's a sexist argument for a start! Just because it's written by a man doesn't mean it has to be played by men.
    Jack: Oh, you'll never win that argument...
    Theresa: Why not?
    Jack: Because the writer's written what you just said.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Frontloader", a romantic-sounding swinging tune... about doing laundry. The tune is a parody of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", at the time a big chart hit.
  • No Fourth Wall: Normally, considering the show is about a fictional television station. Oddly enough, even in the shows that aren't grounded in reality ("Rutland Five-O"), they still lean on the fourth wall. (Commenting on a Hurricane of Puns, dodging commercial breaks in the road...)
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: From the "Hanging" sketch, the prisoner gets a vital telegram. Unfortunately, the guard insists that the telegram does say 'candelled', and not 'cancelled', and suggests they send it off to check...and of course, when it got back, the prisoner would already be dead. The other guard takes it, to stop the arguing. Turns out he was right.
  • Overly Long Gag: The "Wife-Swapping Club" sketch. Mr. Phillips keeps trying to introduce them all, and they keep swapping wives in the background as he goes on.
  • Protest Song: Innes' Bob Dylan parody performs one. Excruciatingly badly.
  • Rage Against the Author: The "Trapped By The Writer" sketch.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy: Occurs in some of the sketches. Of course, as their budget was low, they likely had to pack every line with as much jokes as they could in hope of renewal. Most noticeable in the "Come Dancing" sketch and "Rutland Five-O".
  • The Remnant: The first episode has a sketch about a group of British soldiers who remain unaware WWII is over... and who are stationed on the Isle of Wight, a couple of miles off the English coast. It also has a Major who has been told the war is over, but is incapable of understanding the concept.
  • The Show Must Go On: Lance-Corporal Collier was originally scheduled to appear in a sketch later in the program, but then the fellow who should have done the announcing didn't turn up, and he was asked to do it instead. He isn't that used to it.
    Lance-Corporal Collier: They don't teach you about television announcin' in the army...I mean, maybe they should, you never know...
  • Show Within a Show: Many. The sketches did take place in a fictional TV station, after all.
  • Spin-Off:
    • The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book, which was part-book, half TV guide for the fictional TV station. They did use some of the names (and, naturally, all of the actors) that had been in the show, which gave the average fanatic some quite fun deduction moments, such as "Hey, the wittiest man in the world joined the Razorblade Five to form The Gay Gordons!".
    • Neil Innes' solo show featuring the music, The Innes Book of Records.
    • Also, you know, the entire discography and filmography of The Rutles.
  • Talk Like a Pirate: When George Harrison made a guest appearance, he came out in full pirate gear and doing this trope, only to be disappointed when he was informed there was no pirate sketch. After several small appearances throughout the episode where he persists in trying to be a pirate, he finally appears at the end, dressed normally, to sing as he was invited to. He and the band play the full intro to "My Sweet Lord"...and then he breaks out into a song about pirates.
  • Vanity Plate: The opening RWT logo is a parody of the pre-show logos used by the various ITV companies at the time. The second logo combines a Stealth Pun and a Visual Pun: the cow parodies the BBC's continuity announcements, which years later would be generated by the COW (Computer Originated World) system.