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Series / The Goes Wrong Show

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"The actors are prepared. The stage is set."
Chris Bean at the start of every show, about to be proven very wrong.

The Goes Wrong Show is a BBC comedy anthology, created by Mischief Theatre, that debuted in 2019.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society has been commissioned to produce Play of the Week, a televised series of short plays on the BBC. Unfortunately, despite everyone's best intentions, each production inevitably goes wrong.

    Series 1 
  • "The Spirit of Christmas": A Christmas play, in which Santa and his elves attempt to help a little girl regain the spirit of Christmas.
  • "The Pilot (not the pilot)": A spy thriller about an injured pilot who takes up a job cracking German codes, supposedly set in WWII.
  • "A Trial to Watch": A legal drama, in which a former cop is accused of killing his brother.
  • "The Lodge": A horror production about a family looking to buy a haunted house, set in England in The '60s.
  • "Harper's Locket": A period romance drama between a wealthy heiress and a stable boy.
  • "90 Degrees": A family story of lust and betrayal, set in Tennessee in The '90s.
    Series 2 
  • "The Nativity": A Retool of The Nativity Goes Wrong, a show Mischief commissioned for Reading Rep Theatre in 2013.
  • "Summer Once Again": A Downton-esque family saga concerning the problems of a returning war hero.
  • "The Most Lamentable..."** : A (Simon) Shakespeare play about two identical princes who, on learning of each other's existence, come into conflict over the throne.
  • "There Is No Escape": A prison break drama, set in Indiana in The '70s.
  • "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1 & 2": A two-part finale in which each Cornley member gets a chance to put on a performance piece of their own.

Some members of the cast recorded "Goes Wrong Alongs", episode commentaries to give viewers a glimpse at their creative process, bits that had to be cut, and behind-the-scenes trivia. These can be seen on the Mischief Theatre YouTube channel.

This series provides examples of:

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  • Aborted Arc: There is no further mention of the Max/Sandra and Jonathan/Annie invokedrelationships established in previous Mischief Theatre productions, although Sandra refuses to kiss Max onscreen in "Harper's Locket", suggesting there has been some falling out. Even in the second series, which gives the actors more time as themselves, makes no mention of it.
    • In fact, there are almost no references to the actors' lives outside the plays beyond Robert's divorce, most probably due to the limited time slot. This is somewhat averted in the second series, especially in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1 & 2" where the characters get to appear outside the context of the plays.
  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: One of Trevor's lines in The Most Lamentable... has him interpret iambic pentameter in a bluntly-rhythmic fashion, in contrast to everyone else's more natural delivery (He is normally a stage manager, after all).
  • Accidental Innuendo: invoked Dennis regularly makes these in "A Trial to Watch" due to mangling or forgetting his lines.
    Dennis/McKennon: I'm tired of getting off with guilty men!
  • Accidental Proposal: Happens in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1" where Vanessa, in-character, asks Dennis' character to marry her during an improvised scene. Dennis takes this as a real proposal, and wants to use her credit card to pay an £8,000 deposit for the wedding.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: Max and Dennis are the dimmest members of the CPDS, but the fact that they don't know what they're doing allows them to pull off two almost flawless segments during the Cornley Drama Festival as they focus on what they're able to do rather than trying to show off and arrange elaborate setpieces that go wrong.
  • Acquired Error at the Printer:
    • As Chris explains before presenting "The Lodge", this happened to the publicity materials for a previous Play of the Week Halloween season, forcing them to present such stage adaptations as The Texas Chainsaw Massager (where Leatherface would give back rubs to the local community), as well as a pajama-based production of Nightwear On Elm Street.
    • The sign Chris commissioned for the Cornley Drama Festival, as shown in Part 1, misspelled the last word as "Festevil". Come Part 2, it's been painted over to say "Festivile".
  • Acting for Two: invoked
    • In "The Nativity" Dennis, Vanessa, and Annie all take many different roles including the shepherds, wise men, donkey, innkeepers and even a tumbleweed. Sandra doubles as both the Virgin Mary and King Herod's queen.
    • In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Wycombe's body double also plays a German pilot.
    • In "A Trial to Watch", Jonathan plays the jury foreman and a reporter covering the trial, while Annie plays the bailiff and Angela Inwood, M.P.
    • In "90 Degrees", Robert plays Mr. Pines and controls/voices Ruffles offstage.
    • "Summer Once Again" would’ve had Johnathan playing the family doctor, Roger’s son and a monk in Jerusalem, but Robert rushing through the play results in him not getting to say any lines.
    • "The Most Lamentable…" has everyone but Chris and Jonathan playing multiple roles.
    • Robert attempts this in "There is No Escape" by inventing the role of Wallace’s pre-school son Timmy (even though Wallace has been in jail for 20 years), but Chris shoos him offstage before he can do anything. Played straight with Vanessa playing Stu Malone and the Deputy Warden.
  • Adaptation Distillation: It's unintentional in-universe due to it being essentially The Mockbuster of real Shakespeare plays, but "The Most Lamentable..." is a combination of multiple plays' plot elements. These include Hamlet, Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, Richard III, and more. It's also a possible Shout-Out to Reduced Shakespeare Company.
  • Agony of the Feet: Happens a lot.
    • In The Nativity, Trever’s foot gets caught in the set, trapping him for the next scene. Max is confused, while Sandra rolls with it.
    Sandra: That’s… John the Baptist.
    • Later in the same episode, the bowling ball representing pregnancy falls out and hits Chris on the foot.
  • All Deserts Have Cacti: "The Nativity" features (actors as) cacti in the Judaean desert.
  • All There in the Manual: Publicity material for the show mentions that Dennis had to be given the lead role in "A Trial to Watch" because of "a conversation with his grandmother that turned out to be legally binding."
  • Amusing Injuries: A staple of each episode is the actors getting unintentionally hurt but carrying on. A particularly wince-worthy example is "The Pilot (not the pilot)" where Camille (Vanessa) gets hit painfully in the face three times but tries not to show it.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • As Chris explains, "The Pilot (not the pilot)" features multiple historical inaccuracies that deterred other theatre troupes from performing it. Among other things, this World War II drama takes place in 1961, Britain and Germany are at war in Vietnam, and the King of England is Henry VIII.
    • In a rare non-disastrous mixup, King Herod's palace in "The Nativity" is decorated with Babylonian religious imagery, despite Herod being a Jewish monarch under Roman rule.
    • Annie's contribution to the Drama Festevil (sic) is meant to climax with the cast being given Viagra about 20 years before it came onto the market.
  • An Aesop: Surprisingly enough, there is one. Robert’s excessive perfectionism in "Summer Once Again" only makes things increasingly worse when he tries to start again from the top each time and leaves the cast with barely any time to finish the play and Robert having to summarise it; the moral being that it's better to keep going forward and try to improve when mistakes get made rather than obsess about doing everything right the first time.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The Lieutenant (Chris) in "The Pilot (not the pilot)" is missing a leg from a flying accident.
  • Annoying Laugh: One of Rob's first attempts at screwing with "The Most Lamentable..." after being recast as an irrelevant trumpeter is to join in with the other extras laughing at Eric the Jester's jokes by laughing really loudly and obnoxiously.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In "Summer Once Again" Robert has successfully staged a coup due to the mistakes that would occur during Chris' productions. At the end of the episode, after so many mistakes that he restarted the play twice, using up so much time that they had to skip several scenes, rush through the others, and cover the rest through Robert summarizing the rest of the plot, Chris walks over to Robert and has this to say.
    Chris: How many mistakes was that Robert?
  • Artistic License – Law: Deliberately and delightfully invoked and played for laughs throughout the "A Trial to Watch" episode, including: the wrong coat of arms is on the wall in the courtroom (it should be the UK Royal Arms, not... whatever arms are there) the address of the judge (characters use "Your Honour" instead of "Your Lordship" for a High Court judge), the use of a gavel in the courtroom (famously never used in England & Wales), calling court security a "bailiff", shouting "objection" in court like Americans, the defence barrister's conduct (a defence barrister who finds evidence that their client is guilty would advise them to plead guilty and refuse to represent them further otherwise, not pass it off secretly), referring to a witness 'taking the stand' (it's called a witness box in England and Wales), the barrister referring to the judge as 'Justice' instead of 'Mr Justice', the judge walking in wig-and-gown through the courthouse, and the judge being willing to chat with a defendant in his chambers (although this might be explained by corruption). Of course, the CPDS were willing to put on a play earlier in which World War II was canonically in 1961 in Vietnam, so they don't seem all that concerned about the accuracy of the plays they put on.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In Annie’s farce from the 70s, the Archbishop of Canterbury threatens reprisals from the Vatican. In real life, the Church of England hasn’t had to answer to the Vatican since 1532.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Celeste (Sandra) says this at the beginning of "Harper's Locket", referencing the family tension that will take place shortly after a rainstorm later on.
  • Aside Glance: Sandra has a bad habit of glancing at the audience at moments that make her lines look sarcastic or untruthful. For instance, as the Virgin Mary after saying, "But I can't have a child, I'm a virgin!"
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: In "The Pilot (Not The Pilot)", Vanessa apparently has trouble remembering her foreign language lines, so she resorts to reciting the lyrics to songs like "Frere Jacques" and "99 Luftballons".
  • Ass Shove: Subverted. When Trevor is unconscious and bare-assed on the table in "Harper's Locket", Vanessa offers a meat thermometer to check if the 'rump roast' is ready. She gets waved off.
  • Awful British Sex Comedy: Annie's '70s farce in "The Cornley Drama Festival, Part 2", predictably titled "An Upstanding Member in a Tight Place in the Back Office" and filled with jokes of a similar caliber. It even features a window cleaner.

  • Bad "Bad Acting": Everyone has their moments. Max mugs for the camera at inappropriate times, while Sandra constantly gives it seductive glances. Robert jumps from Large Ham to calm mid-sentence. Vanessa's good when everything is going to script, but completely falls apart whenever she has to adlib. The prime example of the trope is Dennis, however; from missing his cues to forgetting his lines (but oddly remembering every line in the production that isn't his), to having no idea how to emote, to mistaking stage directions for parts of the dialogue. In short, if there is any way he can mess up, he will. Often the troop try to compensate for his total lack of ability by casting him in non-speaking roles or even inanimate objects, but even those roles — or maybe especially those roles — he manages to make a mess out of. Oddly enough, however, he seems to remember everyone else's lines remarkably well, and on occasions where roles somehow get confused and swapped he can start turning in good performances of other people's characters.
  • Bawdy Song: In "The Most Lamentable ..." Dennis, playing a court jester, is supposed to sing a traditional song. It quickly turns into this trope when he accidentally burns the lyrics and has to make up his own, unfortunately involving a goose (since the other characters are eating roast goose.)
  • Bedsheet Ghost: When Max's character in "The Lodge" dies, Vanessa puts a sheet over him. Max briefly tries to turn the role into this trope before Chris stops him.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Drives the plot of "A Trial to Watch" due to the leading man and his ex-wife still having feelings for each other ... or it would if not for said leading man being played by Dennis.
  • Big Bad:
    • Edwin Graves (Chris) in "Harper's Locket".
    • Wycomb (Annie) in "The Pilot (Not The Pilot)".
    • Renee (Vanessa) and Barbara (Sandra) in "90 Degrees".
    • Albert Fortnoy (Robert) and the Ghost of Vera (Sandra) in "The Lodge".
    • Jack Inwood (Chris) in "A Trial to Watch".
  • Bitch Slap: In "The Lodge", Robert refuses to back down during a fight scene, and when Chris lightly gives him a mock slap (in character) Robert responds with one of these. To his credit, he immediately regrets doing it when he actually hurts Chris.
  • Blasphemous Boast: In "The Nativity", the cast turn to the camera and smile as a corporate jingle claiming "Even Jesus loves cash!" plays. Everyone looks uncomfortable with it.
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: In "90 Degrees", the profanities uttered by Buddy (Dennis) are supposed to be censored, but the timing is so off that it gives this effect instead.
    Dennis/Buddy: Larry! I just spoke with pa; you really are a no-good [bleep]-of crap!
  • Bowdlerize: The in-universe BBC apparently instituted an anti-knife crime policy some time after "A Trial to Watch" and "The Lodge", meaning all of the knives used in the prison-break drama "There is No Escape" had to be replaced with spoons.
  • Brick Joke: Various small hiccups in each episode will usually come back to haunt the production later. Examples:
    • While Chris is introducing "The Spirit of Christmas", Dennis, who was to play Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, comes on to ask Chris what noise a reindeer makes, to which Chris replies "Clearly a matter for rehearsals, Dennis!". Guess what "noise" Dennis makes as he carries Santa off at the end of the play.
    • In "The Lodge"...
      • About halfway through the episode, Chris causes a prop gun on the wall to go off early when he bumps into it... so when Robert attempts to fire it later, it's unloaded, and he has to continue his Evil Laugh as he reloads it.
      • As David (Chris) attempts to leave the house, he's supposed to find that the front door is locked; however, when he tries opening it, it's unlocked, and he has to lock it himself. This means that when the police officer (Jonathan) comes in to save Alice (Annie), he can't get the door open in time.
      • Speaking of doors, early in the episode, Max accidentally pulls out the doorknob when he tries to open the kitchen door. So, when the group has to hide in the kitchen from Fortnoy (Robert) later, they can't get in.
    • Early in "Harper's Locket", the head flies off of Robert's croquet mallet, crashing through the ceiling of the dining room set and leaving a hole above the chair where Robert needs to sit later. Then a rainstorm rolls in...
    • In "90 Degrees", Robert storms off the set and his attempt to shoplift some wine gums goes awry, with the whole thing being transmitted to us over a headset. At the end, the Police appear to arrest him.
    • Also in "90 Degrees," Robert mentions that Chris hired a toymaker to craft the furniture for the set. Much later in the episode, we see a jack-in-the-box pop out from the couch (followed by several at the very end of the episode).
    • invokedAt the start of “The Nativity”, Chris states that a fire drill will occur in the middle of the show due to Executive Meddling by the BBC. When the alarm happens, everyone assumes it’s real.
    • In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1", various bricks from Robert's acting masterclass come back during Chris' ballet.
      • Chris' flute is glued to his hand, as Sandra and Annie were secretly filmed discussing.
      • When Chris' Caterpillar is apparently dead, Robert loudly tries to force tears out as he previously instructed the rest of the cast to do, and proudly declares "GOT ONE!" when he does.
      • When Chris surprisingly emerges from the cocoon, Robert is shocked enough to pull a gun and shoot him in the arm, fulfilling the law of Chekhov's Gun.
    • In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2", it's mentioned during Sandra's audio drama that Dennis's character won a Spelling Bee by correctly spelling the word "incompetent." Later, in Annie's 1970s farce, Dennis is supposed to play a swarm of bees ... and keeps yelling "INCOMPETENT!" every time he appears, apparently thinking he's portraying a swarm of literal spelling bees.
      • In the previous episode, Robert advises to put a large hat on a sub-actor in order to draw attention away from their bad performance and uses Annie has his example. In Part 2, Annie's farce features Robert as the Archbishop of Canterbury in a large hat.
  • British Brevity: The first and second series only have 6 episodes each.
  • The Bus Came Back: Robert's niece Lucy (Ellie Morris) was last seen in the special A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong, but makes a return appearance in "There Is No Escape."note 

  • Cain and Abel: Jack and Nigel Inwood, respectively, in the Show Within a Show of "A Trial to Watch."
  • Call-and-Response Song: Attempted with Nistle (Sandra) and Nostle's (Jonathan) duet in "The Spirit of Christmas", which consists of them singing about their friendship and copying each other's dance moves. Unfortunately, with Jonathan stuck in the chimney, Sandra has to perform the entire choreography, including an air lift and a trust fall, by herself.
  • Call-Back: To several of the stage shows:
    • In "The Spirit of Christmas". As Mr. Snowman, Chris struggles with opening a package with his twig arms, similar to how he struggled to open a bottle with a hook hand in Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
      • Robert also briefly snaps at the audience for trying to participate, panto style, evoking Chris' struggle with this concept during Peter Pan.
    • In "The Pilot (not the pilot)" the twist of the Show Within a Show is revealed to the audience early. This happened in the original The Play That Goes Wrong.
    • Chris' reference to "More Horse" in "Harper's Locket" is a call-back to a sketch Mischief Theatre performed at the Olivier Awards.
    • In "The Lodge", a cut-away to a previously-filmed bit has people intrude on it, as in Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
    • The Gravity Screw scenes in "90 Degrees" are like the bank office scene in The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.
    • Vanessa and Dennis' confusing exchange over "beer" and "bear" harks back to Robert and Dennis' garbled exchange in Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
    • "The Nativity" features Robert as the Angel Gabriel dropping his Halo and trying to get the cast to pick it up, in a scene fairly reminiscent of when Robert drops his sword in Peter Pan Goes Wrong.
    • When Dennis is playing an Inn-Keeper in "The Nativity", confused by Chris' direction, he begins screaming "GET OUT!", calling back to his role in "The Lodge".
    • Dennis walking up to Sandra at the end of "The Most Lamentable..." when she is looking for someone to crown king after Max (whose character was supposed to be crowned) and Vanessa (whose character made the most sense to replace him) were both rendered unconcious only for her to say no, prompting him to turn on his heel and walk away, calls to mind an incident in Peter Pan Goes Wrong where after Trevor, who took over as Peter after Jonathan was knocked out, is knocked out and Dennis promptly repeats the instruction he's just been given "Not you, Dennis, walk away!" and backs off.
    • Chris notes at the beginning of "There is No Escape" that the studio's fire exits are locked. Trevor gave a similar warning at the beginning of the stage version of Peter Pan Goes Wrong during his "No Talking or Phones" Warning.
  • The Cameo:
    • Tommy Blaize from Strictly Come Dancing makes a brief appearance in "The Spirit of Christmas" as Santa's singing voice before Robert snatches the microphone away.
    • Members of the then-current cast of The Play That Goes Wrongnote  appear as jury members in "A Trial to Watch".
  • Camera Abuse:
    • Dennis' Extreme Close-Up in "A Trial to Watch", after his big revelation in the case, is ruined by the camera hitting him in the head.
    • At the end of "The Lodge", Sandra lunges up into the shot for a Jump Scare and bangs her forehead on the camera, leaving a smear of greasepaint on the lens.
    • During "The Most Lamentable...," Jonathan (after his suit of armor becomes magnetized) causes one of the studio cameras to fly towards his crotch.
    • In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1," during the ballet, Chris accidentally leads Vanessa into dancing into the camera lens.
  • Can-Crushing Cranium: Annie as "Mick the Muscle" in There Is No Escape attempts this after snatching a soda can from Chris. Interestingly, it goes wrong not because Annie isn't suited to playing a tough, muscular character (as established by only being able to do a single push-up earlier), but because the soda machine malfunctioned, forcing her and Chris to mime the can.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Rex (Sandra) plays one during his introductory scene in There Is No Escape... which she ends up swallowing. As a result, for the rest of the episode, the harmonica keeps making noise whenever she speaks.
  • Censor Box: Applied heavily during Annie's play in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2," covering mouths during inappropriate language, body parts (such as during butt slaps), and covers Jonathan entirely when he plays a nude character.
    • During Jonathan's circus act where, due to the rest of the cast being unconscious, he has to perform a Disappearing Box trick by himself, one of these is used to cover him as he leaves the box from the back.
  • Character Shilling: Sandra's script for her audio play in the "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2," basically consists of Vanessa, Robert and Chris saying how beautiful and talented she is, much to their chagrin.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Played with in "The Lodge". There's a gun on the wall, and it goes off accidentally when Chris bumps into it... which means that when Robert attempts to fire it later, it's unloaded.
    • Robert brings an actual gun to the performance in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1" as an example of a Chekhov's Gun and claims that now that he's showed it to the audience, he needs to shoot someone before the end of the play.
    "That's the rule of Chekhov's Gun: have a gun."
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In "The Most Lamentable..." Robert note  attempts to turn his role as an irrelevant court trumpeter into one. He succeeds, as one of the only characters left after most were killed off of their actors rendered unconscious, he ends up being crowned king at the end of the play.
  • invokedComedy Ghetto: Apparently an unfortunate belief of not just Chris and Robert, but also previous Cornley troupes - according to Annie, the last comedy put on by the organization was in 1979, which she herself repeats for the Festival.
  • Complexity Addiction: The show would be far less amusing if the cast weren't trying to use props that were far too elaborate or fiddly for the job at hand. See: The present vending machine in "The Spirit of Christmas", the vacuum cleaner tongue for the horse in "Harper's Locket", Jonathan's armor in "The Most Lamentable...", and the remote-control dog in "90 Degrees".
  • Continuity Nod: The events of "The Nativity" are referenced in "Summer Once Again" as the reasoning for Robert to take over as director from Chris. This continues in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1 & 2" where Chris mentions he agreed to let everyone produce their own material so the rest of the society wouldn't try to replace him again.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In A Trial to Watch, the mixed-up sets somehow always have just enough in common with the intended ones for the story to go ahead, but in a subtly wrong way (random objects in the background forming stairs, some sort of drink being available for Max and Chris to share, a picture always in the same place on the wall, etc.)
  • Cool Shades: Max insisted on wearing these in "The Lodge", even though his character is supposed to be indoors on a dark night.
    • He also boasts two pairs of sunglasses (and a monocle) in "The Pilot (Not the Pilot)."
  • Couch Gag: Different things happen to the opening logo in each episode.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Annie takes on the role of Commander Wycombe in "The Pilot (not the pilot)" because the original actor, Chris's father, doesn't show up.
    • Annie, Vanessa, and Sandra are all cast as male characters in "There Is No Escape", since it's set in a men's prison.
    • Annie also plays the king in "The Most Lamentable ..."
  • Cringe Comedy: Vanessa's entry in the Drama Festival: her attempts to give an improv showcase are foiled by the fact that she cannot improvise. Nonethless her optimism, and everyone else's game attempts to help make it incredibly entertaining.
  • Cute, but Cacophonic: Vanessa pitches her voice up into a loud squeak to play Belle in "The Spirit of Christmas". Exaggerated when she has to sing in Belle's voice at a nearly impossibly high register to match the backing track.
  • Cut Phone Lines: Fortnoy (Robert) attempts this in "The Lodge" while David (Chris) calls the police to report Tony's (Max) death. Unfortunately, the line is too thick for the scissors to cut through, even after multiple attempts.

  • Dawson Casting:
    • invoked Belle (in "The Spirit of Christmas") is supposed to be a young girl but is played by a grown woman.
      Belle/Vanessa: I'm only a little girl.
      Santa/Robert: (Breaking character) You're 26!
    • Annie plays an even less convincing child in "The Lodge."
  • A Day in the Limelight: Dennis, who spends most of the show relegated to portraying stage settings, plays the main character in "A Trial to Watch", as well as supporting characters in "90 Degrees", "Summer Once Again", and "The Most Lamentable...".
    • The two-part season two finale, "The Cornley Drama Festival," gives each character a chance to shine. Jonathan in particular, after two series of continuously being trapped by the set or his costume, now has the stage to himself... because Chris and Trevor are driving everyone else to the hospital.
  • Delayed Reaction: In the opening scene of "A Trial to Watch", Dennis is supposed to cut off one of Chris' lines, but misses his cue and says his line a moment later.
    Chris: In all my years on the force, I've never seen a judge throw out so much evidence. I'm willing to bet good money that...
    Dennis: I'm gonna stop you right there.
  • Demoted to Extra: In-universe, following Robert's disastrous turn as director in "Summer Once Again," Chris takes control once again in "The Most Lamentable..." and assigns Robert background roles with no lines. Robert spends the play making sure his "relevant trumpeter" character becomes involved in every scene.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Many of the additional adjectives used to pad out "The Lodge" border on this.
    Fortnoy/Robert: The little one can stay in Vera's cozy, warm, welcoming, nice, bright, safe study.
  • Depraved Bisexual: In "90 Degrees", Renee (Vanessa) is involved with all three Burgess siblings as part of her Gold Digger plans.
  • Directed by Cast Member: In-Universe example; Chris directed and starred in almost every episode's Show Within a Show. The only two exceptions so far are in "The Nativity", which he directed and narrated (but didn't play a character in), and in "Summer Once Again", where Robert usurped Chris' spot as director.
  • Dirty Cop: Jack (Chris) in "A Trial to Watch" appears to be an ex-cop who was kicked off the force for gambling issues. He attempts to use something he learned as a cop to blackmail the judge.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Robert takes the opportunity whilst serving as director in "Summer, Once Again" to mock and humiliate Chris, giving him self-deprecatory lines and putting bricks in the bag he is supposed to pick up. On the third performance, Chris opens the bag onto Robert's foot and takes visible delight in apologising for his appearance and smell after Robert himself has ended up face down in the dung barrow.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • "A Trial To Watch" hints at the trial that the actors themselves are going to endure when performing it.
    • "90 Degrees" refers to the heat outside, and seems just to set up the joke involving the Upside-Down Blueprints.
    • "Summer Once Again" is a Title Drop from within the play itself, but it's also foreshadowing for how Robert keeps restarting the first scene in order to get the performance right.
    • "The Most Lamentable..." is an abbreviation of the comically long Tudor title, but it's also an accurate summary of the final product.
    • "There is No Escape" hints that the actors are stuck doing this terrible, dangerous play.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "The Lodge" ends with four people dead, Fortnoy's multiple murders to revive his wife proving fruitless when he is killed just as she is reborn, and the little girl forced to watch her mother kill her father, and then try to kill her—and because of a door being unexpectedly locked, the play goes off-script and the little girl is murdered too.
    • The end of "90 Degrees" sees the Burgess father dead, the family business sold off to someone who will ruin it rather than the son who cared about it, and Larry alone in his house after estranging both his siblings. Then, Robert's arrest results in him ad-libbing that Ruffles the dog is dead.
    • "Summer Once Again" is supposed to end with almost the entire cast dead from typhoid, with main character Roger losing his entire family (including his first love, his son, and even his dog) before his death at the end. But since Robert didn't leave enough time to finish the play, he has to settle for just telling the audience what the plot was supposed to be.
  • Drop-In Character: Jonathan plays one in "90 Degrees", who is there solely to appear at the window and offer the characters desserts.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: In "The Nativity", instead of using a wire harness to allow the Archangel Gabriel to fly (perhaps remembering their previous attempts with wires) the crew duct-taped Robert to a cloud set piece. It goes about as well as the CPDS' other special effects.

  • Easter Egg: Robert's book on acting is sprinkled across multiple episodes in the first seasonnote .
    • Dave Hearn and Nancy Zamit sneak in a fistbump (or "spud" as they call them) in various episodes.
  • Ending Theme: The credits theme is the same as the opening theme, but is always rearranged depending upon the topic of that week's play.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Chris can be nasty and petty, but even he regards Robert's preemptive apology for Lucy's performance as "just mean."
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: "The Lodge" ends this way, but in true Goes Wrong fashion, it's not actually supposed to — the mother character is forced to kill her daughter because the police officer can't get through the front door, which has been bolted from the inside. The police officer goes on acting as if the girl is still alive. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Ruffles in "90 Degrees".
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Dennis' contribution to "The Cornley Drama Festival" is a play titled "Toothpaste, £1.69," in which he purchases a tube of toothpaste for £1.69...and that's it.
    Dennis: Hello, how much is this toothpaste?
    Max: 1.69.
  • Exact Words: In "The Nativity", during the innkeepers scene, Dennis forgets his lines while playing the third innkeeper (as well as the first two) and takes Sandra's exasperated words as a reminder. Can also be taken as Literal-Minded.
    Dennis: Hello, I'm... [forgets his lines] I'm...
    Sandra: [whispers in exasperation] Jesus Christ.
    Dennis: [loudly and triumphantly] I'm Jesus Christ! The saviour is born!

  • Fake American: invoked Attempted, specifically a Southern drawl, with varying degrees of success by the cast in "90 Degrees", and the cause for an extended "beer/bear" pun scene.note 
    • "There Is No Escape" from season two has them again attempting American accents in a play set in a US prison.
  • Fake Boobs: In "90 Degrees", Annie has stuffed two balls into her shirt to play the maid character of Melinda. Of course, this being the Goes Wrong Show, they end up accidentally falling out during a scene in the study. In a later scene, Annie has put them back in, but they appear ridiculously lopsided.
  • Farce: Annie stages one of these in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2." Even in a piece where things are meant to go awry, they still manage to mess it up anyhow (in no small part thanks to a renegade horse loose in the studio).
  • Fight-Scene Failureinvoked: In "A Trial To Watch", between Nigel (Max) and Jack (Chris); in "There is No Escape" between Mick (Annie) and Stu (Vanessa); and in "The Lodge" between David (Chris) and Fortenoy (Robert). Robert initially refuses to fall until Chris actually delivers a convincing hit, but ends up actually hitting Chris by mistake and hurriedly capitulates.
    "[sheepishly] He got me."
  • Flashback... Back... Back...: Each of the 3 flashbacks in "A Trial to Watch" begins with the actor who triggered it repeating the last word or two of their line until the set has finished changing. The first time, it worked without a hitch with Vanessa's cue of "In the living room... living room... living room...". The second time, the stagehands miss the same cue from Chris, so he has to keep repeating the line with increased urgency until he's screaming it, calming down once the stagehands finally pick up on it. The third time, Annie's cue becomes an Accidental Innuendo as she says "It was a night of passion and happiness... piness... piness...".
  • Food Slap: In "90 Degrees", Annie is supposed to spray her castmates with a water gun for scenes that require them to cry. When she tries to do this for Dennis, she's out of water, so she tosses hot coffee in his face instead.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In "90 Degrees", microphone audio from Chris and Robert has them say that toy maker, who usually makes Jack-In-The-Boxes, built their set furniture. Jacks later pop out of the couch used in the show.
    • Also in "90 Degrees" when Melinda (Annie) and Barb (Sandra) discuss Buddy's (Dennis) wife Renee (Vanessa) Melinda notes she has eyes for another, prompting Barb to say that there's nothing between Renee and Larry (Max), which in turn prompts Melinda to note she never mentioned Larry. While this could count as a case of I Never Said It Was Poison, as Larry and Renee had had at least one moment of weakness, it also hints that she is actually having an affair with Barb.
    • "Summer Once Again" has several cases of "unintentional" note  to Robert restarting the play (twice) and some of the mistakes that crop up later.
      • The first line in the play (from Vanessa) is "I feel like I've lived through this moment so many times before."
      • Dennis' line "This beef is as tough as old boots" hints that in the third replay, Annie will mix up the dinner (goulash) and Vanessa's rain boots (galoshes).
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Parodied at the end of "The Lodge", where the Jump Scare provided by Vera's ghost is ruined by Sandra hitting her forehead on the camera.
  • Frame-Up: Edwin (Chris) attempts to frame Harper (Max) for theft in "Harper's Locket".
    • In "90 Degrees", Robert manages to get Chris arrested for shoplifting as well as himself.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • In "The Spirit of Christmas" while the family is reconciling with one another, Trevor gets into a physical fight with Robert while trying to wrestle away the bottle of sherry.
    • In "Harper's Locket" Edwin (Chris) and Bernard (Robert) have a spirited debate on servants as Bernard states "I would never dream of harming one of my servants." Cue him losing his croquet mallet, that smashes through the glass ceiling and knocking Vanessa straight in the head.
    • From the same play, Jonathan continually has trouble with the doors, thus is always seen in the background trying to exit or enter a scene.
    • In "90 Degrees" while Melinda (Annie) and Barb (Sandra) are having a conversation on Buddy's (Dennis) gold digging wife Renee (Vanessa), the others are having trouble getting Dennis and his wheel chair through the sideways door. Sandra and Annie even having to repeat the entire conversation in its entirety to give the others more time.
    • In Chris's ballet in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1", Dennis is seen in the background following Trevor's painted footsteps around. Trevor creates a loop to trap him.

  • Gender Bender: After Annie, as the King of England, inadvertently gets stripped to her undergarments in "The Most Lamentable...", she tries to play it off as this via some sort of curse.
  • Generation Xerox: Played with in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2," where a picture of the Cornley Drama Society from the 1970s shows the members look exactly like the modern-day members, but in the fashion of the time.
  • Generational Saga: "Summer Once Again" was clearly written to be this, to the point that even without Robert forcing the cast to repeat the first scene three times in order to get it perfect, it's hard to see how a full performance of the play could possibly have been done in the allotted time frame.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • In "The Lodge" and "There Is No Escape", Trevor and the backstage crew black out the set in response to characters' lines ("out like a light", "punch your lights out"), anticipating that the cast will read stage directions aloud.
    • Max is injured in "Summer Once Again" by attempting to hold a kettle that had been heating up over time. After the second time that Robert demands that the scene be done over again, Max is prepared this time round and uses oven gloves.
  • Girl on Girl Is Hot: In "90 Degrees", when it's revealed that Renee (Vanessa) is having an affair with Barbara (Sandra) and worked with her to get the family business for herself, Robert (who's voicing the dog) lasciviously says he has some thoughts on this. Vanessa hastily silences him.
  • Giving Them the Strip:
    • Chris has to hastily exit his snowman costume in The Spirit of Christmas when its scarf gets caught in the rollers of a gift-making machine, leaving him in only his shorts.
    • Jonathan fares even worse in "The Nativity", as he's trapped in a revolving set with bits of his costume continuously getting caught and ripped away on the scenery, and he ends up with only Hand-or-Object Underwear.
    • Annie's costume gets ripped off in "The Most Lamentable ...", leaving her in her underwear. Since she's playing an elderly king, she has to hastily come up with an excuse for the audience about how she's been temporarily cursed to turn into a woman.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: From Jonathan, of all people, in "Harper's Locket" when he can neither open the door or smash through the window next to it. So he screeches at a high pitch to break the window.
  • Gold Digger: Renee (Vanessa) in "90 Degrees", who has seduced all three of the Burgess siblings so she can run off with whichever one inherits their dying father's business.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Amazingly, every now and then the set designers/makeup folks end up doing things well...too well as they make something so realistic that it throws the actors off.
    • "The Pilot (Not the Pilot)" is supposed to end with Jonathan cackling that he's not Winston Churchill but a German imposter..only to find the makeup/mask is so well applied that he can't peel it off so just rolls with "I really am Churchill."
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Er...have you read the title?
  • Grammar Correction Gag: While preparing the wallpaper landscape for "The Nativity", Chris left a message for Trevor to cut face holes for a pair of actors dressed as cactuses, to appear in the desert scene. Instead, Trevor wrote back "It's actually cacti." Cue both actors blindly stumbling into Mary (Sandra), Joseph (Max), their donkey (Annie and Vanessa), and Chris.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Camille (Vanessa) is supposed to pepper her English dialogue with multiple languages. But she can't remember the proper lines so she ends up reciting song lyrics instead. In French, she recites Frere Jacques, in German she quotes 99 Luftballons, and in Spanish all she can say is "La la la la la la bamba." At one point, she simply says "Petits Filous" because she can't think of anything else.
  • Gravity Screw: A non-science fiction version of Cross Gravity, caused by the sets being built at the wrong angles. The actors try to play the scene as if gravity were normal, with limited success.
    • Near the end of "The Nativity", the storybook set falls on its back, forcing everyone to act out the last scene lying down on the set while they're filmed from directly above the stage.
  • Greed: In "90 Degrees", Barbara (Sandra) has an Establishing Character Moment when she first arrives, talking to somebody on her cell phone about how she doesn't care about layoffs, she just cares about profits.
  • Groin Attack: Two of these in "Harper's Locket": Jonathan steps on a croquet mallet and gets hit in the crotch, while Max gets his trousers caught in the mechanism inside Dennis's horse head.
    • Max ends up spilling a kettle full of hot water in his lap during "Summer Once Again"
  • Guest Star: In-Universe examples:
    • "The Pilot (not the pilot)" was supposed to see Chris' father, Raymond, in the role of Commander Wycombe. Unfortunately, he didn't show up in time for the broadcast, so the role had to be given to Annie.
    • Robert's niece, Lucy, appears as Wallace's (Max) daughter in "There is No Escape".

  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: In their shared death scene in "The Lodge," Chris and Robert keep one-upping each other with increasingly loud and broad actions to try and get the last word in.
    Robert: You're doing far too much there, Chris.
  • Hamster-Wheel Power: In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Valerie (Sandra) shows off the Allied forces' state-of-the-art code breaking machine. The front panel falls off, revealing that the machine is powered by Trevor on a pedal bike.
  • Hand Blast: Done by the Archangel Gabriel in "The Nativity" to impregnate Mary.
  • Harmless Electrocution: In "The Most Lamentable...", hitting the apparently exposed wiring of a hanging Klieg light with a prop sword sends visible electricity coursing through an entire suit of armor — which simply results in the suit becoming an electromagnet, and not a painful death.
  • Hazmat Suit: In the short produced for Children In Need 2020, Robert wears one during a "COVID-safe" sketch.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": Sandra's segment of "The Cornley Drama Festival" is essentially an advert for herself, featuring an unfailingly successful version of herself. All other characters either are incompetent (incommpentententente?) competition, or existing only to compliment Sandra's character.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent:
    • Robert, in line with previous Mischief Theatre productions, who continues trying to sabotage Chris in the hope of replacing him as leading man.
    • "Harper's Locket" shows that Max fits this trope with regard to his secret ambition of becoming a scriptwriter.
  • High-Pressure Blood: When the pump on Max's blood tubing finally works in "A Trial to Watch", it spurts a torrent of red liquid on Chris.
  • Honking Arriving Car: In "Summer Once Again," Robert playing "Roger" makes his grand entrance to Northwood Manor in a car preceded by the honking horn. After Robert calls for a reset of "Scene One" for a second time, because of numerous mistakes, the car horn sound effect is mistakenly cued "three pages early."
  • Hostile Show Takeover: Robert employs a coup prior to "Summer Once Again" and replaces Chris as director (deliberately relegating him to a small, put-upon part) while he receives a large part with a tremendous entrance (complete with banner and confetti). Unfortunately, his efforts to prevent any mistakes from occurring result in having to restart the play twice, then running through the entire rest of the plot in the remaining six minutes of air time.
  • Hotter and Sexier: "Summer Once Again" was supposed to contain a pre-recorded sex scene between Roger (Robert) and Margaret (Sandra), but Robert's forced to fast-forward through it due to the limited time left to finish the play.
  • Hypocrite: In "Harper's Locket" Robert chastises Max for stealing milk sachets from the canteen, in "90 Degrees" Robert shoplifts a packet of family size Wine Gums.

  • Identical Stranger: The plot of "The Most Lamentable..." revolves around this (even though the twins are played by Max and Chris, who look nothing alike).
  • Idiot Ball: Chris grabs it during "There is No Escape" where, when he has to recite Stu Malone's (Vanessa) last words, instead of the meaningful and relevant line scripted, he repeated the bit of awkward improv Vanessa gave when the pre-recorded narration cue is accidentally replayed.
    • One could also cite Vanessa in the aforementioned scene, given that she could've simply repeated her previous line.
  • Improv: Vanessa's contribution to "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1" is an attempted session of improv games. She and Annie find themselves unable to do anything but the same routine, Chris and Max somehow make it through the Alphabet Game despite Max's lack of understanding the rules, and Vanessa ends up accidentally engaged to Dennis (who puts an £8,000 deposit for a wedding venue on her credit card).
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Why the father in Harper's Locket is in such a rush to have Celeste marry—hilariously overacted by Robert.
    • Dennis's character in "Summer Once Again" dies from this. It's mentioned that the full play was supposed to involve pretty much the entire cast dying from typhoid by the end.
  • Informed Flaw: "90 Degrees" is said to contain coarse language and that steps have been taken to obscure it (with badly timed bleeps) but the actual dialogue is actually quite mild and doesn't warrant any censorship. Presumably, this is a swipe at American TV, which censors swearing far more often than British TV, but of course the language herenote  would not get such a treatment. Though, considering Dennis gets knocked out for part of the play, it’s likely he said something racier at that point in the script, given the character’s reactions.
  • Insistent Terminology: The second episode is called "The Pilot" because it's about a pilot, but it's not the Pilot Episode, so the phrase "(not the pilot episode)" comes up on screen when being a pilot is discussed.
  • Instant Sedation: Some horse tranquilizers and a tranquilizer dart render everyone but Chris, Jonathan, Dennisnote  and Trevor unconscious within moments during Annie's play in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2."
  • Inter-Class Romance:
    • "Harper's Locket" focuses on such a romance between stable hand Harper (Max) and noblewoman Celeste (Sandra).
    • "Summer Once Again" would have involved entire storylines based around this. Too bad the audience doesn't get to see them since Robert's forced to rush past them because of time limitations.
  • Interrupted by the End: Due to Robert rushing through "Summer Once Again", he finds they still have a few minutes left to fill. He eventually decides to let Jonathan perform his scene as the family doctor, which was skipped on the first run-through. Unfortunately, Jonathan barely gets half a sentence out before Robert realizes his watch is slow, and they have to roll the credits.
  • Intoxication Ensues: The set for "The Spirit of Christmas" uses real alcohol as props and Robert quickly gets drunk after indulging.
  • iSophagus: In "There Is No Escape", Sandra swallows her character's Captivity Harmonica after Annie bumps her. She continues with her lines, accompanied by the instrument for the rest of the play. The harmonica plays over the end credits.
    "You said it, Mick!"
  • Is This Thing Still On?:
    • In "Harper's Locket", while showing pre-taped footage of a wooden horse exploding.
      Cameraman: Action! (horse explodes) ...You're right, we probably could've used less.
    • In "90 Degrees", as Robert voices Ruffles offstage, his headset occasionally picks up and broadcasts Chris's remarks, as well as an entire altercation where Robert's almost caught shoplifting, then later when the police come to arrest him.
      Robert: Oh, microphone's still on. Uh... the dog's dead. (audio cuts out)
  • It's All About Me: All of the cast show signs of this at some point, but Sandra’s radio play takes the cake, wherein she casts herself as a Parody Sue with her main competition being played by Dennis (who naturally messes up) and Max (who is given no dialogue). Karma bites her in the butt when she inhales Dennis’s deodorant instead of breath spray.

  • Jump Scare: Sandra, at the end of "The Lodge", presumably as a parody of The Woman in Black's infamous jump scare. It's surprisingly effective, but immediately defused by Sandra bumping her head on the camera.
  • Killer Outfit: Chris narrowly averts this trope twice:
    • In "The Spirit of Christmas", during his solo number as Mr. Snowman, a spin move causes his scarf to be caught in a toy-making machine, which nearly consumes him. Fortunately, he slips out of his costume right before it's engulfed, leaving him in his underwear for the rest of the play.
    • In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", his tie gets caught in the crank mechanism of the phone he's calling a warning into. His next line delivery ends up sounding constricted until Sandra could cut him free.
  • Lame Last Words: In "There is No Escape", after Stu (Vanessa) is stabbed in the prison shower by Mick (Annie) and Rex (Sandra), Vanessa has to improvise new dying last words to Billy (Chris) as Chris' narration cue repeats itself, which end up coming off as this.
    Chris (narration): Then he looked at me, and said his last words.
    Chris (narration): Then he looked at me, and said his last words.
    Vanessa: (wakes up; stammers) P-prison... prison is... we're in prison. (dies again)
  • Lame Pun Reaction: In "The Nativity" the three wise men offer "gold standard interest rates", "frank 'n' sensible financial advice" and "myrrh-gage plans" from the bank funding the episode. Even the usually oblivious Dennis looks thoroughly embarrassed at having to say this line.
    • Robert reads Max's "Dr. Frog" script in "Harper's Locket" and has this reaction to the line "Read these reports, they're ribbeting."
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the third iteration of the first scene of "Summer Once Again" Robert, who wrote Chris' role "Manure Boy"note , ends up accidentally falling face first into Chris's wheelbarrow of manure, which Chris smugly takes note of. Furthermore, when Chris picks up his suitcase, which Robert had filled with bricks to make Chris look weak in the second iteration, it opens, dropping said bricks onto Robert's foot.
  • Laughing Mad: Robert's character in "The Lodge" does an Evil Laugh, but it quickly devolves into desperation as Robert futilely tries to find some way to exit the set; the chair lift he's riding pitches him through a wall, the door leading off the landing opens onto another wall, the kitchen door can't be opened and the study door has a seven foot drop behind it. He finally gives up and exits through the cupboard under the stairs, with his laughter basically screams by this point. It happens again later in the play, where his character tries to shoot Chris and Vanessa — but the prop gun had already been fired earlier by accident so there's no flash-bang, and it then comes to pieces in his hands (the latter of which wasn't in the script but happened by chance on the night, leaving Henry Lewis to hastily improvise.
  • Lazy Bum: Trevor in “The Nativity” takes this to new heights, not painting over a placeholder with desert, adding paintings of desserts when asked to fill it in and using the space to complain that this isn’t his job. He also doesn’t cut face holes in the cactuses, instead saying that it’s actually cacti.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: invoked Done in-universe, albeit not willingly on Chris' part, as Robert usurps control of the troupe after the events of "The Nativity" — and then proceeds to ruin the performance of "Summer Once Again" due to his own ego and perfectionism. At least when Chris is in charge, the troupe usually manage to finish the play.
  • Literal-Minded: In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 1", Max's contribution is "a Kitchen Sink Drama" — consisting of everyone dressed up as crockery and dish sponges in an actual sink. It doesn't help that his second act was a Soap Opera (as in, Sandra singing opera while dressed as a bottle of soap).
  • Little "No": Used in "The Nativity" by Annie, who's playing the donkey and does not want Sandra trying to climb on her.
    • Also used by her "The Lodge," when Max asks if she can do any tricks with her foot-long skipping rope.
  • Lives in a Van: In "The Spirit of Christmas", Robert says while drunk that he lives in his car following his divorce (although he reassures the audience that it's not that bad, since the car is a Honda Civic.)
  • The Living Dead: In both "A Trial to Watch" and "The Lodge" Max's character dies, but even when he's supposed to be dead he can't resist the urge to sit up and mug for the camera.

  • Mammy: Melinda (Annie) covers this role in "90 Degrees". She's put in a Fat Suit with boobs to give her the appropriate size.
  • Misspelling Out Loud: Happens with Dennis during Sandra's radio play in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2".
    Robert: And a huge congratulations to Benny Webber, who correctly spelled the word "incompetent" to win this year's spelling bee!
    Dennis: I-N-C-O-M-M-P-E-T-E-N-T-E-N-T-E-N-T-E.
    Robert:: Incommpetententente!
  • Mixed Metaphor: Dennis delivers one in "A Trial to Watch", due to his dodgy line recall.
    Dennis/McKennon: I've got Shawcroft wrapped around my little sleeve. Ever since the Weatherby case, I've had a real finger up his ace.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Annie's farce in "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2" features Jonathan running through the scene as "Norman Nord, the Nudist Lord." However, due to standards and practices, his his entire body is covered.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: invoked In "The Spirit of Christmas", when Santa asks the children what they want for Christmas, they respond with "An Xbox!" and "A PlayStation!" despite having been (apparently) told to ask for things that were within the show's budget.
    • The cast use a live cat in "Harper's Locket", only for it to get trapped inside the piano and attack Annie when she opens the lid.
    • In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2", a horse that was intended to be used during Sandra's radio drama gets loose backstage and Trevor has to chase after it with a tranquillizer gun.
  • Newspaper Dating: In "The Lodge", Emma (Vanessa) finds Fortenoy's (Robert) scrapbook containing a newspaper article about a previous house guest who disappeared in 1937. She holds up a paper announcing the Spice Girls reunion tour.
  • Nobility Marries Money: In "Harper's Locket", this is apparently the reason for the arranged marriage between Celeste (Sandra) and Baron Graves (Chris.)
  • Non-Singing Voice: invoked Robert is clearly lip-synching his musical number in "The Spirit of Christmas" and the camera pans a little too far to reveal the actual singer just off-set. Robert then drunkenly grabs the microphone and takes over, singing horrendously loud and off-key.
  • Noodle Incident: When introducing "Harper's Locket", Chris mentions how the CPDS previously televised "More Horse", an unlicensed sequel to War Horse. He doesn't go into detail but mentions that the complaints were plentiful and abusive, and that he would never again perform his Jamaican accent.
    • Chris calls "A Trial To Watch" the first legal drama they've put on, but not the first they've been involved in.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Chris' scarf gets caught in the rollers of the magic toy machine in "The Spirit of Christmas" and he almost gets strangled and crushed before he manages to slip out.
    • Most of the sets wouldn't pass inspection in real life, with usually 2-3 performers getting comically hurt in an episode.

  • Oh, Crap!: The cast soldiers on regardless despite their dismay at everything going wrong; but in "90 Degrees" Max, after going through hell acting on a set that was built at the wrong angle, gets a look at the next set and moans "Oh no." He's right to be dismayed, as the set is upside down.
    • On the third attempt at Summer Once Again, Annie mistakenly brings out the galoshes instead of the goulashes. Rather than attempt to cover the mistake, Dennis takes a bite out of the galoshes ("This beef's as tough as old boots!"), but it's not until Vanessa steps into the goulash dishes...
      Annie (very small): Oh, I see what I've done.
  • Oh Wait, This Is My Grocery List: In "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2", Dennis introduces his segment by pulling out the piece of paper he's written the title on: "Toothpaste, £1.99", before realising that it's a receipt. Subverted when he pulls out the real piece of paper... which reveals his segment is called "Toothpaste, £1.69".
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Played for Laughs. In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Annie, a petite, full-figured woman, is doubled by a tall, muscular man for shirtless scenes.
  • Once More, with Clarity: This is supposed to happen at the end of "A Trial To Watch" when Nigel's widow (Annie) testifies, revealing that she was the person Jack was speaking to and not the mirror in the wardrobe. But the two set halves, at that point, are the gym and the mortuary, which rather alters the intended effect.
  • The Other Darrin: invoked A sketch for Children in Need 2020 had the cast performing a "COVID-secure" sketch about a couple in a restaurant, leading to the two main characters being frequently "replaced" due to overzealous precautions (for instance, Annie is instantly removed when being sprayed with disinfectant makes her cough.)
  • Overly-Long Gag: Several, but the topper has to be "the Lodge" as Robert has to keep Laughing Mad as he fails to find a proper exit out of the set.

  • Painful Rhyme: Several in "The Most Lamentable...", such as blood/good, evidently the fault of either faulty writing or Tudor pronunciation.
  • Pantomime Animal
    • Dennis plays 2 of them using the same one-person horse costume: Treacle in "Harper's Locket", and Rudolph in "The Spirit of Christmas".
    • Vanessa and Annie play the donkey in "The Nativity", though they can't agree on who's playing the head and who's playing the arse.note 
  • Permanent Placeholderinvoked: In "A Trial to Watch", Dennis ends up mistaking a placeholder for improvised dialogue as one of his lines.
    Robert/Shawcroft: Is there anything you'd like to add?
    Robert/Shawcroft: My God, you're good.
  • Piano Drop: "The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2" ends with a piano falling on Jonathan (it was intended to be lowered down earlier in the performance).
  • Pillow Pregnancy: Vanessa's character in "The Lodge" is pregnant, requiring her to stuff a balloon up her shirt... which keeps bursting regularly when other characters try to pat her stomach. On one occasion it flies away and she has to chase after it.
    • By the time of "The Nativity", the CPDS have apparently learned their lesson and Sandra, playing the Virgin Mary, uses a bowling ball under her costume ... which falls out and lands on Chris's foot.
  • Pink Is Erotic: Played for laughs. In "'The Cornley Drama Festival Part 2'", Mr. Carmichael, Miss Pennyforth, and the Archbishop of Canterbury each wear pink in the raunchy sex comedy that so lewd it had to be drastically censored.
  • Pocket Protector: In "Harper's Locket", Celeste survives being shot at because the titular locket protects her from the bullet.
  • Playing a Tree: In most episodes Dennis is cast as an inanimate object, animal, or similar in an ultimately futile attempt to limit how much damage he can do.
  • Product Placement: Parodied in "The Nativity", where a bank has agreed to sponsor the company's performance, which leads things such as a giant billboard for the bank in Bethlehem, the manger having a cash machine, and the three wise men crowbarring financial puns into their gift givings.
  • Prop Recycling: In-universe in the first series. The 2 components that make up the reindeer costume in "The Spirit of Christmas" appear again in "The Lodge" (the mounted deer head) and "Harper's Locket" (the body). The combining of these was meant to be a Call-Back, with audiences understanding that Cornley resorted to reusing whatever was on hand (explaining why Dennis's head is on a plaque), but Executive Meddling caused the episode to be aired as the series premiere instead of its finale.
    • During the first Fire Drill in "The Nativity", Max & Sandra change back into their street clothes. Max is wearing the same turtleneck he wore as Tony in "The Lodge". This Jumper is actually owned by Dave Hearn, Max's performer.

  • Racist Grandpa: The question of whether Chris's elderly fathernote  is one of these apparently came up during a "Play of the Week crisis meeting".
  • Rage Breaking Point: By "The Nativity", CPDS are now funded by a corporation because the BBC has finally got sick of them and refused to produce any more of their work. Trevor has his own such moment at the end of the episode when, sick of Chris's constant haranguing, he slams the set (shaped like a book) closed with the cast trapped in it.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "A Trial to Watch" shows the scene of Nigel's death from multiple viewpoints (as well as in different locations, due to the stage hands bringing on the wrong set halves for the flashbacks).
  • Reaching Between the Lines: In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", during the Split-Screen Phone Call.
  • Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Dennis does this numerous times, carrying on from previous Cornley productions, such as in "A Trial to Watch" and when he loudly parrots everything Chris yells at him in "The Lodge".
    Dennis: (at the end of "A Trial to Watch") They kiss. Roll credits.
    • Trevor and the backstage crew are seemingly so used to this that they expect it and respond accordingly — when Vanessa's character says "out like a light" (asleep) they take this as the cue to black out the set.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Robert gives one to the audience in "The Spirit of Christmas", ranting about how often they complain to the BBC about the CPDS's work. Or, more specifically, his own conduct.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: During a scene in "The Lodge", the message "EXPECT MORE BODIES" is supposed to appear on a window. Trevor instead writes "EXPECT MORE BOIDES", which Chris reads aloud exactly as spelt.
  • Rule of Three:
    • There are three versions of the flashback in "A Trial To Watch": the prosecution's version (with the correct set), Jack's version (the mortuary and the house), and Angela's version (the gym and the mortuary).
    • Robert has the actors perform the first scene of "Summer Once Again" three times before moving on.
  • Rummage Fail: In "Harper's Locket", Baron Graves (Chris) attempts to frame the title character (Max) for theft by planting a one-pound note in one of his pockets. However, when the time comes for Bernard (Robert) to retrieve the planted note, he instead pulls out a pack of gum, a handful of milk sachets, and a copy of Max's "Dr Frog" script before giving up.
    Robert: (exasperated) Where's the money!?.
    Max: Oh, yes... (hands Robert a bank card)
    Robert: Not your contemporary money; the money in the play!
  • Running Gag: Several, both across the show itself and within the episodes:
    • Different things happen in each episode to prevent Jonathan playing his role; from being trapped in a chimney or locked behind a door to unable to fit onto a set that's far too small.
    • None of the scripted kisses go right.
    • In "The Spirit of Christmas"...
      • The Christmas tree decorations and Christmas dinner props get mixed up. Initially Lawrence (Max) is chopping ornaments for dinner, then they put chicken breasts and sausage links on the tree. Maude (Annie) stirs a bowl of tinsel, and at the end, when Lawrence returns with the missing star for the tree, it's a roasted turkey.
      • Nostle (Jonathan) is trapped in the chimney, so Nistle (Sandra) has to make do without him.
    • In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", the view out the window frequently involves off-stage actors having conversations that directly contradict what the on-stage actors just said. Also Robert, playing Adolf Hitler, keeps repeatedly appearing on set when he's not supposed to be there.
    • In "A Trial to Watch"...
      • The split set getting the wrong halves for flashbacks.
      • invokedDennis's mixed-up lines coming out as sexual innuendos — "She's my sex life", "I'm going to get jacked off!"
    • In "The Lodge"...
    • In "Harper's Locket"...
      • Pieces breaking off Dennis's horse head whenever anyone tries to pet him.
      • Jonathan being unable to open the doors on set.
      • Chris's Squib going off at the wrong time.
    • In "90 Degrees"...
      • Some of the sets have been built at the wrong angles (see Upside-Down Blueprints below), causing objects and people to fly across the room in each scene.
      • Robert and Chris's backstage arguments being heard through the RC dog's speaker as they squabble over who is to voice the dog.
      • The sound effects that are supposed to censor Dennis's speech coming in at the wrong time.
      • Annie not being quick enough to hide the water gun she's using to spray other cast members for scenes where their characters are crying.
      • Dennis forgetting that his character can't walk or otherwise use his legs.

  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud:
    • Dennis' lines as Treacle the horse in "Harper's Locket" mainly consist of "Whinny", "Canter", "Bray", etc. Of course, him being Dennis, he screwed this up at least once.
    Dennis/Treacle: Clop clip. Clop clip.
    Max/Harper: [correcting him] Clip clop.
    Dennis/Treacle: Oh, are we both horses?
    • As Robert voices Ruffles in "90 Degrees", his lines mainly consist of "Woof", "Bark", and "Growl". At one point, he says "Wag wag wag" before Chris comes in and tells him there's a button on his remote to get the RC dog to wag its tail.
    • Dennis keeps saying "Cough" in "Summer Once Again" at points where his character is showing signs of his Incurable Cough of Death. When leaving notes for Dennis in his script fails, Robert resorts to hitting him.
  • Screwed by the Network: In-universe. By "The Nativity," the BBC hates CPDS so much they don't just refuse to fund them, they schedule two fire drills during taping because "they'd rather disturb [CPDS's] broadcast than one of their empty studios."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Jonathan does this in "A Trial to Watch" when he can't fit onto the too-small courtroom set and the other actors playing the jury won't make way for him, even though they don't have any lines and he does.
  • Secret Diary: Robert’s gets mixed up with the bible Dennis is supposed to read from in “Summer Once Again”.
    Summer Once Again: Robert Grove rehearsal diary. The cast are terrible… (Robert swaps the books) Forever and ever, amen.
    • He does it again on the next repeat.
    Rehearsals day 7. The play is not improving. Maybe Mother was right. Maybe I am all talk and no trousers… (Robert swaps the books) Forever and ever, amen.
    Lost my notebook. Making do with Dennis’ prop bible. Heard back from Dench. Unavailable. Annie remains. (Robert swaps the books) Last night was a night to remember. Another spanking from Mother…
  • The Show Must Go On: Taken to parodical extremes, leading to performances with one performer stuck in a chimney, performances on sets that are an order of magnitude too small, performances where a ceiling fan is trying to decapitate the cast, and performances on sets that are literally upside down.
    • An inability to do this is perhaps Robert's biggest issue in "Summer Once Again"; no matter how many things go wrong with Chris at the helm, the cast carry on the play, but in "Summer Once Again" twice Robert insists on redoing the first scene, forcing them to rush the rest of the play.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Show Within a Show: As is common for Mischief Theatre. Each episode is the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society putting on a new play.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Dennis plays such a character in "90 Degrees." Predictably, attempts to censor his speech fail.
  • Slapstick: Very common, with the actresses botching up and suffering Amusing Injuries almost as often as the male cast.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Dennis is cast as a telegram machine with no lines yet still manages to prematurely spoil the play's twist for the audience.
  • Soft Glass: Played straight and then subverted in "Harper's Locket". Jonathan, who is unable to open the door between the dining room and the garden, smashes through the window next to it. Later, unable to go through the door at the back of the stage, he attempts this on the window next to it, only to bounce off.
  • Sole Survivor: Subverted in "The Lodge". Alice (Annie) was clearly supposed to be saved by the police officer (Jonathan) at the last minute from her possessed mother ... but Chris locked the door earlier, so the police officer couldn't get inside in time to save her and Vanessa had to follow through with 'stabbing' her. Instead, Jonathan dragged her around as if she were still alive.
  • Sorry to Interrupt: In "The Lodge", Robert's filming a scene (apparently in a restroom at the BBC) where his character performs an occult ritual. A member of cleaning staff walks in and makes a hasty retreat.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Dennis's character in "90 Degrees" swears a lot, and some of his dialogue has been censored for TV — unfortunately, with the sound effects usually coming in at the wrong time.
  • Special Effects Failureinvoked: Incredibly frequent. A particularly notable example is Max's fake blood in "A Trial to Watch", which fails to work the first two times and completely covers Chris in blood the third time.
  • Split-Screen Phone Call: Between Corporal Sky (Sandra) and Wing Commander Wycombe (Annie) in "The Pilot (not the pilot)". Played for laughs when they start Reaching Between the Lines, and then when the separator bar falls down.
  • Squib: Chris uses them in "Harper's Locket". They go off prematurely twice, fail to go off when they're supposed to, and then go off unexpectedly afterwards.
  • Start X to Stop X: In "The Nativity", Chris's piano catches fire from the candle placed next to it. As the others try to put the fire out, Dennis rushes in with a blowtorch, having taken the idea of "fight fire with fire" literally.
  • Stock Footage Failure: invokedIn "Harper's Locket", it shows footage of "Harper" riding up to the house on a horse. When he rides off, later in the scene, the same footage is shown, only it is being played backwards.
  • Stunt Casting: In-universe. According to his rehearsal diary, Robert apparently tried to get Judi Dench to play Annie's part in "Summer Once Again", but was told she was unavailable.
  • Stylistic Suck: Of course the show is built around this, with Bad "Bad Acting" and countless disasters that are set off, but perhaps less obvious is the fact that the plays tend to be horribly written as well, with hokey and sometimes nonsensical plots, atrocious dialogue and of course endless padding, with lengthy scenes where the characters do nothing except serve tea or eat dinner while talking about how good the food is or asking how much sugar each character wants in their tea. With few exceptions, if these plays had been performed expertly and everything had gone off without a hitch, they would have been painfully boring to watch. As such, the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society's total incompetence actually saves the plays, by in-universe turning them So Bad, It's Good.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Dennis' improvised song in "The Most Lamentable..." concludes with him getting cut off before he can finish.
    Dennis: It was the first time, it shan't be the last/I put my sausage in the goose's-
    Vanessa: Prithee! No more, fool, that's...that's quite enough, thank you...
  • Sunglasses at Night: Max's character wears these in "The Lodge".

  • Take That!: A likely one in "The Most Lamentable...". Throughout the play several factions have been backstabbing and murdering while seeking the throne, and one is clearly scripted to win, but due to the characters getting randomly "killed off" by accidents, twice off-script, the narrator has to hastily improvise and hand the crown to essentially the nearest person just to finish the story. Sound familiar?
  • Talking Animal: Robert attempts to turn Ruffles the dog into one in "90 Degrees", but is repeatedly thwarted.
  • Taking the Bullet: Celeste (Sandra) does this for Harper (Max) in "Harper's Locket".
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • As in other Mischief Theatre productions, Chris and Robert are bitter rivals, sniping at and competing to outshine one another.
    • Chris also gets quite livid with Max and Dennis, though they're too simple-minded and good-natured to take it personally.
  • Terrible Artist: Annie's character in "Harper's Locket" is supposed to be a talented painter. When whoever is piloting the bird accidentally ruins the artwork commissioned for the show, Annie has to hastily put together a replacement, composed of stick figures and a frog (the only thing she knows how to draw.)
  • That Came Out Wrong: In "The Nativity", when Mary (Sandra) says that she is a virgin and shouldn't be able to have a child, Archangel Gabriel (Robert) says she has been "impregnated remotely." Max cringes, and Robert instantly apologizes for the way the line came out.
  • That Poor Cat: In "Harper's Locket", the cast frantically shoves pillows into the player piano to try and stop it, and down flies everywhere. Then they mistakenly put the white fluffy cat in and freeze in horror at the screech. Fortunately, the cat ultimately proves to be unhurt and breaks out of the piano at the end of the play. Unfortunately, it is also extremely angry, and Annie's face is the nearest target for its rage.
  • Third Party Stops Attack: Happens in "Harper's Locket" when a motorised fan comes loose from the ceiling during a dinner party scene and descends towards the table, threatening to decapitate the cast. They're saved when Jonathan steps in from outside and intercepts the fan.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: The actors are not pleased with having to deal with the... uniquely built sets of "90 Degrees". Robert's delivery noticeable wavers when he asks the others to join him in the study, and Max lets out a horrified "oh no" when he realizes that one set was built upside-down.
  • Throwing Off the Disability: Dennis's character does this at the end of 90 Degrees, standing up out of his wheelchair and walking away.
  • Title Drop: Invoked in "The Lodge" where Robert will regularly say the title, accompanied by flashing lights and creepy music (until the third repetition where a cheerful fairground tune is accidentally played instead.)
    • "Harper's Locket" has two of these, accompanied by the sound of thunder.
    • Lampshaded in "Summer Once Again," as the drop takes on additional significance every time they start the play over again.
  • To the Tune of...: "The Nativity" sees "O Little Town of Bethlehem" sung to the tune of "Funeral March", "Camptown Races", "Auld Lang Syne", and "The Cancan Song" thanks to a mix-up of music sheets.
  • Traitor Shot: Possibly unintentional — in "The Pilot (not the pilot)", after Sandra's character explains what words the Germans would use to end a message for codebreaking, "Heil Hitler", she glances meaningfully at the audience for a moment. This is Sandra's Character Tic, however, and might just be ill-timed. (Either way, it doesn't work, due to Dennis spoiling the identity of The Mole earlier.)
  • Tranquil Fury: A frequent result of Chris's attempts to stay in character while seething at his co-stars' failings.
  • Treadmill Trauma: The gym scene in "A Trial To Watch" starts with Karl (Dennis) joining Becky (Vanessa) on the treadmills. However, Dennis is unable to start or speed up his own treadmill; his monitor had accidentally been wired to control Vanessa's treadmill. Cue Vanessa being launched into a weight rack as she fails to keep pace.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: "Summer Once Again" is directed by Robert, who took the opportunity to try to force Chris out after audience complaints about "The Nativity".

  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Referenced in "Cornley Drama Festival Part 1". Dennis thinks Vanessa's proposed to him, so he goes to call his mother, who reportedly describes Dennis as a "2" and Vanessa "a solid 8."
  • Unexplained Recovery: Despite a seemingly fatal gunshot a quite close range, Treacle the horse manages to survive being shot by Baron Graves.
    • In "90 Degrees", during one of the scenes on the sideways study set, Dennis is knocked out by a briefcase falling on his head, and remains unconscious for the rest of the scene. About one scene later, he's regained consciousness without explanation, and without any visible bruising.note 
  • Unit Confusion: Some sets for "A Trial To Watch" were designed in inches and built in centimeters.
  • The Unreveal: Winston Churchill (Jonathan) tries to dramatically reveal that he's not actually Churchill, but the prosthetic is glued too strongly on his face, so he gives up and declares that he really is Churchill.
  • Upside-Down Blueprints: The study set for "90 Degrees" was built on its side due to the builders misinterpreting the play's title on their technical drawings as a building direction. Additionally, the bedroom set was built upside down for a similar reason.
  • Useless Without Cellphones: The official press release announcing the second series quotes Chris saying that he's issued all members of the CPDS with several phones to avoid any further "miscommunication".

  • Victorian Novel Disease: "Summer Once Again" treats typhoid this way. Which is just another demonstration of the Society's magnetic attraction to hacky scripts, because while typhoid is a dangerous and period-appropriate illness, it is not a chronic disease that would take decades to kill someone.
  • Visible Boom Micinvoked: This moment in "The Pilot (not the pilot)":
    Annie/Wycombe: Perhaps the place is bugged.
    Chris/Rufus: Hidden microphones? Here? Impossible!
    (a boom mic dips into the frame, nearly hitting Chris)
  • Vignette Episode: The two-part season two finale, "The Cornley Drama Festival," consists of various performance pieces by the Cornley members.
  • Visual Pun: In "The Lodge", after a noise is dismissed as just a bat, a cricket bat floats by on a string.
    • In "The Nativity", Mary (Sandra) and Joseph's (Max) desert journey is simulated by pulling a painted sheet of wallpaper behind them. Eventually, the desert landscape stops and hastily painted words appear: "Trevor, paint more desert here". Cue a series of desserts scrolling past on the wallpaper.
  • Vocal Range Exceeded: Belle's (Vanessa) sweet song to Santa starts out alright, until the register gets too high for her, ending in her shrieking through her final verse.
  • Voice of the Legion: Attempted in "The Lodge" as a possessed Emma (Vanessa) speaks in unison with the ghost of Vera (Sandra). Unfortunately, their timing is noticeably off, and Sandra keeps flubbing her lines.
    Vanessa/Emma: Your mummy has gone! My love is dead! And now, I will have my revenge!
    Sandra/Vera: [attempted in unison with above] Your mummy is dea- has gone! My love is dead! And now, I shall ha- I will have my revenge!

  • Wardrobe Malfunction: The snowman suit gets caught in the toy machine's grinder in the middle of Chris' song, thus he must vacate it through the bottom, ending up in only his underwear by the end.
  • Waxing Lyrical: As mentioned above in Gratuitous Foreign Language, In "The Pilot (not the pilot)", Camille (Vanessa) is supposed to say multiple phrases in various different languages. Since, she can not remember those phrases, she just begins saying the lyrics to songs.
  • Wham Line: Every one of the plays tries this at some point...and end up falling flat due to how terrible the set-up and the miscues are.
    • "The Pilot (Not the Pilot") is supposed to end with "Churchill" revealing himself to be a German imposter...but he can't get the mask off so he settles for "I am Winston Churchill."
      • The would-be reveal of The Mole is given away completely by Dennis long before it's to be revealed.
      • invokedBefore that, the audience gets one for laughs when this WWII drama is revealed to be set in 1961.
    • invokedActually done not too badly in "90 Degrees" when, after so much backbiting and backstabbing, Renee and Barbara reveal they've been together (in more ways than one) this entire time.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: King Herod in "The Nativity" isn't seen again after the only scene he appears in (though considering everything that's happened by the end, that's the least of the production's problems).
  • Who's on First?: In "The Lodge", Chris snaps at Dennis for wrongly chiming in with his line of "GET OUT! GET OUT!" one too many times and orders him off the set. Naturally, when it actually is time for him to get back in and say the line, this ensues.
  • William Fakespeare: A double dose in the second episode of season two. "The Most Lamentable..." was written by Simon Shakespeare, the lesser known cousin of Colin Shakespeare.