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Series / The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer

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"Like a shrimp in a suitcase lying on a window ledge,
Like a pair of tartan slippers and they're underneath a hedge,
Like a scout master at daybreak putting peanuts in his glove,
Like a specially formed ice arch for climbing over doves,
Like a sardine in a hair net and he's staring at a priest...
These things you'll find constantly irritate our minds!"
— Opening song for episode 1, very much setting the tone

The second surreal comedy show put together by Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, following Vic Reeves Big Night Out and their Channel Hop from Channel 4 to the BBC. Considered to be some of Vic and Bob's best work. Had two series, in 1993 and 1995.

Rather than Big Night Out`s parody of variety shows, The Smell was a sketch show interspersed with Vic and Bob sitting at their desk and doing surreal things before an audience, a format which would later be built upon for Shooting Stars. Filling the role of Les as assistant was the incoherent Uncle Peter (comedian Charlie Chuck) and guest actors included Matt Lucas and David Walliams (later of Little Britain) and Simon Day, Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse (later of The Fast Show). The show also contained spoofs of then popular TV programmes, as well as adverts for bizarre products the duo were supposedly peddling.

In 1999 the two revived the format under the name Bang Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer, which will also be covered here as it is essentially a third series in all but name. Even more surreal than their earlier work, Reeves and Mortimer considered it superior but it was less popular with the fans, perhaps because each episode was weighed down by a large part of it being devoted to a single recurring setting called The Club, which was somewhat divisive. Bang Bang also developed some characters and concepts that had been introduced in The Smell, such as Tom Fun.

The duo returned to the sketch format yet again with Vic and Bob's Big Night Out, which can be summed up as a mishmash of The Smell and Big Night Out, in 2018.

This TV series displays examples of:

  • Absurdity Ascendant - Always the case with Vic and Bob.
    • Particularly noticeable in the parodies of TV shows, which insert completely random aspects as often as they actually play on real characteristics of the people and shows involved. For example, Melvyn Bragg of The South Bank Show is obsessed with his bicycle, Hugh Scully of The Antiques Roadshow is constantly surrounded by stuffed monkeys, and John Craven of Countryfile is a lecherous pervert who always finishes every sentence in a Dalek-esque monotone yell.
  • Affably Evil: Bill Decker, a self-proclaimed murderer who makes an appearance as George Michael on Stars In Your Eyes... which basically consists of him bobbing up and down to "Faith" in a George Michael mask. He only wins by murdering all the competition, but he's so mild-mannered he's somewhat endearing.
  • All Just a Dream and Or Was It a Dream?: Played with in the final episode of the first series.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: In an episode that started with a number from 'Footloose', Vic burst out in disbelieving laughter every time Bob tried to explain the idea of homosexuality to him. Especially arbitrary considering that in another episode Vic accidentally doses Bob with a love potion and ends up uncontrollably attracted to him.
  • Artistic License – Biology: A segment parodying the overuse of metaphors in public information films, in which Vic and Bob explained the human body in terms of the appliances in a house...but wrongly.
    Vic: Your body has its own central heating, in the form of your lungs. Hot foods such as steak, pies and soup are transferred directly to the lungs whereupon they heat the entire body.
  • Ascended Extra: A few examples:
    • Greg Mitchell ascends from a one-off series of jokes on Big Night Out to having his own background plot arc.
    • The Stotts get a progressively bigger role over time until they get a Once an Episode segment in Bang Bang.
    • Tom Fun went from a one-off joke in series two of The Smell to getting his own Once an Episode segment with Derek in Bang Bang.
  • British Accents - Characters are often given incongruous Geordie accents for comedy value. Everyone in the Slade segments has a Birmingham accent.
  • Bully Bulldog: The corrupt judge who sentences Greg Mitchell to 30 years in prison after being bribed by Corkie is a Cockney bulldog who smokes.
  • Butt-Monkey: Greg Mitchell, the gorgeous sandy-coloured labrador.
  • Catchphrase - Lots.
    • Men with Bras: "What you lookin' at mate?! Are you looking at my bra?!", "You think there's somethin' funny about a coupla fellas wearin' bras?!" and "Howay!"
      • They would also inevitably end every transaction with someone they accused of making light of their bras with something along the lines of "And ye can keep yer [X]!" before snatching whatever 'X' was and storming off with it anyway.
    • Whisky and Brandy Bolland: "Almost too wee!"
    • Tom Fun: "And I'm sure that's gonna be a lotta fun"
    • Otis Redding and Marvyn Gaye (said in Geordie accent): "We're here sittin' on the dock o' the beeyah watchin' the ships cummin' in and gooin' aht agin"
    • Greg Mitchell (suddenly gaining a broader Cockney accent): "Oh naw! Wha' am I sayin', mah wife's gonna kill me!"
    • Councillors Cox and Evans would end their skits by attacking each other and bellowing "You Fat Bastard!" after whatever ridiculous scheme they'd concocted had completely fallen apart.
  • Caught Up in a Robbery: In one sketch, Pat Wright and Dave Arrowsmith are at the bank when they are held at gunpoint by a bank robber, who tells them to "Stick 'em up!" Of course, Pat and Dave being the "Bra Men", they think he's telling them to stick their breasts up instead of their hands. Once they naturally fail to do a good job of it and lose their patience with him correcting them, they take away his gun and his wig and storm out of the bank, complaining about his rudeness.
  • Cloudcuckoolander - Everyone to some extent, but especially Whisky and Brandy Bolland.
  • Cool Versus Awesome: One version of the "I Love the Smell" closing number consisted of an argument between Vic and Bob about which was better, Communist Cuba or electrical appliances.
    Bob: I love the smell of Fidel Castro!
    Vic: Yes, but he'd be lost without his Flymo!
  • Creepy High-Pitched Voice: Mulligan and O'Hare talk like this.
  • Dull Surprise: Uncle Peter delivers his lines in a gruff Northern accent all the time.
  • Ear Ache: A woman on Series/Masterchef who cuts off her own ears to create a food arrangement shaped like the face of Jesus. Lloyd Grossman's not happy to find this out.
  • Early-Bird Cameo - Swiss Toni appeared once to sell the Men With Bras a car before he became a regular on The Fast Show, much less before he got his own series.
  • Everyone Went to School Together - Not quite this trope, but in the 'Slade' segments it appears that every rock star in Birmingham live next to each other.
  • Everything Is Better With Explosions - On Bang Bang the Stotts insist on starting every interview with "a nice explosion"note , and in a variation on Every Car Is a Pinto, perhaps the most surreal sketch of all involved a car whose bonnet and boot lids would blast off into the air, then land and explode in an absurdly oversized detonation.
  • The Faceless: Averted with the intro narrator, who appeared on-camera at the start of one episode as part of an unexpected, surreal swerve.
  • Fake Band: A subversion - Slade, a real band, are spoofed, but in such an exaggerated parody fashion that they're unrecognisable.
    • The real Slade were reportedly big fans of the Reeves and Mortimer version, but claimed that they were never as surreal as the real thing.
      • There's also Mulligan and O'Hare, the apparently pleasant if dull folk music duo, whose lyrics inevitably take a dark turn:
      - "I'm not saying that I killed you/Or that I'm happy that you're dead/But your doctor did advise you/To keep a rifle by your bed..."
      • Mulligan and O'Hare also sang hip-hop with their rendition of Run–D.M.C.'s "It's Like That".
  • Fartillery: Le Corbussier et Papin - literally, in one episode when the former uses the latter as a howitzer against passing Tour de France cyclists.
  • Fat Bastards: Ray and Roy call one another these when their schemes backfire and they start attacking one another.
  • Genre Throwback: Between the mock-variety show format and the dynamic between Vic and Bob, the series often comes off as a more surrealistic version of Morecambe and Wise. This is especially evident in a series of Running Gags involving Bob (usually) attempting to do a 'serious' piece (albeit with a rather silly twist, such as his attempt to sing Barbara Streisand's "The Way We Were" while wearing a pair of skies), with Vic popping up in the background to distract, upstage or otherwise annoy him. This reflects the familiar dynamic of Ernie Wise as the deluded would-be 'serious' artist and Eric Morecambe as the clown happily-if-obliviously puncturing his pretensions.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: Apparently, cottage cheese is used in this.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Constantly. For example, when Vic claimed he was upper-class because he owned a colour television.
  • Inventional Wisdom: The Reeves and Mortimer products.
    Bob: How does it work?
    Vic: I don't know - but it does!
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: Half the Reeves and Mortimer products, as well as the start-of-episode sketches. Everything, in fact.
  • Le Film Artistique: Le Corbussier et Papin.
  • London Gangster: Corky, Greg Mitchell's Big Bad Friend, is a canine version of one of these.
  • Mockumentary: The Club, covering hapless attempts by the owners of the "fourth best club in Hull" to keep it going. Nearly all the characters were played by Reeves or Mortimer, and despite the comedy one perceives an oddly serious sorrow on their part for the death of the traditional variety club that it symbolises and from which they originated (see Vic Reeves Big Night Out). Quite similar to That Peter Kay Thing and Phoenix Nights in a way, but predates them by a year.
    • Series 1 and 2 also begin each episode with a short nonsensical "historical" film in documentary style which finishes with a very awkward segue to introducing Vic and Bob.
  • Mumbling Brando: Kinky John Fowler talks like this.
  • The Musical: Each episode starts with a different musical number (some original, some ironic covers) and ends with the signature "I Love The Smell". The last episode of series 1 had an even bigger musical sequence at the end.
  • Naked People Are Surreal: In most episodes of Bang Bang the front of the desk is semi-transparent and a naked man can be seen crouching beneath it. In one episode there's a naked woman as well, but there seems to be a partition separating her from the man.
  • The Narrator: Patrick Allen. Credited as "The Voice of...", even in the one episode where he actually appears on camera.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands:
    • Kinky John Fowler, introduced in Bang Bang as compere of the Club, later reappears as a policeman in Catterick with no explanation.
    • In addition, a recent tribute to Steve Coogan featured Kinky John as a TV executive, Tom Fun and Derek as cameramen, and Carl and Chris as BBC security.
  • Once an Episode: The vegetable advert Dream Sequence from Series 1.
    • Later in Bang Bang each episode involved someone dying, a shell-less egg emerging from their mouth, and then their body fading away in a dramatic fashion (usually this was in the very surreal car sketches, but once migrated to the studio). Vic and Bob explained in interviews that the egg was supposed to represent a soul.
  • Oop North: Like many R&M characters, Pat Wright and Dave Arrowsmith are from the North East (Hartlepool to be exact).
    • Also, the duo incongruously gave Geordie accents to Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Barry White.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: "The fourth best club in Hull"
  • The Parody: A few remarkably surreal examples, more towards the earlier part of the show's run. Some examples of shows parodied include Stars in their Eyes, Noel's Addicts (and Noel's House Party), Countryfile, Masterchef, The South Bank Show and The Antiques Roadshow.
  • Product Placement: Parodied - Vic and Bob take every opportunity to mention (in an anvilicious way) that this problem could be solved with the new "Reeves and Mortimer (name of product)".
    • The first series also had short films with high production values (presented as an Imagine Spot on Vic's part) which replicated an iconic scene from a film, such as running on the beach from Chariots of Fire, before crudely inserting a vegetable in place of someone's head or similar, with a label declaring low prices on veg. This was eventually explained as Vic blowing the budget on advertising, having forgotten that Reeves and Mortimer don't sell fruit and veg.
  • Recursive Reality: Uncle Peter once showed Vic and Bob a jug, inside of which was Uncle Peter's band playing music—including Uncle Peter himself.
  • Scatting: Used in the "I Love the Smell" theme tune.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The opening narration usually establishes a tenuous link between the events described and Reeves and Mortimer before introducing them. On one occasion though the narrator simply stops the story and immediately segues to "Ladies and gentlemen, Reeves and Mortimer!"
  • Slapstick: Series 2 introduced Vic and Bob's trademark frying-pan Bigger Is Better Escalating War fight.
  • Sleazy Politician: Councillors Cox and Evans of the Aldrington-on-Sea District Council Planning Committee, two shifty, obese gentlemen with poor comb-overs who'd show up in a cheap PSA for whatever ridiculous public initiative they'd come up with. These would inevitably cheap, nasty, designed primarily to line their own pockets and would always backfire in some way, resulting in Cox and Evans getting into a fist fight while bellowing "You fat bastard!" at each other.
  • Speak of the Devil: Hercule Poirot appears when Vic misreads Bob's note asking for "dancing marionettes and Pierrot" as "dancing majorettes and Poirot".
  • Stylistic Suck: A segment where Vic and Bob do a video-diary tour of the Reeves and Mortimer factory, complete with lack of editing and arguing over who's filming whom.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: When Greg Mitchell's wife appears at the end of the first series, it's the same puppet plus these.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Cup-a-Soup for all the members of Slade.
  • Unexplained Accent: Tony Baron, brother of Paul Baron, has a Chinese accent from growing up in Hong Kong.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: All the time, and especially how Vic and Bob seem to freeze in time whenever Greg Mitchell and Corky appear.
  • Verbal Tic: Uncle Peter's "Woof! Bark! DONKEY!"
  • The 'Verse: Some recurring characters, particularly the Bra Men, also showed up as contestants in parodies of game shows.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: In the last episode of the first series, after Vic's life support machine has been switched off by Bob his spirit is seen rising from his body, dressed in a completely white suit but without wings or harp and coincidentally looking very similar to how he would look on the later remake of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) where he played Marty Hopkirk.


Cottage Cheese

Vic and Bob reveal a sinister side to the seemingly humble cottage cheese - VOODOO!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / HollywoodVoodoo

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