David Lander, a parody of investigative journalists, first appeared in the BBC Radio 4 comedy series Delve Special. In 1988 the character moved to a six-part TV series on Channel 4 - the adaptation still starred Stephen Fry and was still written by Tony Sarchet, but was renamed This Is David Lander.
When the second series came to be made in 1990, Fry was too busy to film it, and so Tony Slattery was cast in his place. Slattery's incarnation of the character was renamed David Harper, and his six episodes ran under the title This Is David Harper, but they are for all intents and purposes the same. (On this page Fry's series is referred to as S1 and Slattery's as S2; unless specified, tropes apply to both Lander and Harper equally.)
Both Lander and Harper are painfully earnest Intrepid Reporter types who pull the thread of a different story in each episode, typically placing themselves in harm's way to do so. Most of the comedy derives from the scandalously corrupt and stupid people under investigation, many of whom turn violent or simply run away when faced with a camera and a blunt question.
This series provides examples of:
- Adaptation Personality Change: In the TV series the Davids are not seriously incompetent, unlike in Delve Special where Lander would frequently misunderstand key issues.
- Badass Longcoat: David's stereotypical, beige, 'I'm-a-journalist' trenchcoat is one of the more badass things about him. And it billows magnificently when he's chasing and shouting breathlessly after a runaway interviewee.
- British Brevity: A total of twelve episodes, each running for less than half an hour.
- Child Prodigy: All Fletton's pupils in S2E1, notably nine-year-old composer and novelist Trevor Matthews. There are also many references to the Brainy Baby.
- Corrupt Politician: David's stock in trade, along with the Corrupt Corporate Executive.
- Crapsack World: David exposes an awful lot of crooks but they never seem to get their comeuppance. Played for Laughs, of course.
- Dramatic Unmask: In S2E2 when Harper removes his wig, glasses and false moustache to reveal himself to a Corrupt Corporate Executive he just successfully stung.
- Going for the Big Scoop: David has been shot at, jumped on, and smashed in the head with a plate of biscuits in his pursuit of the truth.
- Intrepid Reporter: Both Davids completely embody this trope.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Many of those who are interviewed on the show, willingly or otherwise, when trying to avoid the blame for whatever obvious misdeed they have committed.
- Red Baron: Billy 'Paving Stone' Adams."We called him Paving Stone 'cause he used to go round with a paving stone and break people's legs with it. As a term of affection, you know."
- Sound-to-Screen Adaptation: Of Delve Special
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Harper for Lander.