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Series / Up Pompeii

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1970s British sitcom ostensibly about the humorous misadventures of a Roman slave, Lurcio, before Vesuvius erupted. In reality, it was merely a vehicle for comedian and actor Frankie Howerd, who would frequently drop out of character to speak to the audience and complain about the quality of the scripts, plots, acting and even the audience themselves.

Based on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, itself based on the Roman comedies of Plautus and Terence, which were in turn based on the Greek New Comedy of Menander.

The series got a film adaptation in 1971. The film was followed by two sequels, Up the Chastity Belt and Up the Front, which also starred Howerd and relocated the setting to Medieval England and World War I France respectively.


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This show provides examples of:

  • Acting for Two: One episode centres around an assassination attempt on Caesar - who coincidentally looks exactly like Lurcio, Naturally, Frankie Howerd does not miss a single opportunity to lampshade this and is constantly stepping out of character to comment on his own incredible acting skills in playing two different characters.invoked
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Lurcio/Howerd's asides to the audience.
  • British Brevity: Only 13 regular episodes were ever made (2 series), plus a pilot and two (much) later one-off episodes. Is an unusually concentrated example even for this trope, as all 13 aired within a single year, 1970. The second series was made and broadcast just four months after the first.
  • Catchphrase:
    • Several, most enduringly "Titter ye not", as Lurcio would admonish the audience after another Double Entendre.
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    • And "The Prologue" (which he never quite finishes, and sometimes barely starts).
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Frankie Howerd would constantly upbraid the audience for the dirty spin they would put on supposedly perfectly innocent lines.
  • Identical Grandson: At least two canonical examples — Sir Lurkalot in Up the Chastity Belt, and Mr. Lurk in Up the Front — and an implied third, namely the museum curator in the present-day epilogue of the Up Pompeii film.
  • Kill 'Em All: With the ultimate fate of Pompeii being well-known to most people, and the increased budget afforded by being a theatrical film, there was really no way The Movie was going to end in any way other than Pompeii's destruction, and consequently the death of most, if not all of the characters. Though they did at least add in a Distant Finale with Frankie Howerd playing a museum curator to hint at the extreme off-chance that Lurcio may have somehow escaped.
  • The Movie: Which replaced nearly all of the cast, barring Frankie Howerd, with different actors.
  • Running Gag: Lurcio's inability to finish his prologue.
  • Servile Snarker: Lurcio
  • Slave Galley: In The Movie, Frankie has a Have We Met? moment with another slave. He doesn't recognize the other guy at first, and the other guy only realizes when he sees the back of his head. He sat behind him in the galley, so that's all he saw of him for all those years, but he would recognize it anywhere after that.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: Nausius's odes.

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