“When I say my pussy, I really mean my…”
Ah, Filthy Rich & Catflap. Destined forever to be seen as “that one between The Young Ones and Bottom that wasn’t nearly as good as either”. Even the blurb on the back of the DVD box can’t resist bookending with the comparisons; it starts with
Concieved by Rik Mayall and Ben Elton as a natural successor to The Young Ones, and ends with
Filthy, Rich & Catflap’s legacy lasted for years however, in the form of the brilliantly funny, if just a little more violent, Bottom. It’s unfair that the series is always judged in the shadow of these series; so I thought I’d get it out of the way now. It’s just as good as Young Ones, and possibly slightly better than Bottom. Happy?
However, the back cover does give a good synopsis of the series. “Filthy, Rich & Catflap is a tale of Richie Rich, talentless and unheard of television personality along with Ralph Filthy, his useless, sponging agent, and Eddie Catflap, his alcoholic minder”. First shown between 7th Jan – 11th Feb 1987 (on BBC TWO at 9:25pm, if you need to know), it was released on BBC video in the nineties, but has since been deleted; it has now been released in glorious DVD by Universal Playback. (There was also a VHS version listed on their website, but it has since disappeared; presumably, they didn’t think there was enough market any more.) The packinging is OK; quite a nice cover, with only an appalling quality picture of Edmonson on the back spoiling things. The great thing about the name of the show is that Nigel Planer is credited first, as he plays Ralph Filthy; as it’s the best thing I’ve seen him do by miles, this is rather fitting.
Having not watched a Universal Playback DVD before, it is a somewhat weird experience to see a BBC 80s comedy show prefixed with the famous Universal globe. It’s nice to see that Playback have their own quite understated but nonetheless lovely ident as well; I’m sick of shitty idents at the start of some DVDs. Network’s isn’t that great, and Eureka’s makes me want to vomit.
Into the menus, then. They’re actually quite nicely designed: a lovely montage of clips from the show, along with the passport photos from the credits (which keep changing, obviously). Unfortunately, the effect is rather spoilt by the rather ugly comic-sans-alike font used for the text. I can see what they were trying to do (echo the series logo), but it just doesn’t work; it makes the thing look slightly cheap, in the wrong way. Full marks for using the correct logo, mind you.
If you’re wondering why I’m spending so long rather boringly dissecting the packaging, idents, and menus, it’s because a) I’m a cunt, and b) your fears have been confirmed – there are no other extras at all on the disc, bar the obligatory subtitles. Not even a half-baked photo gallery, or boring biblography, or pointless weblink – zilch. This is rather a shame, obviously. Even if no deleted scenes/outtakes/rushes material exists (is any known of?) there are still loads of things you could potentially do; documentaries, or commentaries. Budget is the issue here, of course.
However, something could have gone on it, surely. One thing that definitely does still exist is the end continuity announcement for the last episode, in which a series 2 is announced. Wouldn’t have taken up much space, and would have been a nice addition. Or here’s the nice one: production subtitles, like on the Who or HHGTTG DVDs; giving details of additional cast, shooting dates, on-set anecdotes, and the like. It still would have cost money both to write and implement, but it would be a relatively cheap way of adding lots of extra value to the disc.
Onto the series itself, then. I won’t go into huge detail; that’s Flangelog’s job. (The amount of DVD reviews that list episode synopsi, without even an opinion on the episodes, in place of actually reviewing the disc, is shocking.) But it’s wonderful. I genuinely have no idea what Lewisohn is on about when he says that the show
displayed signs of the strain and anguish that, reportedly, dogged the show’s gestation; I find it pretty hard to criticise the show in any way, and even when I do it feels like nitpicking. In particular, the constant breaking of the fourth wall that could in other hands be annoying and lazy is a joy; precisely because they can do the conventional stuff amusingly as well. And the ending to the series is so gloriously wonderful, so perfectly encapsulates all that has gone before it, that I won’t ruin it for you; but it’s possibly my favourite ending to a sitcom ever. All of you who think Series VII is funny: just watch this. Any time Adrian Edmondson looks at the camera I just go off into hysterics. The series is incredibly well produced, as well; the start and end title sequences are marvellous (both the music and visuals), the special effects (Peter Wragg) are great, and the sets (Mel Bibby) are amazing; I won’t spoil it, but just look out for the background detail, particuarly in the main living room set.
One thing that has to be mentioned is the little disclaimer on the back: “For contractual reasons certain edits have been made”. This is PRS stuff; song/music rights, in other words. Interestingly, Richie’s ‘Morning has Broken’ at the start of first episode is intact, wheras it wasn’t for the 90s video release. However, all of the Oliver! songs in the last episode are cut, as they were on the video. I’ll do a proper list of all this stuff at some point, if someone else doesn’t do it first.
At the very major risk of a cliche, at £9.99 from Play for such a great show, how can you go wrong? Of course, with every risk, there’s also the possibility of failure…