The return of Danger Mouse
Time to hit the reboot button; Danger Mouse is back, exploding on to our screens in a series of brand new adventures.
If you thought ‘what does that have to do with comedy?’ Well you’re an idiot, my friend, as the show is not only firmly established as a comedy classic, but it features a cast so impeccably chosen, that you can’t deny its funny pedigree. With Alexander Armstrong, Kevin Eldon, Morwenna Banks, Stephen Fry, Dave Lamb and John Oliver among the cast, it’s a who’s who of people who make other people laugh.
To celebrate the return of everyone’s favourite spy (I would have said ‘rodent’ but it’d be a close call with Super Secret, Secret Squirrel) I thought I’d take a look at children’s shows that feature a significant influence from the grown up world of comedy.
So set your phasers to nostalgia and step back with me… (Cue wibbly flashback music)
Maid Marian and her Merry Men
A classic for anyone growing up with 90s TV, Maid Marian and Her Merry Men or Blackadder Jr. was an inspired show. Recreating the ridiculous and quick fire humour of Tony Robinson’s more grown up work, he successfully translated the same strong combination to a brilliantly funny children’s show. Extra points also, for featuring The Cat himself, Danny John Jules. And that theme tune, woah!
Tony Robinson also contributed to Nellie the Elephant but, you know, we don’t need to talk about Nellie.
We can’t not mention DM, can we? While the reboot features an incredibly strong cast of comic genii, the original and smaller ensemble of David Jason, Terry Scott and Edward Kelsey are a tough act to follow. Voicing so many great characters and helping to sell the show’s irreverence with aplomb, the cast gelled perfectly with Cosgrove Hall’s exceptional approach to animation, creating a cult comedy classic.
Not strictly a kids show, but definitely for all the family, the only man that manages to be unbeatable hilarious with both his expressions and his voice, Rowan Atkinson’s creation is loved around the world. Developed with Richard Curtis, Robin Driscoll and Howard Goodall, the character is not around as often these days but he is enjoying a bit of a renaissance on CITV at the moment, with his animated series.
Another Cosgrove Hall masterpiece and a Danger Mouse spin-off, Count Duckula is very much the Robin’s Nest of children’s TV. David Jason reprises his role for yet another sterling performance as a fame-obsessed vegetarian vampire duck. And they say Daniel Day Lewis has range. The show recaptures much of Cosgrove Hall’s brilliance with another outstanding theme tune by master comic musician Mike Harding.
My Parents are Aliens
In my view, this is an underappreciated gem, not least because I was an extra on a couple of episodes. I might be biased but if you ask me the supporting artists provided exceptionally nuanced performances. Featuring the exceptional comic chops of Tony Gardner, Barbra Durkin and Carla Mendonça – Gardner in particular playing am inept character worthy of Baldrick, Manuel and Father Dougal – it was for many kids of a generation the first real taste of sitcom. The quality is not surprising considering the fact that Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong, Joanna Scanlan and Fay Rusling were among the writers. We were spoilt.
Do Not Adjust Your Set
Featuring so many of the people who went on to make Monty Python, this is less a precursor and more a first draft. Brining Palin, Jones, Gilliam and Idle together with David Jason – who’s quickly becoming the star of this article – and the underrated Denise Coffey, the show features the same surreal humour pretty much undiluted for kids. And any show that has The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band providing a soundtrack, is doing something right.
Sorry I’ve Got No Head
Sketch shows might be regrettably few and far between at the moment, but it’s crazy to think that this show – with its stellar line up of comics – was reserved for kids. Lucky buggers. With Marcus Bridgstocke, David Armand, James Bachman, Fergus Craig, Anna Crilly, Justin Edwards, Mel Giedroyc and Nick Mohammed amongst the cast, those brats really were spoilt for choice.
A show that most people remember from childhood, but less remembered is that music/comedy impresario Neil Innes was at the centre of it all. Off the back of his work with the aforementioned Bonzo Dog Band and Pythons, Innes turned his musical prowess to writing the show, voicing every character and composing the iconic theme tune. Not his only foray into kid’s TV, but certainly his most loved.
All together now, “It’s not much of a life when you’re just a pretty face…”
The Horrible Histories books were a proper shot of comedy to what could often be boring history lessons. The TV show managed to transfer this perfectly to screen, knowing the best way of doing that was to leave it up to funny people who excel at what they do. The success speaks for itself and the release of the H.H teams new film, Bill, proves they’re still flying high.
I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a comedy show; nevertheless it managed to introduce a slew of great to comedians to kids too young to appreciate it. Like Melvin and Maureen’s Music A Grams playing Slipknot, the show brought anarchic minds like Rik Mayall, Spike Milligan and Michael Palin right to children’s’ TV sets, alongside other comedy icons like Kathy Burke, Victoria Wood, Peter Seller and Bernard Cribbins. And for that, it must be applauded.
Feel free to share any other examples. Or check out Danger Mouse on CBBC and iPlayer.