The Fast Show

The Fast Show
The Fast Show
Title Card for the current Web Series of The Fast Show
Title Card for the Fosters Funny Series of The Fast Show.
Format Sketch comedy
Created by Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson
Starring Paul Whitehouse
Charlie Higson
Arabella Weir
John Thomson
Caroline Aherne (1994–97, 2011)
Simon Day
Mark Williams (1994-2000)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 37 (27 Aired)
Running time 30 minutes
8 minutes approx (Web Series)
Original channel BBC One (1994-1997, 2000) (2011)
Original run 1994 – 1997
2000 (Reunion Special)
2011 (Web Series)

The Fast Show, known as Brilliant in the US, was a BBC comedy sketch show programme that ran for three series from 1994 to 1997 with a special Last Fast Show Ever in 2000. The show's central performers were Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Simon Day, Mark Williams, John Thomson, Arabella Weir and Caroline Aherne. Other significant cast members included Paul Shearer, Felix Dexter, Rhys Thomas, Jeff Harding, Maria McErlane, Eryl Maynard, Colin McFarlane and Donna Ewin.

The show produced two national tours, the first in 1998 with the cast of the BBC surrealist comedy quiz show Shooting Stars and the second being their 'Farewell Tour' in 2002. The Fast Show was loosely structured and relied on character comedy, recurring running gags, and many catchphrases. Its fast-paced "blackout" style set it apart from traditional sketch series because of the number and relative brevity of its sketches; a typical half-hour TV sketch comedy of the period might have consisted of nine or ten major items, with contrived situations and extended setups, whereas the premiere episode of The Fast Show featured twenty-seven sketches in thirty minutes,[1] with some items lasting less than ten seconds and none running longer than three minutes. Its innovative style and presentation influenced many later series such as The Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain.

It was one of the most popular sketch shows of the 1990s. The show has been released on VHS, DVD and audio CD. Some of its characters, Ron Manager, Ted and Ralph, Swiss Toni and Billy Bleach have had their own spin-off programmes.

Charlie Higson announced on 5 September 2011 that The Fast Show would return for a new online only series starting 14 November.[2] The premiere date was changed later to 10 November. [3]


Style and content

The Fast Show was the brainchild of Paul Whitehouse and his writing partner and friend, Charlie Higson (who had previously enjoyed some success in the UK as a musician with the band The Higsons). After meeting through a mutual friend (Whitehouse's longtime flatmate, guitarist and writer David Cummings) comedian Harry Enfield invited Whitehouse to write for him and Whitehouse in turn asked Higson to help him out; soon after, Enfield got his break into TV with the series Harry Enfield and Chums and became nationally famous in the UK.[1]

In the early 1990s Higson and Whitehouse worked extensively with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, writing for and performing in the series The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer and Bang Bang, It's Reeves and Mortimer (both of which Higson produced). These series also featured occasional appearances by future Fast Show cast members Caroline Aherne, Simon Day and Mark Williams. Higson made many appearances in minor roles, while Williams and Whitehouse had recurring roles (with Vic and Bob) in The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, parodying the members of rock group Slade in the popular "Slade in Residence" and "Slade on Holiday" sketches.

Inspired by a press preview tape of Enfield's show, compiled by producer friend Geoffrey Perkins and consisting of fast-cut highlights of Enfield's sketches, the pair began stockpiling material and developing the idea of a rapid-fire 'MTV generation' format based wholly on quick cuts and soundbites/catchphrases. After unsuccessfully trying to sell the series to ITV through an independent production company, Higson and Whitehouse approached the new controller of BBC2, Michael Jackson; fortunately, he was then looking for new shows to replace several high-profile series that had been recently lost to BBC1, and their show was picked up by BBC2.[1]

Whitehouse and Higson, the co-producers and main writers, then assembled the original team of writers and performers, which included David Cummings, Mark Williams, Caroline Aherne, Paul Shearer, Simon Day, Arabella Weir, John Thomson, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews (of Father Ted fame), Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Craig Cash (who went on to write and perform with Aherne in The Royle Family). Musical director Philip Pope was also an established comedy actor with extensive experience in TV and radio comedy, and had previously appeared in series such as Who Dares Wins and KYTV; he also enjoyed success as a comedy recording artist as part of the Bee Gees parody group The HeeBeeGeebees.

The Fast Show was a working title disliked by both Whitehouse and Higson but it went unchanged through production and eventually remained as the final title.[citation needed]

The first series introduced many signature characters and sketches including Ted and Ralph, Unlucky Alf, The Fat Sweaty Coppers, Ron Manager, Roy and Renée, Ken and Kenneth (The Suit You Tailors), Arthur Atkinson, Bob Fleming, Brilliant Kid, Insecure Woman, Janine Carr, Denzil Dexter, Carl Hooper, Ed Winchester, the Patagonian buskers, "Jazz Club" and the popular parody "Chanel 9".

Many characters were never given any 'official' name, with their sketches being written to give their catchphrase as the punchline of each sketch. Examples include "Anyone fancy a pint?" (played by Whitehouse), "You ain't seen me, right!" (a mysterious gangster-like character played by Mark Williams), "I'll get me coat" (Williams) and "Ha!", a sarcastic elderly woman played by Weir.

Other long-standing running jokes in the programme included the fictitious snack food "Cheesy Peas" in various different forms, shapes and flavours, in satirical adverts presented by a twangy, Northern lad (Paul Whitehouse) who claims, "They're good for your teas!"and has since become a reality thanks to UK TV chef Jamie Oliver [1]. The dire earnestness of the born-again Christian was parodied in another popular group of sketches where various characters responded to any comment or question by extolling the virtues of "Our Lord Jesus" and ended the sketch with the exclamation "He died for all our sins, didn't he?" or something similar; and most controversially, "We're from the Isle of Man", featuring a stereotype of weird, surreal, townsfolk in a setting portrayed as an abjectly impoverished and desolate cultural wasteland.

Some of the characters resembled parodies of well-known personalities: for example, Louis Balfour, host of "Jazz Club" was reminiscent of Bob Harris of The Old Grey Whistle Test[citation needed] and Ron Manager of football pundits Trevor Brooking and Graham Taylor. However, the parodic intent of this character is broader, and portrays how often football pundits have little to say of any real substance and sometimes waffle.[citation needed] Paul Whitehouse said that Ron Manager was based on ex-Luton Town & Fulham manager Alec Stock [2]. Arthur Atkinson is a composite of Arthur Askey and Max Miller.

The show ended in 2000, with a three-part "Last Ever" show, in the first episode of which Fast Show fan Johnny Depp had a guest-starring role as a customer of The Suit You Tailors, after three series and a Christmas special.

The theme tune was "Release Me", a song which had been a hit for pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck. In the first series it was performed over the opening credits by Whitehouse in the guise of abnormally transfiguring singer Kenny Valentine. In subsequent series, the tune only appeared in the closing credits, played on the saxophone.

Major characters

The show featured many characters and sketches. Some of the more prominent recurring characters/sketches are:

'Unlucky' Alf
  • 'Unlucky' Alf, the lonely old pensioner living somewhere in northern England for whom nothing ever goes right. His hook is his resigned "Oh bugger!" as something terrible happens. He often predicts a bad event that is quite obvious, only to find something else occurs as he tries to avoid the first problem. (Paul Whitehouse, all series)
  • Anyone fancy a pint? A man (Whitehouse) who find himself in boring or bizarre situations, such as a dinner party where a woman is talking about how she was abandoned as a child and crying about everyone letting her down. Whitehouse then interrupts at the most insensitive moment asking "anyone fancy a pint?", before he and most of the men in the room leave. One early sketch featured Higson portraying an earnest claymation animator (a parody of Nick Park) who describes the animation process in excruciatingly tedious detail by moving each feature "just a tiny amount" until Whitehouse's character sneaks away, whispering the punchline. According to the commentary in The Ultimate Fast Show, Nick Park loved the sketch and sent copies of it to friends and family that year as a video Xmas card.
  • Archie the pub bore. Talks to people in the pub, and when they mention their profession, no matter what it is and however unlikely, he always claims to have had the same profession ("I used to be a single mother myself"), saying that it is the 'hardest game in the world. Thirty years, man and boy!' He has an obsession with Frank Sinatra, almost invariably steering the conversation towards the singer and weakly singing the title line of "High Hopes", after mentioning how he and his friend Stan fared on a recent fishing trip. (Whitehouse, series 3)
  • Arthur Atkinson, parody of 1940s music hall entertainers such as Max Miller and Arthur Askey, played by Paul Whitehouse, introduced by Tommy Cockles (Simon Day), himself a parody of presenters of TV history, especially Denis Norden (Whitehouse, all series)
  • Billy Bleach, tousle-mopped, interfering pub know-it-all who gets it all wrong, usually ending up with others losing money. His catchphrases include "Hold the bells" and "Someone's sitting there, mate". This character starred in his own series, Grass which was shown on BBC Three, later shown on BBC Two. (Day, all series)
  • Bob Fleming, the ageing, incompetent West Country host of Country Matters, who has an extremely bad cough. The character's surname is a pun on 'phlegm-ing.' (Higson, all series) 'Country matters' is also an in-joke for those who know it is a Shakespearean euphemism for cunnilingus.
  • Brilliant Kid. In the first draft of the script for the pilot, the character was called Eric and was described as "a young Yorkshire man"[4] but in the series he is never named. He delivers an edited monologue listing everyday things, all of which he declares to be 'brilliant!' or 'fantastic!' as he walks through a series of random backgrounds (filmed in widely varied locations ranging from the Tees Valley to Iceland) during which the quality and format of the images also randomly changes (e.g. from colour to b/w). In one episode it is shown that he isn't sure about whether everything really is 'brilliant' or not, and as he's walking through one solid background, an abandoned funfair, he debates with himself half heartedly ("Everything is brilliant...right? I might not be...nah, it is!") (Whitehouse, all series)
  • Carl Hooper, Australian presenter of That's Amazing, a spoof of pop-science shows. Normally the person on his show was trying to pass off an everyday animal or object as something magical. The one occasion where a guest had a truly amazing story to tell was unbroadcastable due to the guest's inability to refrain from swearing excitedly while relating the tale (Day, all series)
  • Chanel 9, a low-budget television channel from a country known only as "Republicca", ruled by "El Presidente" who resembled a stereotypical Latin American dictator. Chanel 9 parodied the sort of programmes that British people end up watching on holiday around the Mediterranean. The stars, usually Paul Whitehouse, Paul Shearer and Caroline Aherne, speak a concocted language loosely based on Italian, Greek, Spanish and Portuguese, mashed together with nonsensical phrases (e.g. "sminky pinky") and incongruous English names and words (e.g. footballer Chris Waddle). Early segments featured the Chanel 9 news, read by anchormen Poutremos Poutra-Poutremos (Whitehouse) and Kolothos Apollonia (Shearer), followed by the weather forecast with meteorologist Poula Fisch (Aherne), invariably reporting a temperature for all locations of 45 °C (113 °F) while exclaiming "scorchio!" with apparent surprise. Sporting news was presented by Antonios Gubba - whose name is based on the commentator Tony Gubba - (Simon Day), seated at a much lower desk and talking with a low voice. Later Chanel 9 sketches consisted of several short segments, usually interspersed with parodic advertisements for the ubiquitous "Gizmo" a bizarre mechanical product which could be used with equal efficacy in the kitchen, garden or bedroom. Other Chanel 9 programmes, including a cartoon, a current affairs discussion, a quiz show, a soap opera ("El Amora Y El Passionna") and a variety series, were added in later sketches. Key catchphrases included the Republiccan greeting and farewell, "Bono estente" and "Boutros Boutros-Ghali" (the name of the then UN Secretary-General).
  • Chip Cobb, the deaf stuntman, a TV and film stuntman who, because of his hearing problems, always mishears his instructions and proceeds to carry them out wrongly before anyone can stop him, much to the despair of the film crew. (Thomson, series 3)
  • Chris the Crafty Cockney, claims to be an incurable kleptomaniac ("I'll nick anything, me"). He is left alone with something valuable and invariably steals it. Because of how up-front he is of his thieving nature, other people tend to believe he's joking. In one sketch, he even alludes to being an actual clinical kleptomaniac and involuntarily steals from his friend Dan after he trusts Chris to watch his newspaper stall, after extensively warning him of the risks involved in doing so. (Whitehouse, series 2–3)
  • Colin Hunt, unfunny and irritating office joker whose name gives an indication of his personality (Higson, series 2–3)
  • Competitive Dad, who is overcritical and demanding of his kids, and always has to get one up on them. (Day, series 2–3). Day explained in an interview that he had based the idea for the character from a man he noticed in a public swimming pool that challenged his two young children to a race. Day thought he'd let them win, but instead he took off and stood on the other end of the pool waiting for his toddler sons to struggle their way across the pool. He (Day) thought of it as "sick".
  • Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior, a classic Essex geezer who, despite his get-up and rather lavish lifestyle, is improbably concerned about saving the planet (though this is often undermined by his wife's behaviour), Mike Oldfield records, and swinging. A parody of a late-night magazine programme presented by Mike Reid. "Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield & Maggie Reilly is used as the theme tune to sketches featuring the character (Day, series 3)
  • Professor Denzil Dexter of the University of Southern California and his various bizarre scientific experiments, long-haired and highly laid-back. (Thomson, series 1–2)
  • The 13th Duke of Wymbourne, posh, rumpled dinner-jacketed, lecherous cigar smoker, reminisces about finding himself in wholly unsuitable places considering his 'reputation'. Based on the characters of Terry-Thomas. (Whitehouse, series 3)
  • Ed Winchester, an American reporter. He beams at the camera and says "Hi! I'm Ed Winchester!" in a very upbeat voice, before the camera cuts to another scene. In his last appearance in Series 2 he appears to have been cut off as he then mentions Jesus straight after introducing himself. (Jeff Harding).
  • Even Better Than That!, a slack-jawed, not too bright man who comes back from the shops with something ridiculously unnecessary instead of what his wife sent him for (Williams, series 3)
  • The Fat, Sweaty Coppers A squad of police officers who cannot do their job properly as they are extremely overweight due to their constant eating and drinking.(Thomson and Weir included, series 1-2)
  • Gideon Soames, white-haired, posh-talking architecture and history professor, possibly a cross between Simon Schama & Brian Sewell, with some elements of Bamber Gascoigne. Despite the serious tone of his speeches, the "history" of them becomes increasingly ridiculous. (Day series 2–3)
  • Giggly Woman, a woman who seems very confident until a man she likes enters the room, and then goes all childish, as if she fancies him. The character debuted in series 1 during a small segment in the credits, but only became a recurring character later on. (Weir, series 3)
  • The Historian, a jubilant, but emotionally imbalanced man who patrols the corridors of an historic boys academy alone whilst telling tall tales about former traditions both cruel and unreasonable. (Williams, series 3)
  • I'll Get Me Coat, a socially inept Brummie, who is unable to make any appropriate contribution to a conversation, and therefore disgraces himself with a faux pas before using the punchline and leaving (Williams, all series)
  • I'm not Pissed, a family - mother (Maria McErlane), father (Williams) and son (Day) - who are regularly pointing out that they are not drunk despite the fact they are taking regular swigs from gin bottles, beer cans etc. (series 2)
  • Insecure Woman, who appears in a variety of different locations, usually exclaiming, "Does my bum look big in this?" (Weir, all series)
  • Invisible Woman, who tries to converse with a group of men but is completely ignored, only for a man to repeat what she said and receive congratulations from the others for such a good idea. (Weir)
  • Jesse, a taciturn country bumpkin who exclaims his strange diets, fashion tastes and experiments, in a single sentence "This week, I 'ave been mostly..." - except for one sketch, where he said "This week, I 'aven't been 'ungry." (Williams, series 2–3)
  • John Actor, who plays Inspector Monkfish, the tough uncompromising cop who often exclaims to the nearest woman, "Put your knickers on and make me a cup of tea!" (Day, series 2–3). Loosely based on the BBC series Dangerfield. There were variations on the show's format, two examples being Monkfish as a tough, uncompromising doctor in Monkfish M.D. and Monkfish as a tough, uncompromising vet in All Monkfish Great and Small. One Monkfish sketch even crossed over onto Chanel 9. Sometime between the end of series 3 and the last episode, John Actor died yet the series is apparently continuing in the manner of Taggart after the death of the lead actor.
  • Johnny Nice Painter, who is painting a scene and describing all the colours. Whenever he mentions the colour "black", however, he becomes more and more depressed, eventually going somewhat insane and shouting wildly about the despair of mankind, despite the best efforts of his wife Katie (Weir) to prevent him from doing so. His appearance is based on TV painter Alwyn Crawshaw (Higson, series 3)
  • Ken and Kenneth, two tailors in a men's formal wear shop, who bombard potential customers with sexually explicit innuendo about their private life, frequently interjecting the catchphrase "Ooh! Suit you sir!", much to the discomfort of the customer. They become confused and even frightened in two episodes; one when they get a customer who is gay, and another with a customer (played by Day) who is as willing to talk about sexual deviance as they are. Due to Williams absence from the online series, his character Kenneth will be written out and replaced by a new one played by Charlie Higson. (Whitehouse and Williams: 1,2,3, and Whitehouse and Higson: online specials)
  • Louis Balfour, pretentious and ultra laid-back presenter of Jazz Club (a parody of The Old Grey Whistle Test), based on a blend of Bob Harris and Roger Moore. He also has a remarkable similarity to Geoffrey Smith, presenter of Jazz Record Requests on Radio 3. Seemingly having done his 'research', he introduces his guests by comparing them to avant-garde jazz musicians or describing their style/technique by using complex musical phraseology. These guests usually turn out to be utterly talentless 'experimentalists', much to his bemusement. His catchphrase "Nice!" was delivered by turning to a different camera for that word only. Later he delivered other words in a similar manner. (Thomson, series 2–3, online series)
  • Luvvie an over-the-top thespian describes his character and mentions that he needs to spend hours being made up when he is actually done in a few seconds (Thomson, series 3)
  • Monster Monster, a vampire who creeps up to a sleeping woman and gives her betting advice (Whitehouse, series 3). The set-up is a parody of a scene from the 1922 German classic horror film Nosferatu, while the vampire's voice and catchphrase of "Monster, monster" are based on Eric Hall.
  • No Offence, a rude, orange-faced South African department store cosmetics saleswoman who has no qualms about informing women of their physical imperfections, seemingly oblivious to the fact that she looks like a dried-out old orange herself. (Weir, series 3)
  • "Our" Janine Carr, teenage mum with a unique world outlook. She refuses to reveal who the father of her baby is because "it's not fair to grass on your headmaster" (Aherne, series 1–2)
  • The Offroaders, Simon and Lindsey, despite their unusually high confidence and esteem, are useless at their hobby ("sorted!", "gripped!"). (Higson and Whitehouse, all series)
  • Patrick Nice, a man who tells far-fetched, sometimes odd stories followed by him calmingly saying his catchphrase, "Which was nice." (Williams, series 2–3)
  • Prawn Sandwich Man, a man who seems to talk a lot about football as if a true Arsenal supporter, but makes it glaringly obvious he knows nothing about the game (Thomson, series 3)
  • Ron Manager, a football commentator who speaks in incoherent sentence fragments on randomly divergent trains of thought. He usually appears with interviewer (Day) and fellow commentator Tommy (Williams), and whenever a question is posed to Tommy, Ron Manager often begins one of his nonsensical train-of-thoughts based on one of the words or names in the question. Based on former football manager from the 60s and 70s, Alec Stock.[5] (Whitehouse: all tv and online series)
  • Rowley Birkin QC, a retired barrister, tells mostly unintelligible stories at the fireside. Occasionally, his speech becomes coherent for a short while, containing strange phrases such as "The whole thing was made completely out of matchsticks" or "Snake! Snake!". Almost always ends his stories with a sly "I'm afraid I was very, very drunk!" In the final episode of series 2, his rambling anecdote appeared to involve a woman for whom he had great affection and ended with a close-up of faint tears on his cheeks, while the usual "very drunk" line was delivered in an unexpectedly moving, sorrowful voice. . The character is reprised as a working barrister in the spin-off feature Ted and Ralph. Whitehouse revealed on the UK chatshow Parkinson that the character was based on Andrew Rollo whom he met on a fishing trip to Iceland; Rollo appeared in the Fast Show documentary, which revealed how closely Rowley's speech resembled that of his real-life inspiration. At the end of a Christmas episode the caption revealed that he died. "Rowley Birkin QC 1918 - 2000", however despite this on-screen demise he will appear in the 2011 online specials.(Whitehouse, tv series 2–3, and online series)
  • Roy & Renée, endless chattering from Renée and her quiet, submissive husband Roy, whom she expects to meekly agree with everything she says. Roy always embarrasses her at the end of every sketch, after which he gets a stinging reprimand from his wife. She makes her last appearance in the show during the 1996 Christmas Special, when Roy's mother finally gives in to holding back the resentment towards Renée's smug attitude. (Thomson and Aherne, series 1–2)
  • Rubbish Dad, the father and opposite of Brilliant Kid who proclaims everything to be "rubbish". He is usually only seen in an industrial scrapheap area. The one thing he does like is Des Lynam. (Thomson, all series)
  • The Shags, a child-less couple who are seen in the midst of very graphic sexual intercourse, much to the discomfort of their neighbours. Among other things they were seen at it in a tent in a sports shop, in a tree in the park and even on a bed being carried by removal men as they moved into the neighbourhood.
  • Swiss Toni, a car salesman who compares everything to seducing and making love to a beautiful woman, usually in the presence of his bemused trainee Paul (Rhys Thomas). This was also the title of a short-lived spin-off sitcom, featuring Toni in the car dealership which he worked. Swiss is the only non-original character in the show. He had previously appeared in the second series of The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer in 1995, which was produced by Higson and featured cameos from many members of The Fast Show. (Higson: tv series 3 and online)
  • Ted & Ralph – country squire Lord Ralph Mayhew attempts to strike-up an intimate relationship with his introverted Irish estate worker Ted, by way of subtle romantic/erotic subtexts in his conversations with him (Whitehouse and Higson, all series). This was also the title of a one-off, hour-long spin-off feature, reprising the characters, with cameos from a few other characters as well. (Higson and Whitehouse: all tv and online series)
  • "You ain't seen me: right?" - An unknown traveller who is probably a criminal who says "You ain't seen me: right?" to some minor characters in the show and sometimes the viewer of the show. He comes up in the show in various locations and is at one point on Chanel 9 Neus sitting in the sports reporter's seat. He is also seen in the background when the "Brilliant" Kid walks past talking about the usual things.
  • Inept Zookeeper - a zookeeper who is frightened and/or disgusted by virtually every aspect of his job (cleaning up elephant dung, feeding the penguins, etc.) and is thus rendered unable to perform his tasks properly. (Williams, series 3)

In popular culture

  • When the programme was shown on BBC America it was renamed 'Brilliant' to avoid confusion with an American programme of the same name.
  • Arabella Weir later turned Insecure Woman into Jackie Payne, heroine of her novel Does My Bum Look Big in This?
  • An American journalist called Ed Winchester was part of NBC's team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. BBC reporter John Inverdale got him to say, 'Hi, I'm Ed Winchester' during rowing coverage on 11 August.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, when Jack Sparrow is talking to the two soldiers and comments "And then they made me their chief", he is quoting Rowley Birkin. In the scene where Jack Sparrow is first captured by the pirates, he attempts to leave, saying "I'll get me coat", but this was later cut and can be found in the deleted scenes. He also repeatedly quotes Unlucky Alf by saying "Bugger". Johnny Depp is a fan of the show and had a cameo role as a customer browsing the Suit You tailors shop in the farewell special .
  • In 2009, the Scottish rock band Carnivores released the single 'John Actor Is Monkfish' in reference to the many faces of John Actor.
  • In 2010, chef Jamie Oliver advertised his forthcoming cookery series (examining the cuisine of several European/Mediterranean countries) speaking in the made-up language used by Chanel 9 news.

Filming locations

Unusually for a sketch show, a significant proportion of The Fast Show was shot externally. During the early series much of this filming was done around the Tees Valley, Yorkshire Dales and Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. Locations include:

  • Ashington, Northumberland – at least two scenes involving Unlucky Alf and one involving Brilliant Kid were filmed on Station Road.
  • Aske Hall – Background in early Ted & Ralph scenes
  • Darlington – 'The Running Family' were shown around various locations in the town centre, including The Cornmill Centre. Darlington was the childhood home of Jim Moir (Vic Reeves) whose longterm comedy partner Bob Mortimer was one of the writers. The Cornmill and The High Street with scenes involving Brilliant Kid.
  • Durham – The market place with scenes involving Brilliant Kid
  • Hartlepool – One Unlucky Alf scene saw him sat in the empty Rink End Stand of Hartlepool United's ground, Victoria Park. Also, one Ed Winchester scene is in front of the Mill House Stand. Some of the Brilliant Kid scenes were also fimed at nearby Seal Sands.
  • Keld, North Yorkshire – The campsite used in a Dave Angel scene
  • Langley Park – Railway Street is used in Unlucky Alf scenes
  • Middlesbrough – docks used in 'hard of hearing stuntman' scenes, scene on Transporter Bridge as well as the Riverside Stadium
  • Newcastle upon Tyne – including the 'Shore Leave' sketch, the scene where Chris the Crafty Cockney steals the woman's suitcases (shot in Newcastle Central station), and some of the Sir Geoffrey Norman MP sketches, such as the one where he is pulled over by a policeman for speeding and the one where he refuses to pay the taxi driver after getting out of the car (shot outside the main entrance to Newcastle Central station), one Ed Winchester scene is near Monument station. One scene from the Brilliant Kid showed him in Exhibition Park in Newcastle upon Tyne. Many scenes involving Janine Carr, filmed in greyscale, used the backdrop of the concrete flyover and underpasses of the junction of the A167(M) and the B1318 of the Great North Road in Jesmond. A few scenes were filmed inside the Newcastle City Library (which has now been demolished and a new Library building has replaced it).
  • Richmond – The market place in Ted & Ralph's trip to the shops
  • Scotch Corner – Garage used in Swiss Toni's early scenes
  • Seaton Carew - One "You ain't seen me right?" scene sees the main character sat on a child's ride in one of the seafront amusement arcades.
  • The Spanish City, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear – a number of scenes involving Brilliant Kid
  • Stockton On Tees, Swiss Toni scenes, filmed at a car showroom on Norton Road.

Also for the third series the production extended abroad:

  • Iceland – Scenes with Brilliant Kid and Billy Bleach were shot with volcanic landscapes, waterfalls and hot springs in the background.

Where are the cast now?

  • Paul Whitehouse has appeared in two successful sitcoms since the end of the show, performed in the third Harry Potter film (although his role was cut), and voiced characters in the Tim Burton films Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland. He also appeared in the BBC sketch show Harry and Paul, starring alongside Harry Enfield once again.[6]
  • Charlie Higson has continued to work as an award-winning author (having written a series of "Young Bond" spy novels), starred in the Fast Show spin-off sitcom Swiss Toni, and remains enthusiastic about the show's success.
  • Caroline Aherne quit The Fast Show after the third series. With her then partner Craig Cash she co-created, co-wrote and co-starred in the BAFTA-award winning BBC comedy series The Royle Family, which premiered in 1998. Her struggles with clinical depression and alcoholism have been widely covered in the UK tabloid press, and after the end of her relationship with Cash she briefly moved to Australia and announced that she would no longer appear on television. She has largely shunned the limelight and has made few TV appearances since 2000 but she returned to television comedy in October 2006, co-writing and starring in a one-off special episode of The Royle Family, followed by three others annually from 2008 to 2010.
  • Arabella Weir co-starred in the 2003 comedy mini-series Posh Nosh with Richard E. Grant, continues to appear on the show Grumpy Old Women and has written two novels.
  • Simon Day appears in Powergen adverts as a decidedly Dave Angel, Eco-Warrior-like character. He has also appeared in Fast Show spin-offs Grass (featuring Billy Bleach) and Swiss Toni, and also made an appearance in Run Fatboy Run. He has recently appeared with Paul Whitehouse in the comedy show Harry and Paul.
  • John Thomson continues to appear on British television, including major roles in Blackpool and Cold Feet. He stated in October 2005 that he longed for a Fast Show movie. He is currently appearing in popular soap opera Coronation Street as a love interest for Eileen Grimshaw. In 2009, he appeared in 'Big Top' which was screened on BBC One, playing a clown.
  • Mark Williams has become internationally known thanks to his recurring role as Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter films. He continues to act and write his own material and has presented a documentary series titled Mark Williams' Big Bangs on the history of explosives, a follow-on to previous series Mark Williams on the Rails, and Industrial Revelations.
  • in 2000 Charlie Higson, Arabella Weir, Simon Day and Fast Show supporting cast members Rhys Thomas (Paul in the Swiss Toni sketches) and Tony Way were reunited in the "Paranoia" episode of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), starring Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer

Down the Line

In 2006, Higson and Whitehouse produced and starred in Down the Line, a spoof phone-in show for BBC Radio 4. The show also featured many of the regular Fast Show cast, including Simon Day, Arabella Weir, Rhys Thomas and Felix Dexter. Further series were broadcast in 2007, 2008 and 2011. A follow-on TV series, Bellamy's People, was broadcast in 2010.

The future

Speaking on the BBC Two show Something for the Weekend on 9 September 2007, Higson mentioned the upcoming DVD boxed set release and that a reunion of some sort to help promote it was being considered. This took place at The Dominion Theatre in London on Sunday 4 November, and was a collection of some new sketches, videos of cast favourites and performances of classic sketches (including the return of Ed Winchester). Higson and Whitehouse stated they were working on a film script which would feature the Fast Show team, but wouldn't have any of the characters from the show. A new online only series has been comissioned in a sponsorship deal with Foster's Lager and is due to air 14 November 2011; the trailer having been released on the 9th of November on Foster's YouTube Channel[7] [8] New episodes will feature the original cast with the exception of Mark Williams who declined involvement in the project.[9]


Numerous Fast Show DVDs are available including :

  • The Fast Show : Series 1 (includes cast interviews with Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson, Arabella Weir and Mark Williams)
  • The Fast Show : Series 2
  • The Fast Show : Series 3 and 1996 Christmas Special
  • The Fast Show : The Last Fast Show Ever, Part One
  • The Fast Show Live
  • The Fast Show Farewell Tour
  • A 7 DVD box set, The Ultimate Fast Show Collection, was released in the UK on 5 November 2007, which compiled nearly all their material, except the two live DVD releases and their spin-off series/specials.

You Ain't Seen These, Right!

You Ain't Seen These, Right! was a one-off programme, shown during BBC Two's Fast Show Night, featuring various sketches which were filmed but did not make it onto the final show. Some of these were:

  • An ensemble series of sketches made by the whole male team, as members of a golf club, in which Charlie Higson's character was dating a beautiful young woman. The rest of the team are initially dismissive of him as a sad old man, but cannot help gawking over her, until Paul Whitehouse's character blurts out to her similarly young and attractive friend "Can I come over your tits?"
  • A chain-smoking car driver played by Mark Williams who rants about anything and everything through his wound-down window. A study of road rage. "Shoe shop?! Shoe Shop?!". He drives around in Harlesden, London.
  • A medieval king played by Simon Day, who 'loves being king' because he gets to boss everyone about.
  • A middle aged man, played by John Thomson, who always finds an excuse to leave the room as soon as the conversation gets round to "women's things."
  • A Paul Whitehouse character who responds to almost every question, accusation and situation with the phrase "Sorry, but I was up all night, shagging."

These sketches are included in the UK edition of the boxed VHS videotape set of Series 3, and also on the 7 disc Ultimate Fast Show DVD box set.


  1. ^ a b c Dewhurst, Keith (2007), "The Fast Show - A Personal View" (notes for The Ultimate Fast Show Collection DVD set, BBC)
  2. ^!/monstroso/status/110748812594790400
  3. ^
  4. ^ liner notes to The Ultimate Fast Show Collection, (BBC, 2007)
  5. ^}}
  6. ^ Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse's page on
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

External links

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