The Fast Show Wiki

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

The show had two national tours: The Fast Show Live in 1998, with the cast of the BBC spoof quiz show Shooting Stars and the second called "The Fast Show - Farewell Tour" in 2002. The Fast Show loosely relies on catchphrases, long-running gags, and character comedy, which influenced shows such as The Catherine Tate Show and Little Britain.

How it all began[]

It was in 1977 when two young punks by the names of Paul Whitehouse and Charlie Higson met at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. They spent most of their time performing in their band, the Right Hand Lovers. However, the band collapsed the following year when Whitehouse was ejected from the university and ended up on a council estate in Hackney.

Meanwhile, Higson continued his studies and graduated in 1980. By this time he and three others, including Dave Cummings, a future member of the Fast Show team, had formed another band, the Higsons, of which Charlie (or 'Switch', as he liked to be known) was the lead singer. They had some success, their debut single 'I Don't Wanna Live with Monkeys' reaching #15 in the charts, but they disbanded in 1986, when Higson opted for the safety of being a painter and decorator. He ended up on the same estate as his old friend Whitehouse and an up-and-coming comedian, Harry Enfield.

The trio would meet down the pub and try to make each other laugh. Enfield performed characters and sketches in the local comedy circuit and, in 1987, was asked to perform his kebab shop owner Stavros on Saturday Night Live. Enfield recruited his pub-mate Whitehouse to write for him. However, he did not see himself as a natural writer,and asked Higson, who had a word processor, to help him. And so a beautiful partnership was born.

Stavros and another Whitehouse-Higson creation, Loadsamoney, became hugely popular and Paul and Charlie suddenly found themselves as overnight comedy sensations. They decided to pursue this path, and wrote a series of sitcom pilots- including 'Dead at Thirty', which featured their future colleague Mark Williams in the main role- which all bombed. So Whitehouse and Higson went back to Enfield asking for work. As it turned out, Enfield had just been given his own BBC show. Therefore, the duo became prominent writers on 'Harry Enfield's Television Programme'. Whitehouse also performed many famous characters and vastly becoming a star, although he never saw himself as an actor.

However, he and Higson were becoming frustrated and wanted to create a show of their own, but were unsure as to what approach they should take. Then, in 1993, at the launch of the new series of Harry Enfield's television Programme, producer Geoffrey Perkins compiled a five-minute collection of the highlights of the new series for the press. This inspired Whitehouse and Higson, who believed that the comedy sketch show was too slow and was in danger of fading away amongst other genres of media, and a fast-paced show for the 'MTV generation' was needed to revive the art.

They told Perkins and he was enthusiastic about the idea, but the bosses at the BBC were less so. So, Perkins helped the duo polish up their script and they pitched it to London Weekend Television, who liked the idea. However, they disagreed with Whitehouse and Higson's view that it should not be 'the Paul Whitehouse Show' and that they should assemble an ensemble cast of relative unknowns. So, they went back to the BBC, who appeared to have a change of heart. In December 1993 the programme was commissioned under the working title 'The Fast Show' (which was disliked by both creators but remained the title because, according to Whitehouse, 'we either couldn't be bothered or weren't talented enough to think of another one.')

Style and content[]

The first series introduced characters such as Unlucky Alf, Billy Bleach, Bob Fleming, Ken and Kenneth (The "Suit You" Tailors), Ted and Ralph, Ron Manager, Arthur Atkinson and many others, who, despite their sketchy and gritty beginnings, became the 'cult characters' and cherished all around the world. However, the reaction to series one was muted at best; the show was panned by critics and a ratings flop, and it was in danger of being cancelled. However, Perkins managed to convince the BBC to give it another chance, and they grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

The show's style completely changed for the second and third series. series. Instead of sticking to the philosophy of always being fast, they branched out included more traditional sketches, which allowed them to further explore their characters, creating new characters such as Rowley Birkin QC, Jazz Club, Patrick Nice, Jesse, Competitive Dad, Chris the Crafty Cockney and Colin Hunt, who became immensely popular and iconic, their catchphrases being spouted everywhere.

Later years[]

The Fast Show ran for three series and a Christmas special. However after 1997, the cast had become tired of the show and wanted to branch out and do their own things. Therefore, they decided to put the show on hiatus, apart from a national tour, 'The Fast Show Live' in 1998. They also wanted to keep the show fresh and not destroy its legacy. However, the clamour for more became irresistible, and the cast reunited for a special in 2000. 'The Last Fast Show Ever' was broadcast over three nights in the festive period, and gave many characters fitting endings, including Ted and Ralph getting together. There followed a 'Farewell Tour' in 2003, after which the cast parted again.

In 2007, it was announced that the BBC and 2entertain were to release a box set of every episode of the Fast Show, and some kind of reunion was planned. 'The Ultimate Fast Show Collection' was released in October 2007, and a special show was held at the Dominion Theatre in London, featuring recreations of some old sketches and new material.