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Naked Video (1986-1990)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Naked Video (1986-1990)
BBC Scotland for BBC2, 12/5/1986-18/11/1991
30 x 30 min editions in five series, colour
ProducersColin Gilbert
 Philip Differ
Writers includeIan Pattison
 Niall Clark
 Les Peters Rowley
 David Kind

Cast: Ron Bain, Gregor Fisher, Andy Cray, Helen Lederer, Tony Roper, Elaine C. Smith, John Sparkes, Jonathan Watson, Kate Donnelly, Louise Beattie

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Largely Scottish sketch series that spawned Rab C. Nesbitt and Siadwel.

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While Naked Video directed much of its mockery at Scotland, its parodies of popular culture and satirical attacks on British and international politicians translated well to a wider audience. Material was variable, but when it hit the target Naked Video was very funny, with a recognisable debt to Not the Nine O' Clock News (BBC, 1979-82) and similar anti-establishment credentials.

Originally a BBC Radio Scotland show entitled Naked Radio, it was brought to television by Colin Gilbert, who had produced two earlier BBC Scotland sketch shows, A Kick Up The Eighties (BBC, 1981-84) and Laugh??? I Nearly Paid My Licence Fee (BBC, 1984). Welsh comedians Helen Lederer and John Sparkes joined the otherwise all-Scots cast of Gregor Fisher, Andy Gray, Elaine C Smith, Jonathan Watson, Louise Beattie, Kate Donnelly, Tony Roper and Ron Bain. Each episode contained quick-fire sketches, a satirical musical number and monologues delivered in character. A spoof news desk presented by Gray and Lederer was replaced by Fisher's brilliant turn as Gus, news anchor at the Outer Hebridean Broadcasting Corporation.

Naked Video dealt mostly in caricature, most successfully with Fisher's Rab C Nesbitt, a perpetually outraged Glaswegian drunk and amateur philosopher who proudly described himself as 'scum'. Rab eventually won his own show, Rab C Nesbitt (BBC, 1998-99). Lederer's drunken Sloane was a pitch-perfect parody of a familiar 80s type. It was Sparkes, though, who provided Naked Video's most fully-rounded character in the shape of his creation Siadwel, a hopeless young man who deludedly fancied himself a poet. Despite his inept verse, Siadwel's monologues were brimming with pathos, cheerfully delineating his weekly depressions and humiliating encounters.

By the late 1980s, Margaret Thatcher and her Tory colleagues were hate figures in Scotland, and Naked Video targeted them regularly. It was not unusual for an edition to feature three or more sketches directed against them. Attacks on Scotland's alcohol consumption, religious divide and cultural history brought some of the biggest laughs, although such references may have been lost on non-Scottish viewers.

As well as providing early writing gigs for The Fast Show's (BBC, 1994-97; 2000) Charlie Higson and Paul Whitehouse, Naked Video proved to be influential for Scottish comedy. Sparkes left in 1989 to join the cast of Absolutely (1989-93), while Fisher, Smith and Roper reprised their respective roles in Rab C Nesbitt, and Watson continues to mock Scottish football every Hogmanay in Only an Excuse? (BBC, 1993-).

Kevin Sturton

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Video Clips
1. How to get a hangover (1.08)
2. Being Scottish (2.09)
3. Rab C Nesbitt Rant (1.54)
4. Siadwel on the Other Side (2.57)
Complete edition (28:03)
Absolutely (1989-93)
Rab C Nesbitt (1989-99)