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Filthy Rich and Catflap (1987)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Filthy Rich and Catflap (1987)
BBC, 7/1-11/2/1987
6 x 35 minutes episodes, colour
DirectorPaul Jackson
ProducerPaul Jackson
Written byBen Elton
Additional materialRik Mayall

Cast: Adrian Edmondson (Eddie Catflap); Rik Mayall (Richie Rich); Nigel Planer (Filthy Ralph)

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The misadventures of talentless occasional actor/comedian Richie Rich, his ineffective agent, Filthy Ralph, and minder, Eddie Catflap.

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Ben Elton-scripted sitcom Filthy, Rich and Catflap reunited three-quarters of the cast of The Young Ones (BBC, 1982-84) in a satire of the acting profession set around the back door of show business. It followed the exploits of has-been actor Richie Rich (Rik Mayall), once a minor celebrity; his alcoholic and ineffectual minder Eddie Catflap (Adrian Edmondson); and his seedy, morally dubious agent Ralph Filthy (Nigel Planer).

The series featured venomous references to old-school light entertainment comics like Jimmy Tarbuck, Leslie Crowther, Bruce Forsyth and Bobby Davro, and sent up popular game shows like Blankety Blank (BBC, 1979-90; 1997-99; ITV 2001-) and Celebrity Squares (ITV, 1975-79; 1993-5).

In frequent asides to the camera, Richie and Eddie would draw attention to the construction of their own gags, and to the self-consciously convoluted plots, which usually centred on Richie's increasingly desperate attempts to get television work. The series was also rife with anti-Thatcher political commentary; slapstick violence between Richie and Eddie, and a puerile recurring joke that saw all the characters mistake the sound of the doorbell for their own flatulence.

The original intention was for the series to be a writing collaboration between Elton and Mayall. In the end, however, Mayall forewent his writing credit in favour of one for 'additional material'.

Despite Elton's input, the characterisation of Richie Rich is trademark Mayall: he is obnoxious, egomaniacal and talentless. Mayall carries over traits of earlier characters - The Young Ones' (BBC, 1982-84) Rick, The New Statesman's (ITV, 1987-92) Alan B'Stard. The series is also in many ways a warm-up for Mayall and Edmondson's self-penned Bottom (BBC, 1991-1995) - the characters even have the same first names - which retained the farcical violence and toilet humour but dispensed with the showbiz satire and leftist political rhetoric.

Although less successful or well remembered than either The Young Ones or Bottom, Filthy, Rich and Catflap contains hilarious performances from its three players, which more than compensate for the uncomfortably vicious satire and inconsistency of the scripted gags.

Hannah Hamad

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Video Clips
1. The Nolans (3:04)
2. No money, no food (2:18)
3. Eduardo Catflap: conceptual artist (2:48)
Complete episode (34:57)
Bottom (1991-92, 1995)
Young Ones, The (1982-84)
Elton, Ben (1958-)
Jackson, Paul (1947-)
Alternative Comedy