The third episode of Andrew Marshall and David Renwick's nightmare comedy sees the introduction of John Cleese as international mercenary 'Lacrobat', who changes identities as often as his underwear. It was he who stole the Quark Bomb ( formerly known as the Johnny Cyclops Bomb, after the President of that name ), and is presently transporting it across America via road, leading to the episode's funniest scene ( more on that later ).
The Politburo members, presided over by Premier Dubienkin ( Richard Griffiths ) are a bunch of senile old men with a fondness for a 'Monopoly'-type board game called 'Dissident'. A running gag through the series has Dubienkin frequently dropping dead, only to be replaced seconds later by an exact double. The elderly American couple who were arrested for spying in the first episode turn out to really be spies, equipped with gadgets such as a false leg containing the components of a rifle, and they make a break from K.G.B. custody. Alas the would-be rescue helicopter crashes, killing them ( a reference to the failed rescue attempt - 'Operation Eagle Claw' - of U.S. hostages from Iran in April 1980, which cost Jimmy Carter the presidency ).
The authors were huge fans of D.C. Comics and this is reflected in character names such as 'Jonathon' and 'Martha Hopper' ( John Barrard and Nellie Hanham ) who are named after Superman's Smallville parents 'Jonathan and Martha Kent', the British Prime Minister thinks he is 'Superman' ( later on we will see him in costume ), and newsreader 'Jay Garrick' is named after the original 'Flash'.
Not one of the stronger episodes this, but Cleese more than makes up for any weaknesses. Shame he didn't reprise the role of 'Lacrobat' in the 1988 movie ( it went to U.S. comedian Michael Richards instead ). One of the best scenes has a Presidential aide coming up with idiotic solutions to complex world problems, such as putting laxatives in the Russian water supply and unleashing plagues of locusts.
Funniest moment - a motorcycle cop ( Christopher Malcolm ) spots what appears to be a giant upright penis affixed to Lacrobat's car. He suggests the other man cover it up with something. The mercenary holds up a pullover. "Nah!", drawls the cop: "Lets's keep it Jewish!".
Second funniest moment - newsreader Jay Garrick's ( the late Ed Bishop ) bulletin; "The search for the Quark Bomb continues. Police raid a café in Brixton!".
In case you think the humour in this show a bit extreme, just look at the real world right now. It was revealed recently that the British Government intends commissioning a £60 million Royal yacht as an anniversary present to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee! At a time when public sector workers face unemployment as the result of drastic spending cuts, it is an outrageous, badly-timed decision. I personally think that those who think the yacht a good idea ( including Kate Hoey M.P. ) should have a whip round to pay for it themselves. I bet they don't raise enough cash to pay for one of the life boats!
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