Off the rails

The creators of Father Ted have taken on the surreal sketch show with Big Train. And this time, they're really going loco.

Words: Brian Donaldson

In a deserted atid dusty Wild West one-horse town. a bloody shoot-out is about to commence. The odds are three against one. bttt the slinger whose guns hit their targets isn‘t Billy The Kid ot‘ Jesse James. it is. in tact. (‘haka Khan. .-\nd she is ripping open the stomachs and spilling out the innards ol‘ The Bee (iees in a bullet barrage which makes The lli/t/ Rune/i seem like a glorified water-pistol bout.

This is the surreal. warped world and terribly l'ttnny uniyerse ot‘ Big Train. a sketch show straight from the minds and pens oi (iraham Linehan and Arthur .\lathcws. whose last 'l‘\' credits were for a Channel 4 sitcom about loony il' loy‘ablc lrish priests set on some craggy island. The difference is stark. ‘\\'ith Big Train. we'ye gone very natttralistic and low key‘.’ admits the show’s co-scribe. Mathews. ‘Stylistically‘. it‘s kind of like ('hris .\lorris‘s stuff in The Day Today and Brass liy'e. whereas I-ktllit'r Yt‘tl was more joke—tilled and in front oi a liye audience. lnstinetiy‘ely‘. I prefer the sketch show.‘

Yet. don't expect the catcliphrase—laden sketch genre a la The l'ils‘t Show. And you won‘t be boring your mates rigid in the pub with an hilarious recreation oi anything you‘ll see in Big 'l'ru/n. 'l‘he lirst show tol’ six) has. as well as (‘haka y The (iibbs. a boss l'inding ey‘cr more creatiye ways of not paying his stall their productiyity bontts: another office situation with Jesus and Satan l‘inding it impossible to work beside each other; the 43rd annual staring-out championships: and a bunch ol‘ equestrian sliow'jutnpers pestering a lire—crew on the job. He assured. it is much. much funnier than it sounds.

.\Iuch oi it is the comedy of frustration. rather

than embarrassment or anything remotely like l‘eeognilioti. "Once you think (ii. the basic idea. it‘s pretty easy to write.’ insists .\latltew s. ‘Something will just occur to its and a few months later you lind yourself in this Wild West \illage with loads ol‘ make— up people. lilm crew and designers. Some ol~ them are written literally in about the minutes it it doesn’t

120THEUST s '3'

'Stylistically, it's kind of like Chris Morris's stuff in The Day Today and Brass Eye, whereas Father Ted was more joke- Arthur Mathews

Big Train: sleeper hit

make as or the producer laugh. it doesn't get inf

.\nd when the linal ctttting came. this was the late ol‘ around l()t) sketches. Yet. judging from the duality ol‘ the first show. many will liaye been dropped despite passing that ‘laugh test'. .\nd. it anything like illslitfc‘ e\isls. littllselittld names will be made ol‘ more than just one ol' the show 's quintet. ‘\\'hen we had the launch all the itttll‘llitlisls were only really interested in .\melia Bulmore because she Used to be in ('uruniilimt .S'Iret'l.~ says .\lathew s. Simon l’egg. .\lark lleap. .lulia l)a\is and Keyitt lildon are more thatt desery ing ol‘ their own motttcnts iii the sun.

But why is it called life ’li'uiit'.’ ‘\\'e were looking l‘or music last year and we l‘otmd this piece on one ol' those liasy listening albums and it was called li’ig 7mm: rcyeals .\lathcws bel'ore adding. ‘so that‘s it really.‘ ’l‘he show 's catcliline may be ‘it‘s not big and it's not a train.’ bill it should be big. .-\nd it is \ery t‘lL‘\L‘l'.


Big Train starts on BBC2, Mon 9 Nov.

Box Pops

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