Big Train : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2  [DVD]
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Big Train steams out of the comedy tunnel as realism meets utter stupidity in a cavalcade of daft sketches performed by some of Britain's top-notch comedy actors including Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced), Julia Davis (Nighty Night, Human Remains) and Catherine Tate (The Catherine Tate Show; Wild West). Written by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, the acclaimed writers of Father Ted, this brilliant comedy sketch series was the winner of the Bronze Rose at Montreux after the first series was transmitted in 1998. The much anticipated second series transmitted in 2002 to critical acclaim and the fans delight. The show twists everyday occurrences and mundane situations into daft sketches and improbable scenarios such as the world premiere of the influential film classic, Alfred Hitchock's The Working Class the stuff of nightmares; the pros and cons of having huge hands when using todays micro technology; shy policemen, confused Ministers, ducks in danger and hens in armed combat. This hugely popular series makes its debut onto DVD and the extras on this double disc set feature a commentary (on both discs) with Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, Simon Pegg, Phil Clarke (Producer), Jonathan Gershfield (Director) and Jo Hunter (Production Manager). There are also deleted scenes and some Easter Egg surprises.
Originally shown in 1998, Big Train was the eagerly awaited follow-up to Father Ted from writers Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews. Resisting the pressure to make another sitcom, Big Train is, instead, a sketch show in the best Monty Python tradition, updated with influences from arch-surrealist Chris Morris as well as the contemporary The Fast Show. The sketches can be joyously odd--Pythonesque firefighting showjumpers, the evil hypnotist, and the outrageous onanistic office workers, for example--but the show never neglects to keep the punchlines coming thick and fast (though the animated staring contest does rather drag after a while). The cast comprises some of the best new names in comedy, including Kevin Eldon, Simon Pegg, Mark Heap, Julia Davis and Amelia Bullmore (who went on to become Alan Partridge's Ukrainian girlfriend).
Series 2 didn't pull into the platform until 2002, by which time Graham Linehan was absent writing Black Books. But Arthur Matthews maintains the quality of the first series on the whole--the man with oversized hands, the creepy cult questionnaire, the zookeeper's recruitment agency--adding some spot-on French art house cinema spoofs and other movie-style take offs somewhat in the manner of Spaced, which Pegg and Heap had gone on to make. That duo return here for more silliness along with new cast members Rebecca Front (The Day Today, Knowing Me, Knowing You) and Tracey-Ann Oberman (better known now as Chrissie Watts in Eastenders).
On the DVD: Big Train belatedly arrives on DVD in a two-disc set which includes a plethora of deleted scenes for both Series 1 and 2. There are cast biogs plus three of the sketches as performed on a German TV sketch show. Commentary on the first series is by both writers, though happily Pegg, Heap and Eldon gatecrash halfway through. Matthews and Eldon join director and producer for the somewhat more straight-faced commentary on the second disc. Menu options thankfully include the treasurable "Play all" facility. --Mark WalkerSee all Product description
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Top customer reviews
However there are some great recurring characters and themes, and with such a great cast anyone with good taste in comedy should enjoy watching this again or discovering it for the first time.
Glad I purchased this though, it's a very classic comedy - love the sketch about the guy who thinks everything is about him not being married ha ha!
You have Simon Pegg and Hark Heap, just before they went off to make the incredible Spaced. Graham Linehan and Arthur Matthews just after Father Ted and before Linehan made Black Books, Kevin Eldon fresh from Brass Eye, and Catherine Tate before her (imo) underwhelming solo series.
The sheer comedy talent is eye watering and the first series is absoltely hilarious (second series drops to merely mortal standard, it has to be said). Highlights like the Evil Hypnotist, the Artist formally knows as Prince, and the no masturbation in the office sketch are sheer genius. In my opinion this is Linehan and Matthews at their best, getting to show off a massive range of ideas.
I find it hard to sympathise with reviewers who loved Spaced but hated this: to me Big Train is so perfect because it is a concentrated and distilled mix of everything (and almost everyone) that has been wonderful in British comedy for the last decade.
It still stands up as containing the cleverest, most surreal sketches we've seen. Later series like Smack the Pony softened the format a lot, while Little Britain went for less intelligent (but more accessible) writing. Big Train is the best of the bunch as far as I'm concerned, and even if you aren't blown away by the humour, it stands as a great early ensemble piece from an inimitable bunch of comedians who can (and have) now commanded their own solo series.
This package holds both of the two series and the first was by far the best. Even when it's not jaw achingly sidesplitting (jockeys and the Artis Known as Prince), it's odd enough to be engaging and Mark Heap (Green Wing), Amelia Bullimore, Simon Pegg (Spaced), Julia Davis (Nighty Night)and Kevin Eldon take the Linehan/Matthews material and make it their own. The second series was not as good, and in the five episodes there is probably enough material to make up one episode as good as the first series (having said that the birth mother reunion sketch in S2E1 nearly killed me). So...
Series 1 *****
Series 2 ***
Both discs come with a fair few deleted scenes - unused sketches that are actually nearly as good as the released stuff.
This is an important milestone in British TV comedy sketch shows and one that's surrealism has never been surpassed. It's an essential part of any collection
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