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18 September 2014
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  • Comedy
  • Rutland Weekend Television

Rutland Weekend Television

Neil Innes, Eric Idle and David Battley

The first project to emerge after the end of Monty Python on TV, Rutland Weekend Television starred and was written by Eric Idle.

Set in a down-at-heel television station serving England's smallest county, Idle created the series with producer Ian Keill, a collaboration which had a profound effect on the finished product.

Where a comedy show would normally be made by the BBC's Light Entertainment department, Keill worked for Presentation, a unit with a much smaller budget.

"It was made on a shoestring," remembers Idle, "and someone else was wearing the shoe. The studio was the same size as the weather forecast studio, and nearly as good".

However, these limitations became RWT's virtue, Idle working the cheapness of the production into the show.

The format also allowed scope for disparate items to be sequenced together, notionally making up the station's output ("From [a discussion of] wit, we turn to origami, the ancient art of Japanese folding...").

Editions were generally helmed by Idle as a cheesy onscreen announcer, desperately talking up the "super" fare on offer.

He was joined in various guises throughout the show by former Python musical collaborator Neil Innes, David Battley, Henry Woolf, Gwen Taylor and Terence Bayler.

Dramatic parodies followed surreal sketches, followed musical numbers. In the latter, the show really achieved immortality with the creation of the Beatles-esque combo, The Rutles.

With songs by Innes expertly aping the oeuvre of Lennon and McCartney, the 'Pre-Fab Four' found international fame when they appeared on an edition of cult US series Saturday Night Live, guest hosted by Idle. An American funded film - The Rutles - followed in 1978.

Although held in great esteem by fans, both Idle and Innes have since turned their backs on RWT, unable to forget the challenging production process involved in putting the show together.

Cast

Eric Idle
performer
Neil Innes
performer
David Battley
performer
Henry Woolf
performer
Gwen Taylor
performer

Crew

Eric Idle
writer
Ian Keill
producer

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