Drop The Dead Donkey: The Complete 4th Series

***1/2

Reviewed by: Harry Lockhart

I know it may come as a surprise to some people (please say it does!) but I was too young to remember the first couple of series of this multi award-winning show, but the funny thing is, I remembered the majority of the headlines that inspired the episodes I watched, with the Bruce Grobbelaar "bung" allegations a personal favourite.

Drop The Dead Donkey is set in a fictional news company full of degenerates, including a disgruntled PA (Susannah Doyle), a power hungry investigative journalist who wants mummy's attention (Stephen Tompkinson), a wet blanket editor whose anarchic daughter will surely be the death of him (Jeff Rawle), a socialite news reader (Victoria Wicks) and her co-anchor an aging playboy (David Swift), a maverick reporter (Neil Pearson), a struggling single parent harbouring a secret from her parents (Ingrid Lacy) and last but not least a jargon-spouting boss (Robert Duncan).

The bickering between these characters is the focal point of the stories, cunningly hidden between some wickedly funny quips about members of parliament - any jokes about David Mellor and his ability to "pull" are a winner in my eyes.

The personal and professional rivalry between most of the male characters gives the true-to-life feel of an office environment. My favourite example of this is in episode two when Henry and Damien (Swift and Tompkinson) bets David (Pearson) he can't pull Joy (Doyle) the feminist PA. Who said journalism isn't a cut-throat business?

My favourite episode in this series was Births And Deaths, in which Henry finds out he has a long lost son who is a chip of the old womanising block (Played by a very young Andrew Lincoln from Teachers), while Damien receives death threats from Colombian drug lords, because he is about to give evidence on them.

The fourth series aired in 1994 and captures snap shots from the time period, such as the OJ Simpson trial and Gerry Adams "voice" finally being heard on TV. Many complaints were made about this show, with many feeling it would not have any longevity - but the topics the writers raised still ring true today, such as the implementation of identity cards and immigration laws.

The performances are very good, if a little clich├ęd, George (Rawle) in particular. It is easy to understand why Stephen Tompkinson received a British comedy award for his performance and has had the most success since the show ended.

The set design looks poor by today's standards and for a show that is meant to be edgy, it is a shame it has to rely on canned laughter (my pet hate) to get some of the humour across. Though the sets and fashion may have dated, Drop The Dead Donkey is still a very cutting edge television show and the message is still very relevant even by today's standards.

I will no doubt be catching up on previous series and will not be dropping this dead donkey just yet.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2006
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Drop The Dead Donkey: The 
Complete 4th Series packshot
Hit newsroom satire pulls no punches.
Amazon link

Director: Liddy Oldroyd

Writer: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin

Starring: Neil Pearson, Stephen Tompkinson, Jeff Rawle, Victoria Wicks, David Swift, Robert Duncan, Susannah Doyle, Ingrid Lacey

Year: 1994

Runtime: 325 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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