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6 Big Britcoms Turned Into Movies

Steve Coogan and his writing partners are early into plans to shove comedy creation Alan Partridge (above) up on to the screen.

But the history of turning beloved characters and shows into films is littered with failed attempts, niche releases and stretched-thin premises.

Here are some examples, and where they went right – or very, very wrong…

First up: In The Loop!

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The Film: In The Loop (2009)

The Show: The Thick Of It, Armando Iannucci’s scathing, intelligent stare behind the scenes of Labour government’s blunder-happy politicos.

Featuring a blistering turn from the always-reliable Peter Capaldi as fearsome spin-wrangler Malcolm Tucker, constantly spewing venom at his dithering charges, the show pulled no punches.

Where it went right:
Iannucci trusted in his cast to deliver, and focused a lot of the film around Capaldi.

But he also opened up the scale, bringing in the likes of James Gandolfini to portray American military types, which means it’ll travel well.

Oh, and he ramped up the swearing. Hoorah!

We said: “A smart, outrageous exposé of pillock politicians and their puppeteers, a satire sure to end the year in a two-film race with Bruno for the funniest of 2009.”

Next up: Mr Bean!

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The Film: Bean (1997)/Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007)

The Show: Mr Bean, developed by Rowan Atkinson, Richard Curtis and Robin Driscoll based on the dialogue-free misadventures of the titular character.

Atkinson’s mime-style performance won a hefty following and allowed him to show off some nifty clowning.

Where it went right: Odd one this – while the first movie was largely derided by critics (you can see our opinion below), Mel Smith’s film took the character to Los Angeles, to open it up to US audiences – and it worked.

Bean was a huge success, despite treading water with the same old joke over and over again. He’s a goof. We get it.

But given the success, they just couldn’t resist going back for seconds. So we also need to look at…

Where it went wrong: They tried again, with the 2007 follow-up that no one truly demanded. And made it even more ridiculous.

Worse still, they made it dull.

We said: “Bean on the big screen is only an enticing prospect if you like your humour twitty rather than witty.”

Next up: Ali G!

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The Film: Ali G Indahouse (2002)

The Show: Da Ali G Show, created by Sacha Baron Cohen as a showcase for his character talents. It was the fertile comedy ground that sprang forth Borat and this year’s Bruno, too.

Cohen specialised in the hilarious awkward interview – with Ali G (and the others) sitting down to chat with politicians and other authority figures that weren’t in on the joke.

Where it went right: It was a mixed bag, but it mostly worked because Cohen and his team worked hard to try to build an actual plot around the character.

Still, they managed to keep the basic idea of Ali coming up against political types (through a plot that saw him run for an MPs slot), but it wasn’t quite as funny when you knew they were all acting.

He did use the expanded movie budget to amp up the madness, though.

We said: “Ali G's gone for a full-blown comedy adventure, complete with joints, farts, big titties and an even bigger penis. The result? Big-screen Staines Massive, medium-sized laughs.”

Next up: The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse!

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The Film: The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse (2005)

The Show: The League Of Gentlemen, which grew out of first a stage show and then Radio 4’s On The Town With The League Of Gentlemen.

The comedy troupe of Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton and non-performing co-writer Jeremy Dyson created a show set in the distinctly weird northern village of Royston Vasey.

Strange characters interact and a raft of catchphrases (“Are you local?” etc) are born in true Britcom tradition.

Where it went wrong:
Given the film-loving smarts of its creators, they naturally tried to channel their favourite Hammer and other horror movies to make a story about the characters crossing into our world work.

But all it really did was point up the sketch-based nature of the series and the fact that Tubbs, Edward and co simply didn’t live all that well on the big screen.

Even with big-name genre stars like David Warner involved.

We said: “Often, it felt like a better idea than it did a finished film.”

Next up: And Now For Something Completely Different!


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The Film: And Now For Something Completely Different (1971)

The Show: Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the legendary sketch show which launched a generation of quotes and the careers of Michael Palin, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, Graham Chapman and Eric Idle.

Surreal, genre-bending laugh-fests, which inspired plenty of comedians and series that followed.

It wasn’t always perfect (heresy! Fetch the comfy chair!) but when they were firing on all thrusters, they were untouchable.

Where it went right: The Pythons were aiming to introduce their comedy to America, shooting the film between the first and second series.

In a supreme irony, it didn’t actually play as well across the pond as it did back here, where Python mania had been steadily building and people streamed to see it despite knowing most of the words.

Probably because they knew most of the words, actually. And unlike some of the other comedy teams, the Pythons would go on to prove themselves on film – Holy Grail, anyone?

We said: We haven’t reviewed it.

Next up: Guest House Paradiso!

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The Film:
Guest House Paradiso (1999)

The Show: Bottom, the work of Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall, who clearly had so much fun making The Young Ones that they couldn’t bear to stop the insane antics.

The show ran for three series and launched a series of successful live versions, featuring loathsome flatmates Richie and Eddie.

Where it went wrong:
They told us time and again that Guest House Paradiso wasn’t a “Bottom movie”. But with the characters so obviously the same and the humour precisely as lowbrow, no one was fooled.

Few people were amused either – Paradiso is crap, an unfunny torrent of vomit gags, foreigner gags and sex gags.

Why Vincent Cassel ever agreed to co-star is anyone’s guess. Maybe he was a fan? Needed some pocket money?

We said: “Rik and Ade fans lament: Guest House Paradiso is proof that the one-time Dangerous Brothers, the stars of Comic Strip and the best thing in The Young Ones, have finally, completely lost it.”

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