CBBC’s Horrible Histories returns for a final series. It’s still very good, bowing out while the quality is still high and with the cast moving onto new things (The Wrong Mans, Yonderland).
As well as being educational, and 99.9% historically accurate, it also never overestimates the capability of a well-pulled face, silly voice or a rat in a hat to make you laugh. The writing, acting and music work on several levels, with subtle jokes for the kids, fart jokes for everyone and Morrissey references for the parents.
By this stage, it’s very consistent. Most sketches garner a laugh, and by now the appearance of Charles II, Death and Henry VIII are comedy shorthands.
It’s reminiscent of The Day Today in terms of replicating televisual styles, as historical events are inserted into contemporary genres. Behind the scenes there are some names with impressive credits, ranging back to Alas Smith and Jones, The Mary Whitehouse Experience and The Office. The look of the show is also deserving of praise, from cinematography to costume to set dressing.
Another reason it works so well is the way it’s both incredibly silly and gleefully unsympathetic at times. While there are celebrations of figures such as Rosa Parks, there’s more about revelling in the stupidity of the past. Even Archimedes is portrayed as a bumptious genius, and the Titanic sketch is very funny, but incredibly bleak.
Still, at least no-one can claim ‘Too soon’.
Released on DVD on Monday 28 October 2013 by BBC Worldwide.
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