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Horrible Histories (2009 TV series)

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Horrible Histories (2009 TV series)

Horrible Histories
300px
Title logo (Series 2 onwards)
Genre Comedy
Format Children's television series, sketch show
Developed by Dominic Brigstocke, Caroline Norris
Written by
Directed by
Starring
Voices of Jon Culshaw
Jess Robinson
Dave Lamb
Composer(s) Richie Webb (Theme and songs)
Matt Katz (Theme tune)
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 5
No. of episodes Regular Episodes: 49
Specials: 11
(List of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)
Editor(s)
Running time 30 minutes
BBC Prom: 1 hour
Production companies Lion TV
Citrus Television (series 2 onwards)
Broadcast
Original channel CBBC
BBC HD
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Original run 16 April 2009 – 23 July 2013
Chronology
Related shows Horrible Histories (2001 TV series)
Horrible Histories: Gory Games
Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry
External links
Website
Production website

Horrible Histories is a British children's television series based on the Terry Deary book series of the same name. It aims to provide entertainment while also informing its audience about history, thereby making a stereotypically boring topic fun. The series has become very successful, and many of its musical numbers have become viral hits. The show has spawned a gameshow spinoff, Gory Games, and a re-edit of the show, designed for an older audience and hosted by Stephen Fry was also released. Horrible Histories was featured at the 2011 Proms, and an award-winning spin-off game called Terrible Treasures has also been released.

Each episode features a mixture of sketches and cartoons from different historic and prehistoric eras, and commentaries from Rattus Rattus, the puppet rat host. Some sketches are pastiches of various forms of media. The series also includes quizzes and songs.

The show was shown on CBBC over five years. The first series was broadcast in 2009, the second series was broadcast in 2010, the third series was broadcast in 2011, the fourth series was broadcast in 2012, and the fifth and final series was broadcast in 2013. Some specials have also aired, including a Christmas special and a sports special.

History

Conception

Observing through my own children who are fascinated by history, I think you are, [at least] my reading of it is - (many of us who work in this genre feel the same) - that there's a period up to about fourteen when you actually really interested in history then you cease to be interested in history while you are interested in your own things until possibly your late twenties early thirties and then you start to get interested. Maybe you've got aging parents or, you know you've started to think about your own mortality and you become interested and engaged again. I thought that children's history was underserved pretty much on television.

Richard Bradley, on why he spent so much time of the Horrible Histories project, interviewed for History On Television.[1]

The idea for a TV series based on the Horrible Histories books originally came about by Richard Bradley learning of his son's interest in them. Bradley said, "I had a chat with him about five years ago and he said he wanted me to make Horrible Histories for TV". Though Bradley knew Scholastic held the publishing rights to the series, he first endeavored to entice Deary with the project. The Horrible Histories author had had a negative experience with a little-known unsuccessful animated series which aired in 2001, and so was hesitant to try again. He eventually agreed to the project, "despite being doubtful of TV's capability to capture the spirit of them",[2] on the condition that the series was "horrible, funny and true".[3] Bradley noted "at one time, it was going to be based on a ghost train at a deserted fairground carrying two children into the past. But the BBC, to its credit, was very adventurous and said that it wanted a comedy sketch-based format written by adult sketch-show writers".[3] Bradley explained "the time-travelling ghost-train format was "too similar to Doctor Who and Mr Benn" and so "Lion also tried to develop a Dumbledore-like master storyteller as narrator", which was intended to be a "a sort of wizard historian".[3]

The concept was still a bit too generic so Bradley and Dominic Brigstocke eventually came up with the idea of a high-powered sketch show",[3] which Bradley described as "sort of sketch-based, Monty Python".[1] In collecting staff, Norris and her team collected everyone they knew were really good at their jobs and "persuaded them to do it on a slightly smaller budget".[4] Richard Bradley said he "brought together a group of well-known comic writers and performers whose 'children...had dozens of the Horrible Histories books'".[1] A conscious decision was made by BBC to collect writers and actors from adult comedy shows, and the production company Lion Television sought the best talent it could find. Writers for the first series included Jon Holmes from Dead Ringers, and Giles Pilbrow from Have I Got News For You. Most of the comedy actors were already established: Jim Howick (Peep Show), Simon Farnaby (The Mighty Boosh), Mathew Baynton (Gavin and Stacey) and Ben Ward (Dead Ringers). The Guardian notes, "Dominic Brigstocke, the director of Green Wing and The Armstrong & Miller Show, also played a key role from the start". In the second series, the show started to have cameos by prominent performers including: David Baddiel, Alexei Sayle and Dave Lamb (Come Dine With Me). The Guardian explained that the show had "the editing team behind The Office, Extras, and Outnumbered overseeing post-production", adding that this allowed the show to "quickly [stand] out by some distance from its rivals on children's TV".[3]

Relationship with book series

The makers of the new series felt pressure because they "didn't want to spoil the brand", and wanted to live up to the reputation of the book series. Series producer Caroline Norris explained "Terry is quite anarchic in his attitude and he is really good at choosing the facts that kids will really engage with". For this reason, the attitude of the books was their "starting point". The book series also helped them by allowing them to "tackle difficult subjects" on CBBC as the subject matter was in the books, meaning that kids already knew about it. Norris argues that if the book series had not existed, the show probably wouldn't have been allowed to be "as naughty as it is".[5] Their mission statement is "history with the nasty bits left in",[6] which is also the tagline for the book series.[7] Especially in the first few seasons, the writers only took their facts from Terry Deary's books. After they "ran out of facts" from the original source material, they began to use historical consultants to seek out usable tidbits elsewhere. The "visual style" of the series comes from the books. Norris says that this was a choice made because "this is what kids recognise as Horrible Histories". When they decided to use "animated links", they chose Martin Brown's illustration designs from the books, as "they had a strong brand to start with so it seemed silly to reinvent it". The non-linear quality to the books, as well as its use of multiple media (including diaries and newspaper articles etc.) are also reciprocated in the show. For example, Norris explains a "list of accidents that happened to the Home Guard" that was lifted straight out of the books and turned into a sketch. Other material gave them ideas on how to shape the show, for example the food recipes gave them the idea of doing a "cookery show", which morphed into many ideas such as the MasterChef parody. Norris said that the books "feel like the template for a sketch show". The creators created a show-reel of shows like Blackadder, Monty Python and Do Not Adjust Your Set in order to say "this is the sort of attitude we want". The stoning scene from The Life of Brian, which is both funny and dark, was also educational in explaining that people were "stoned for blasphemy" and that "women weren't allowed at stonings". As Norris explains, "you learn something from it", which was a big part of their attitude towards making the series.[5] Steve Punt elaborates, saying "At the first writers' meeting we sat round with the producer watching clips of Blackadder and Life of Brian. The point, from the outset, was to stress that this was a comedy show based on history, not a history show with a bit of humour grafted on."[3]

Many of the Horrible Histories books have been republished as TV tie-ins. The differences are mainly cosmetically, with the front and back covers including shots of the series.[8]

Run

The year the show debuted Lisa Edwards, editorial director of Scholastic UK, said, "Following the hugely successful relaunch of the books this year, the TV show will be a great addition to the perennially popular Horrible Histories property." [9] Before the series went on air, BBC executive producer Kim Shillinglaw said that Horrible Histories would be "stuffed full of blood, battles and black humour, and will also give children some of the great facts and narratives of history".[10]

Each series of thirteen episodes takes about a year to produce. The process includes two to three months of writing, eight weeks of filming and three to four months of post-production. The historical consultants and researches begin months before the writers start work.[5]

The first series was thirteen episodes long, and was broadcast from 16 April to 9 July 2009 on CBBC on BBC One. The second series aired from 31 May 2010 to 27 July 2010 on BBC 2 and CBBC. This series was the first in which Horrible Histories was a co-production with Citrus Television, following post-production by Platform Post Production.[11] A Christmas special was broadcast on 17 December 2010. The third series aired from 30 May 2011 to 26 July 2011 on CBBC. The fourth series was broadcast from 9 April 2012 to 8 June 2012. A Halloween Special was broadcast on 29 October 2012. Series two, three and four consist of twelve episodes each, with the addition of a thirteenth episode, the "Savage Songs Special" (a compilation of various songs previously seen on each series), at the end. In September 2011, it was announced that The League of Gentlemen would reunite to perform sketches together on the fourth series of Horrible Histories,[12][13] which began airing on 9 April 2012. They were seen in episodes 1, 3, 6, 12 and 14, playing a panel of film executives approached by several historical figures who were trying to pitch their own biopics. Series five began airing on 27 May 2013 and consists of 16 episodes, 4 of which will be specials. Caroline Norris, series producer, announced in early 2013 that the show would not continue past series five, though she added that the members of the cast would continue to work together in future projects.[14] Some post-series 5 specials have also been announced, including a 45-minute episode "focusing on the First World War" in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. It will be broadcast in Autumn 2013. The 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta (in 2015) is another possibility for the theme of a special.[15]

Popularity

Richard Bradley recalled an early experience with Horrible Histories: "We took it to local schools and showed them the rough cuts. The reaction was fantastic. The recognition of the Horrible Histories brand is so strong that they even cheered the names Groovy Greeks and Rotten Romans."[3] The Guardian notes "By the time the second series aired ... the programme had attracted a loyal audience of grown-ups", adding that while its original audience consisted of "parents watching with their children at first", it was soon followed "by students and pensioners [and] quickly developed into cult daytime viewing".[3] The show has its own YouTube channel,[16] and "some of the most popular sketches and songs from the show have attracted more than half a million hits each on [it]".[3] Norris commented that "everyone involved [in every stage of production] makes [the show] that little bit better", due to both having a cohesive vision and being proud of the show.[5] Jenner said fellow historians enjoy the show because it "promotes their area", by turning a "worthy and useful" field for academics alone into something interesting and fun.[5] The Guardian describes the show as an "ingenious 'making history look less crap' operation".[17] BAFTA winner Jesse Armstrong notes "The programme could go on for years because the material is limitless".[3]

The popularity of Horrible Histories has been a surprise to the cast and crew. Howe-Douglas said "The [show's] success is totally unexpected and amazing".[18] Norris said one can never predict how well a show will do until it reaches an audience, and added that as she is always working behind the scenes, she had never really noticed the success of it. Her mindset was "oh god, what are we going to do now, we've got to keep this up now because we don't want to disappoint [our audience]". She is always conscious of the audience negatively comparing the current series to previous ones. It was the 2011 Prom that made Norris realise the scale of Horrible Histories' popularity, both with children and adults.[5]

The show's success has allowed it to attract many comic actors. The League of Gentlemen appeared on the show in a series of sketches involving historical figures pitching movies to a panel of film producers. Both parties were fans of each other's work.[5] Shearsmith said, "Mark and I independently thought it was just a brilliant show that works on a number of level...There’s not a weak link in the team here and it’s an honour to be asked to be part of it".[19] Radio Times listed the program's guest stars (such as David Baddiel and Sarah Hadland), adding that "ultimately, comedy performers relish Horrible Histories' madcap, sometimes deliciously silly, exuberance, which, thanks to the show’s razorsharp writing, educates as well as entertains."[20]

Production

Casting

According to Terry Deary, the author of the Horrible Histories books, the producers targeting the actors did not "rely on auditioning unknowns."[3] Deary has made cameos throughout the series, playing a variety of one-off characters.[21]

Laurence Rickard originally came to the show as a writer. When trying to find someone to do the first Bob Hale report at the end of series 1, Norris gave him the role because he had written it. He has acted on the show since then, and has become one of the six main cast members.[4] The first script that Rickard wrote for the show was used in the auditions and it was Mathew Baynton's reading of this piece that secured his placement in the cast. The sketch eventually aired as the train guard sketch in series 5, episode 2.[4]

When Martha Howe-Douglas initially got the audition, her agent described the show as "a kids thing", and she had decided she "didn't really wanna do kids stuff". However, she had not read the books as a child, or had any prior knowledge of the series. When she read the sketches, she found that they were well-written and very funny.[5]

The character of Death was the first that Simon Farnaby ever did on the show. It was his first day and he "didn't really know what to do", so he chose the scariest voice he could muster, though he suggests it was unconvincing.[5]

David Baddiel said, "When they asked me to play Vincenzo Larfoff, I was really pleased".[3]

History On Television notes "part of the attraction for the performers - surely a persuasive element in the pitch - was that their kids would be able to watch at least this example of their television output".[1]

Writing

It's a fact of comedy writing that the tighter the brief, the better the result. Plucking comedy out of the air is what leads to cliches and well-worn themes. But knowing that you have to stick to the facts of what the Celts wore, or how the Tudors treated illness, concentrates the mind. It leads you into strange areas that you would never have thought of, and that's always creatively a good thing.

from Steve Punt, The Guardian 18 March 2011[3]

Writers meetings take place during pre-production in which facts that would make good sketches are collected and shared. They occur on a weekly basis, and each revolve around a particular topic, for example Romans or Victorians. Sketch ideas are formulated from this process.[14] The original writing process involved read-throughs of Deary's books with him present. Deary explained, "we sit around a table for about eight weeks with the director and a historical adviser and we read th[em] in a circle. Then someone might say, 'That might work as a gameshow' and they go off and write the sketch."[3] Norris said part of the reason writing sketches without the aid of the books is hard is because he had already chosen facts that are humorous by themselves (for example Romans communally bathing), whereas many independently collected facts (such as notion of the printing press revolutionising communication) isn't inherently funny. Norris explained that sketches in later seasons were often based on thinner or less obvious facts, making it harder to make it interesting, new, or original. For example, The Rosa Parks song (on a topic not inherently funny) was eventually framed around an important civil rights movement beginning with a trivial act like sitting on a bus. Norris estimated about half of the first drafts for series 5 were scrapped.[14]

The writers commission material, and tend to both over-commission and overshoot, though by only by a bit due to the tight budget. Norris tries to make sure there is content from a range of historical eras.[5] Caroline Norris and Imogen Cooper decide on the running order for the series' episodes via a wall "covered with index cards felt-tipped with the names of sketches".[6] The show has some rules regarding recurring sketches in episodes. For example, each episode must feature at least one song, a rule that was broken for series 5, episode 1. Sometimes a piece of writing that is thought to be very good doesn't translate well to film. At other times, because of a performance, a sketch comes out much better than expected. For this reason, "you can't really tell what's going to go with what until you get into the edit suite".[5] Norris said that by series five the crew are were a lot more savvy to what works and what doesn't work, and often the cast would point of issues with the sketch.[14] Deary noted "Incorrectly, I get lots of credit for the TV show, but it's the team behind it who are the massive talent".[3]

Sketches are not usually written with a cast member in mind. Laurence Rickard has jokingly pointed out that if a character gets covered in an unsanitary substance he is usually given the role. He says that he enjoys seeing the final edits of sketches that he's written but not acted in, and seeing the uniqueness and humour that the chosen actor has brought to the role. It's described as "logistics": who is free at a given point in time.[14] An actor may not be in two consecutive sketches simply because they can't get changed in time.[4] If an actor specifically asks to play a role, the crew will more often than not accept, and then schedule actors around that. Sometimes the crew deliberately go against typecasting, in order to give actors new opportunities and see where the sketches go as a result.[14] Willbond said all the sketches are cast before scripts are handed out, and that he sometimes feels "sketch jealousy" due to missing out on opportunities to play characters.[4] Except in very rare cases (such as Queen Elizabeth, who has been played by at least two actresses over the course of the series), the show actively tries to keep actors portraying the same character. Baynton's Charles II and Willbond's Henry VIII are among the most beloved among the fanbase.

Costuming and design

One underestimated element of the show is the sheer fun of all the costumes, wigs, silly beards and hats. Wigs, in my book, are funny, and so are hats. TV budgets have shrunk since the days of Blackadder and Python. My children have lived in a world where TV comedy mostly consists of people sitting behind desks on panel shows. There is a glorious, back-to-the-70s daftness about Horrible Histories' parade of togas, wimples, ruffs and tights that makes it appealing – to a wide audience.

from Steve Punt, The Guardian 18 March 2011[3]

The costuming is decided and arranged around August of each year.[14] Ros Little is highly focused on costume detail, and as a result her team of costume designers and make up artists work together closely with the historical consultants,[5] and work hard in locating and producing authentic costumes.[4] For example, the big Georgian and Victorian costumes tend to be hires from costume hire places. The Roman armour is made in Bulgaria.[4] In a scene where Howe-Douglas plays Queen Elizabeth aged around 60, she wore Cate Blanchett's costume from the film Elizabeth.[5] The make-up artists have properly researched historically accurate pictures of people from the various eras covered on the show as a reference.[14] The Telegraph said Ros "is so scrupulous that she always wants to know the precise year in which a sketch is meant to be set, so as not to introduce an inexact ruff or skirt".[6] Sometimes there are debates over whether minor anachronisms are acceptable for the sake of drawing out humour from the scenes. Farnaby argues that having non-historical costuming actually helps characterisation by allowing the characters to naturally look silly, as opposed to in a serious period piece.[5] Several costumes are required for each actor, due to its sketch comedy nature. For example, Howe-Douglas has played roles ranging from monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria to peasants and hags.[5]

The costuming process in preparation for a sketch can be time consuming. Howe-Douglas explained that it takes about 2½-3 hours to do the whole "caboodle" for her Queen Elizabeth I costuming and make up.[5] This includes latex being applied to her face to made the pox marks, white paint being applied, and a wig being added.[4] Queen Victoria takes 4 hours due to her "prosthetic jowly neck and lots of latex", and her entire body had to be painted for the Egyptian characters because she is pale.[18]

Shooting

Location scouting takes place in August, after three to four months of research and three to four months of writing. After all locations have been successfully scouted, filming on location takes place over four weeks, followed by studio filming which takes another four weeks. The location shooting is split up into eras - as each historical era is set in a separate location. The live action aspects of the show are a mixture between shooting on set, shooting on location and shooting on a green screen with computer effects. In many cases, the locations chosen are of historical value. Some scenes where Howe-Douglas plays Queen Elizabeth is actually shot in the same location as the film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.[5] Some of the on-location filming for Egyptian sketches takes place in a quarry in Leighton Buzzard.[18]

Despite the need for accuracy, there is some space for improvisation. While the actors can't change facts, in the parts of the sketch that aren't educational they can play with the content.[5] Nevertheless, Deary has said "Yes, there is some ad-libbing at times, but it is rare because the actors are also involved in the writing."[3] There are a few running gag in-jokes between the actors that they try to sneak into sketches. The cinematographers leave the cameras running at the end of a sketch, a technique which usually results in a punchline coming from the cast. Norris explained that "the actors bring [the show] to life and then we cut out the bits that don't work".[5] In addition to this, the producer has to ensure that the cast don't include any double entendres in their lines.[22]

The show costs about half as much to shoot than any other sketch show, and is relatively cheap in TV terms. The crew are often given what they need by Platform Post Production for free, meaning the show costs a lot less that it may seem. In an interview, Farnaby commented on the tight budgets and wages by saying, "nobody makes millions of pounds".[14]

Animation

Certain scenes use animation instead of live action. Some of them, such as the monologues before or after a sketch (i.e., "Vile Victorians", "Rotten Romans" or "Slimy Stuarts", among others), are in 2D animation. Other sketches such as "Dodgy War Inventions" are also animated using this technique. The designs for the characters are based on Martin Brown's illustrations in the Horrible Histories books.[23] They are narrated by Jon Culshaw, Jess Robinson and members of the main cast. Brown said he enjoys seeing his creations come alive through the animations. Tim Seale is the animation director. His team scans Brown's drawings into the computer, then cut it up into sections which can then be animated independently using their animation software. For all of these sketches storyboards are used, where the camera angles and timing of the scene are worked out. Roman Catapault took the team two weeks to put together, and then an additional week to animate.[23] Norris explained that CBBC asked them "why not make something a little more modern-feeling?", and in response she explained that that was "the style that children recognise from the books", and that it "felt like the right thing to do". The small budget also meant that the 2D style was a cost-effective way of animated that wasn't very "flashy". The small budget also means they have to find creative ways of getting around logistical problems. When wanting to include an elephant in a sketch about Hannibal, initially they couldn't get access to a real animal, so the model makers made two legs and a trunk and gave the pieces to three people who "[ran] along with the camera". Eventually the sketch was turned into an animated piece to solve the problem.[5] Rarely, there have been 2D animated sketches that have not been part of opening monologues or Dodgy War ____.

The spoofs of video games are a mix of 3D animation and live action. While shooting these sequences with a green screen as backdrop, the actors have to move their bodies rigidly from side to side to reproduce the style of movement of video game characters. Every stage of the making of these "fake" video games is explained in one of the "Behind the scenes" featurettes.[24]

Music

Main article: List of Horrible Histories songs

The show is renowned for its musical numbers. The songs are often parodies of specific songs or pastiches of a genre, and often contain references to the original lyrics. There is at least one song in each episode, except episode 5 of series 1. Since series 2, special "Savage Songs" episodes have served as clip shows, featuring most of the songs from that series, and playing as the thirteenth and final episode of these series.

Recurring sketches such as "Stupid Deaths" and "Cliff Whiteley" have their own theme songs, while others (like "We Sell Any Monk", "Mummification", "The Incan Family Players", "Chuckle Resin", "God Compare" and "Queen-Fit") feature short songs.

The Birmingham Mail explained in an article about Richie Webb, that "The tales of war, literature and monarchs are crafted into catchy lyrics and set to pop songs or modern music genres...There’s the rock anthem Alexander The Great Song, the Aretha Franklin-esque Rosa Parks Equality Song and the Charles Dickens Song, which bears more than a passing resemblance to the The Smiths...Joan Of Arc singing along to Jessie J’s Price Tag and Simon And Garfunkel provide the backdrop to the Viking invasion...[and] a Tom Jones-style tribute to Welsh revolutionary Owain Glendwr".[25]

A rule of the series is to have one song featured in every episode, excluding jingles and other pieces (which has only been broken on one occasion - series 1, episode 5). While initially most songs were original, with there only being a few parodies or pastiches of artists or styles of music, from the second series, practically every song began to take on this new format. The Radio Times says "after some tinkering in the early days, [the show] quickly adopted the format of pastiching recognisable pop styles".[26] The song choices are often picked for fun, and "sometimes [the crew are]...massively self-indulgent". The writers are naturally drawn towards older music so they make a conscious effort to find the modern equivalents for historical figures, for example choosing a Lady Gaga song for Cleopatra to sing. Sometimes the song choice is due to a something trivial, such as the choice to parody a David Bowie song to illustrate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, so they could include the words "cha-cha-cha-changes".[5] The songs often contain lyrics references to the original source material. For example, a series 5 song ABBA parody "explained the family feuding of the Normans using a lot of references to ABBA songs".[27] Norris said "we try to cover a range of styles, eras, and performers, and not repeat what we've done before. Everyone can pitch in with style ideas. I usually think about the song compilation episode [which ends the series after the 12 regular episodes] and what the mix will feel like in that. We're always looking for modern styles that the audience will know, as well as older music they might think is fun".[26]

"Each song has a long creative process behind it: series producer Caroline Norris and resident historian Greg Jenner find a subject matter, before commissioning a lyric from one of the writing team – almost always Dave Cohen. Norris and Cohen then write and rewrite, desperately trying to convey as much complex historical information as they can, as clearly as they can."[26] Webb said "it's really four of us in a room tossing around ideas. The historical facts get presented to us and we go from there. Dave Cohen will write the lyrics and then I will write the tunes".[28] Norris and Greg Jenner "write the historically accurate lyrics to the Webb's tunes". The songs are written and recorded around August of each year.[14] Web "plays all the instruments which are recorded in a studio near his home in Warwick".[28] Only one song's lyrics were not written by the team - "The Georgian Lady", whose lyrics are taken from the Horrible Histories Gorgeous Georgians book. Musical director Richie Webb has composed each and every song featured on the show. According to him, "the style of the music is really important because it makes the lyrics even funnier". For example, the "pretty grim" lyrics for the "Pachacuti song" is paired up with a "sing-song happy summer pop style" to juxtapose the "horrible lyrics [with] a cheerful tune". He got inspiration for the tune from other catchy songs such as "Macarena", "The Birdy Song" or the "The Ketchup Song".[29] He has been described by Norris as "a genius" due to his work on the show's musical numbers.[26]

The songs are the most highly praised aspect of the show. They have been described as "what have really made Horrible Histories a breakout hit" and "perfect viral-video material". Webb explains "We're perfectly aware now we're not just writing songs for seven- and eight-year-olds. The show's evolved. Because of how YouTube has exploded, things now can stand many listenings. Before, you'd write a song for kids' telly, it'd go out once, that'd be it. Now you can pack stuff in because you know they'll be heard over and over again".[26] Shearsmith said although "the comedy song ... can be awful, [Horrible Histories] does those brilliantly".[20] The Telegraph noted they have "become playground favourites".[30] The Birhingham Mail echoed this view by saying "Richie Webb’s hilariously educational ditties have become a playground hit".[25] The Telegraph also noted that "the best [songs] have deservedly attracted hundreds of thousands of YouTube hits".[6] Mirfield Reporter said "Thirty years from now there will be people who will know who Rosa Parks was because Horrible Histories featured a really catchy song about her."[31] The Sheffield Telegraph said " it’s the songs which have given Horrible Histories its broad appeal with their pastiches of different pop styles ".[28]

The longest of Horrible Histories{'} songs is the Chas'n'Dave pastiche "English Kings and Queens Song".[20] The song "Charles Dickens" was described as "a dead-on Smiths mash that will fly straight over the head of the kids in the CBBC audience". Baynton said of "Rosa Parks", "I remember seeing it cut together and thinking, I wouldn't bet against that one song having a life beyond Horrible Histories". The Radio Times described the "Price Tag" parody "Joan of Arc" as "One that the kids will definitely have got" and said "The interrogation breakdown is particularly good". "The Vikings" epitomises a common thread of many Horrible Histories pastiches: the inclusion of many cheeky references to the original text. These include lines like "just like Robbie" in the World War II-themed Take That parody. This Simon and Garfunkel homage makes reference to "Mrs Robinson", "The Boxer" and "Baby Driver". The Radio Times said of "Marcus Licinius Crassus": "HH is brilliant at finding lesser-known stories that prove history isn't boring: this is one of them, and the music fits it ideally".[26] Many Horrible Histories songs are renowned for their catchiness. Grace Dent of The Independent said "Horrible Histories drummed the order of Henry's wives and their fates into my mind where A-level cramming failed forlornly" and added "[the] song...carousels in my mind whenever anyone mentions Henry VIII".[32] The Telegraph notes they "parodies a pop style while managing to tell a historical story, explaining that the Dickens song "manages to name-check all of the misery-filled novels.[6] For the final episode of the final series, series five, Webb said "We wanted an epic song. I won't give away what it is, but it was quite an undertaking." [26] On July 16, Greg Jenner tweeted "Today's finale song is a little bit different. I hope you like it - it may bring a tear to the eye".[33]

On-screen lyrics were included for most series 1 songs and those in Horrible Christmas. Specially-produced song compilations with lyric graphics were broadcast on the BBC Red Button service after the third and fourth series. It is entitled Horrible Histories Karaoke and is available on Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media, and Freeview.[34] Additionally, all DVD releases feature subtitle tracks containing all the song lyrics.

Themes

Humour and cultural references

The style of humour of the TV programme has been described as Pythonesque, and bearing similarities to Blackadder, Carry On, and The League of Gentlemen. Richard Bradley says its style of humour is Horrible Histories' key success, and notes "it took a while to find the 'spirit of Blackadder, Monty Python and Carry On'".[3] During an interview for BBC News in May 2010, Mathew Baynton, actor (and writer of the second series of the TV show), said: "There's definitely a Monty Python influence to it."[35] Norris has also acknowledged that "the style of the television show owes much to Monty Python".[6] Pemberton said "People say it’s a Monty Python for kids and I can really see that".[20] The Tudors on Film and Television says "although based on Terry Dear's books, the...television series is obviously influenced by the irreverence and outrageous humour of the Monty Python mock histories".[36] The Daily Mail described the show's humour as "sort of The League Of Gentlemen via Monty Python...packed with facts".[37] Julia Raeside of The Guardian described the series as "an educational Blackadder for kids ... wonderfully written".[38][39] Martha Howe-Douglas says that the key to the show is its ability to make themselves laugh, and considers the fact that it entertains children as well as a bonus.[5] The Guardian suggests "the show also may owe some of its creative success to being a children's TV show, with its CBBC slot gifting it with a chance to grow in confidence without the sometimes impossibly high expectations that new comedies can face. Rather than being pressured into being funny, they've had the freedom to just be funny for the joy of it."[40] Rickard Bradley notes that some civilizations or eras have natural comic potential: "The Georgians with their big hair and makeup are very popular, but, from a pure comedy point of view, you really can't beat the Romans."[3]

The Guardian notes "Horrible Histories real talent is just how good it is at lampooning popular culture...It plays things with surprising subtlety – never making the pop culture allusion the focus of the sketch, but simply a means to an end".[40] The Daily Mail says the show is "genius at lampooning popular culture".[37] The show pokes fun at media ranging from TV shows to film to advertisements. It often achieves this through its "trademark pastiche songs". For example, the 4 Georges song "mock[s] the modern-day trend of boy bands perched on high stools sitting in a line".[3] "The Guardian explains "Horrible Histories brings its unique and brilliant spin to events – whether that means giving The Apprentice the stone age treatment, or turning history's most famous philosophers into a pastiche of The Monkees".[40] The Guardian describes the Horrible Histories formula as "meticulously harvested historical data + roaringly well-observed pop culture pastiches = seemingly infinite heritage lolz."[17] The Telegraph says "the show’s best pastiche sketches [are] a surreal collision between the modern world and historical fact", citing The League of Gentlemen's "grotesque panel of Hollywood producers" judging historical figures' movie pitches as an example.[6]

Historical accuracy

My aim for this was always that kids would go away and read up more about a subject. They love all the slapstick, but they also love what Terry does really well in the books – telling you something your parents don’t know. When you’re eight years old you get told what to do by everyone, so being able to teach your dad something is amazing.

Caroline Norris, The Telegraph 21 Feb 2013.[6]

Richard Bradley, Horrible Histories' executive producer and managing director of Lion TV, said "Lion has done countless history programmes, but Horrible Histories is the best history we've ever done. It looks at the role of women, social history, attitudes to authority and class. We've done the foundation of the Anglican church and the American civil war. It's incredibly dense and factual. My eight-year-old said to me after watching one sketch: 'So, that's what the Restoration was'".[3] All facts have to be run past historical consultants to sieve through all the information and only keep the historically accurate parts. Greg Jenner, one of the historical consultants of the show, describes himself as a "tyrannical pedant". Although Horrible Histories is first and foremost a comedy show, it is also an educational show and the makers feel that the viewers must trust in the accuracy of the story telling. However, the show does struggle with getting the balance right, as the comedy will often have to be compromised due to historical inaccuracy. When being questioned how accurate sources from the past actually are, Jenner explained that "history is not what happened in the past. The past is what happened [and] history is how we interpret that".[5] Norris has described fan letters bringing up mistakes as "annoying".[14] Horrible Histories tries to debunk many myths and legends related to history, such as the view of Queen Victoria as fat, miserable, and "not amused" all her life. The show also shines the light on many historical figures who have become unjustly forgotten about, often due to a less important person claiming all the glory. Sketches showing how such figures as Florence Nightingale and Emperor Augustus engulfed the fame of Mary Seacole and Agrippa, respectively, are a common theme of the show.

Jenner has counted eight major mistakes in total over four years. When writing "Born to Rule", the writers got George I and George II's lines mixed up, which meant that George I ended up singing about why George II died ("[eating] some fruit and [dying] on the loo" rather than a stroke), while George II sang the generic line of "people hated us and we hated them too". However, this mistake was rectified in the 2011 BBC Proms, with the two lines being swapped between the two kings. Another example is a sketch which referred to the Greek Poseidon when they really meant Roman Neptune. Other mistakes involve the number of legs Odin's horse had, and whether the Globe was the first theatre in London or the second. Howe-Douglas has commented that the show has received complaints about supposedly incorrect accents. Jenner has stated that he is "genuinely gutted" when the show gets a fact wrong, because the workers have invested so much time and energy into a show that they are so proud of.[5] The Telegraph said, "jokes aside, it’s a stream of facts that constitute the heart of the shows, just as in the books – disgusting facts, well-I-never facts, facts that deliberately cock a snook at what might be summarised as the Ladybird version of history".[6] Commenting on the unique ways in which information is presented, the author of a Mirfield Reporter article said "Is that a dumbing down of learning? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it matters how you know what you know - as long as you know it...History has always had an unfortunate reputation for being a dull subject when in reality its the most fascinating thing in the world. Get children interested in it at all costs, that’s what I reckon. And if the historians of tomorrow are encouraged into their profession by a comedy actor dressed as the Grim Reaper laughing at the stupid deaths of the past’s unfortunates then so be it".[31]

TV Pixie notes that some "have an issue with the historical element taking second place to the comedy", but adds "[looking] at Horrible Histories as a comedy first and foremost and it's one of the funniest things on the television. Long may it reign, whether it be on prime time family TV or out there in children's hour".[41] The Guardian said, "No one seems to question that the show is entertaining, but is it good history? Dan Snow, the TV historian, says it doesn't need to be both and we should celebrate it for what it is: 'It's wonderfully exciting to watch. It has such a great sense of the past. It's fun, harmless stuff. But it isn't a serious look at the past. It's one step above Blackadder, but that's fine: the Victorians fictionalised their history. We shouldn't try to dress it up as brilliant history. For example, the Four Georges song is great, but George III was only mentally ill for a short period of his reign. It plays to stereotypes, but it's fantastic as entry-level history".[3]

Children's show

Deary said "Children's TV is, on the whole, appalling. Just shocking. It's all shouty, patronising voices".[3] Norris said "I wanted to make a show that people would say was too good for children", because she thought children's television should be really high quality.[4] While Horrible Histories is officially a kids' TV show, "the amount of adults coming to see the program and who are fascinated by [it] destroyed that distinction [between children's and adult's TV]". Richard Bradley said, in regard to their test audience's reaction, "There were a few sketches that missed the beat...but it made us realise that it had to be written 100% for children and not have knowing references aimed only at adults. We're still learning what works best for children."[3] Simon Farnaby has described the dynamic as between show and audience as "parent-child", and noted that as opposed non-educational shows like Hannah Montana, "[the children] actively want encourag[ement] to watch it but they wanna watch it anyway"; that parents want them to "like something they already like". Norris explained that when they originally started making parodies, the most important thing was to make it so the children laughed. The fact that the songs were parodies and included in-jokes was only done as it because it made the writers laugh. She added that one consequence of this technique makes kids think that the music the show parodies was original content. An example is when an adult viewer showed their child a clip of Adam & the Ants, to which they replied: "they nicked that off Horrible Histories". Norris breaks away from the "children TV show" label and instead describes Horrible Histories as "a family show". She said if she made the show as an "adult's show", the only thing she would consider changing would be Rattus Rattus - a talking puppet rat that serves as the Master of Ceremonies. She questioned whether playing the show as it is for adults would feel "a bit young".[5] Mirfield Reporter commented on the "growing number of childless adults watch it in complete hysterics, the laughter being regularly punctuated with mutterings of 'well I never knew that'". The 40-something author of the article said "I would estimate that 97 per cent of the knowledge I have acquired about the ancient Aztec civilisation has been gained from a television programme aimed at 10-year-olds...All the interesting stuff has come from a comedy pastiche of the Bee Gees."[31]

David Baddiel, who played Vincenzo Larfoff, reader of Scary Stories, said "People tend to go on about Horrible Histories being 'not just a kid's show, but a proper comedy show' but actually I don't see the dichotomy there. It's partly to do with the fact that kids are more sophisticated, especially linguistically, then they used to be, so to do a show that is clever and funny and uses arcane references but can play to adults and children is more possible now".[3] Birmingham Mail described Horrible Histories as "a children’s show which has crossed over into adult viewing"[18] Bafta winner Jesse Armstrong compare the show to his other favourite, Pingu, saying: "You can just tell the creators of both shows have put more of themselves into them than is normal. I used to write for children's TV [Tracy Beaker]; it's certainly not easier than writing for adults. You have fewer tools at your disposal because you can't draw on sexual content or obscenities. Kids are as discerning as adults, if anything they are quicker and clearer in knowing what they like. My daughter, who says Horrible Histories is her favourite programme, gets that the tone is sophisticated and that it takes children seriously. It doesn't talk down to them. Just watch the Four Georges. It's my favourite sketch – wonderfully written and beautifully performed".[3] The Independent noted that the show has some "sophisticated – and quite dark – sketches".[42] Richard Bradley said the show has "led the trend for adult comedy writers and directors working in kids TV".[3]

Darkness and scatology

Norris explained that much of the darker content is able to get broadcast on TV for three main reasons: it actually happened in history, kids learn it in school, and often it was featured in the Horrible Histories children's books series. Therefore, arguably kids have already been exposed to it. A question, however, is where the limit is to content and themes. Norris explains that once it is impossible to make a joke about a subject or find the "comedy angle", it is out of bounds. An example of a subject that pushed their levels of comfort is in "the first year [when they] did World War II and...read the Holocaust page [of Woeful Second World War] and...just thought 'no'". She explained that one needs a sense of intuition to be able to work out what dark subjects "ha[ve] a punchline" at the end of it. Sometimes after a sketch is written, it is decided that it "just feels wrong", and so it is put aside. Norris added that a rule of thumb is if watching the controversial sketch with a 10 year old would make her feel nervous. Norris gets around compliance by arguing she can't change history by not showing the dark side to the stories that they tell, and in the case of an internet Cleopatra sketch where she ends up killing herself with an asp, they researched online for school projects involving the life of the Egyptian queen and how she died, in order to help justify its inclusion.[5] Harry Venning of The Stage notes the show "has the courage to tackle potentially controversial events head on", adding "re-imagining Rosa Parks' celebrated civil rights protest as a soul number explained a complex issue in a clever, concise and accessible way without trivialising it".[43] Simon Farnaby explains how kids really like Death, even though he is a very morbid and frighteningly looking character.[5] The Guardian describes the "much-loved repeat sketch" of Stupid Deaths thus: "a comical grim reaper process[es] recently departed historical characters at the "Death Check-In" counter and then laugh[s] mercilessly at the farcical manner in which they died".[3] These sketches later became Britain's Got Talent parodies.

The show has been described as "scatalogically obsessed",[37] reveling in jokes and facts involving various bodily functions. The Guardian notes "The feedback from the BBC was unambiguous: 'We really like it, but we feel the poo quotient needs to be higher'.[3] Bafta winner Jesse Armstrong said, "The key for me is that the team has been given leeway to do the subjects that really interest kids – death, shit, blood and piss".[3] When accepting the 2011 BAFTA for Best Children's Comedy, Caroline Norris noted that each series seems to have a theme: "series 1 was really gory, series 2 was all about vomit, and [series 3] has an awful lot of poo in it".[44] Richard Bradley said the breakthrough for the show was realising that "when children go around stately homes all they ever want to know about is how the people went to the loo and how they died".[3] Shearsmith notes the "wee and poo and sick" are the "bits kids are interested [and so are] the way to engage them".[20] The Telegraph notes the show "teaches history as children like it, with plenty of death, jokes and wee".[30] The Express notes "tiny ones will enjoy the scatology and comedy violence and, for grown-ups and older, more media-savvy children, laughs are to be found in the spot-on spoofs of modern telly".[45] The Independent said "Okay, so there are a lot of fart, wee and poo jokes – but then there are too in Little Britain", an adult comedy show. It also noted, "at least the audience for Horrible Histories are of an age when a fascination with bodily functions is expected". It said "take away the history-lesson context and there'd be moral outrage across the land", but that it is okay as, for example, "[a] gruesome sketch was illustrating how the cavemen honoured their dead".[42]

Recentness of sketches

Terry Deary said he strictly kept away from doing post World War II in his books because he didn't want to make jokes about events that were well within living memory,[46] though in the advanced years of the Horrible Histories book series, he did explore later decades such as the 1960s with the magazine issue The Shocking 60s. Originally the show had the same philosophy as the books - to not portray any events that were well within living memory. But as the series progressed the crew became more lenient, it began dabbling in figures from the second half of the 20th century to the present day. In 2011, Richard Bradley said "At the moment, we have never gone further than the Blitz, but we are having discussions now about doing a sketch based during the fall of the Berlin Wall."[3] Notably, the Sports special included many 20th century athletes such as Jesse Owens. Also, as the show wanted to explore the civil rights movement, Rosa Parks was featured in the first series five episode singing a pastiche of Aretha Franklin music. Norris explained that for series five, the show widened its cut-off point to "include historical characters we thought kids should know about that we weren't able to do before". She says it is quite hard as sometimes it "doesn't feel like history", and also some of those people are still alive or recently dead. The most recent event included in the show thus far (excluding specials) is Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon, and such events are included in the show with the title card Troublesome 20th Century or Potty Pioneers. Norris has defended this decision by noting there is a Horrible Histories special written by Terry Deary on the former topic.[14]

Black history

The show includes black historical characters, such as the Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole, the African-American boxer Bill Richmond and The African-American civil rights leader Rosa Parks. Some audience members have written to the show noting saying that they read on the internet that various historical figures such as Hannibal, Cleopatra, or Aesop may have been black. However, Jenner, the show's researcher, defends the show from any accusations of racism by saying that general historical consensus is followed; that is to say, the approach that historians accept on the whole.[5]

Format

Eras and civilisations

The majority of eras and civilizations included in the show are parallels of books in the official canon of Terry Deary's Horrible Histories series: Angry Aztecs, Awful Egyptians, Barmy British Empire, Cut-Throat Celts, Frightful First World War, Gorgeous Georgians, Groovy Greeks, Incredible Incas, Measly Middle Ages, Storming Normans, Rotten Romans, Smashing Saxons, Woeful Second World War, Savage Stone Age, Slimy Stuarts, Terrible Tudors, Vile Victorians, Vicious Vikings. While most debuted in the show's first series, some were introduced in later seasons. Some are adapted from Horrible Histories book specials (Troublesome 20th Century, Fabulous French, Ruthless Rulers, Shocking Scotland, Awesome USA), while others are adapted from Horrible Histories handbooks (Nasty Knights, Putrid Pirates, Wild Warriors, Wicked Witches). Some eras and civilizations have become much more prominent than others, and some may only have one appearance throughout the show. For example, Barmy Boxing, Foul Football, Mad Marathons, and Outlandish Olympics were exclusively featured in the Sports Special. Other eras and civilizations, which may have had inspiration from the Horrible Histories magazine series or the 2001 TV show are Fearsome Falklands, Potty Pioneers, Radical Renaissance, and Terrible Teachers.

The eras and civilizations are introduced by a title card with its name, which is recited by Richie Webb via voice over. Each title card has a jingle, and the letters enter the screen in a unique way, for example on a flag for Putrid Pirates, or rolling on like stone blocks.

Sketches

Each episode features six to eight different eras or civilisations with one to four sketches for each. Many of the sketches are parodies of pop culture. There are many recurring sketches which have achieved a degree of fame. Others have served as one-offs. The show uses certain sketches as a means to satirise news and current affairs shows: HHTV News (BBC News), HHTV Sport (Sportsround), Historical Weather Forecast (pastiche of Daybreak), Greek Myth Talk (The Jeremy Kyle Show), and The Early Show (Daybreak, BBC Breakfast and GMTV). The show has also parodied several reality TV shows: Stupid Deaths (Britain's Got Talent), The Axe Factor (X Factor), Historical Wife Swap (Wife Swap), Ready Steady Feast (Ready Steady Cook), Historical Masterchef (Masterchef), Historical Apprentice (The Apprentice), Historical Dragons' Den (Dragons' Den), Historical Come Dine with Me (Come Dine with Me), Historical Mastermind (Mastermind), This Is Your Reign (This Is Your Life), Historical Fashion Fix (Gok's Fashion Fix), Historical Family Fortunes (Family Fortunes), and My Big Fat Medieval Scottish Wedding (My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding). Other sketches parody other types of TV shows: Historical Art Show (SMart), Historical Hospital (Holby City), Wonders of the Historical Universe (Wonders of the Universe), Historical EastEnders (EastEnders), The Only Way is Hertfordshire (The Only Way is Essex), Horrible Points of View (Points of View), My Stuart Family (My Family), Crimewatch BC (Crimewatch), and Winter Cooking with The Hairy Vikings (The Hairy Bikers' Cookbook). Many sketches serve as parodies of individual ads, types of ads, or shopping networks: Shouty Man (Shouty ads like Cillit Bang), Historical Shopping Channel (shopping channels), HH Movie Pitch (Orange Movie Pitch mobile turn-off reminders), ____ Direct (NHS Direct), We Sell Any Monk (We Buy Any Car), and God Compare (Gocompare.com).

Some sketches have unique ways of approaching history. Historical Desktops place historical characters into a setting using a Windows computer, Twisted Fairytales adds a spin on fairytales by setting them in historical eras, Cliff Whiteley aims to debunk common misconceptions and to bring forgotten historical figures to the audience's attention, Dodgy War Inventions/Machines/Tactics explores failed war tactics and machines, Words We Get from the _____ explores the origin and history of English words, Scary Stories explores the truth behind myths and legends, and The Bob Hale Reports give high-speed breakdowns of history. The show has also frequently spoofed various types of magazines in their Historical Magazines sketches, and various types of video games in sketches such as Warrior and Real Tomb Raider. Many sketches were created especially for the show: Historical Hairdressers, Court of Historical Law, Historical Paramedics, Historical Pet Shop, Historical Gardener's World, and Detective D.I. Bones. On the Horrible Histories Series 2, 3, and 4 DVDs, there is have been features showing a montage of rejected sketches. These have been excluded from the show because they didn't quite work, or perhaps just due to time constraints and over-commissioning of material.

Rattus Rattus serves as an MC, and so gives mini sketches to either break up two sketches in the same era, or to conclude the era. He either tells silly jokes, or gives extra facts about the previous sketch. Another type of mini-sketch is the multiple-choice quiz question. The opening monologues of each era delivered by 2D animated historical characters are also sketches. Songs are a unique type of sketch for Horrible Histories.

Critical reception

The series has received generally positive reviews throughout its run.

Alice-Azania Jarvis of The Independent praised the first episode of the series writing that, although she did not enjoy the Terry Deary book series, she loved the first episode for being "everything that Blue Peter isn't: fun, filthy and genuinely engaging in a peer-to-peer way." [47] Mike Ward of the Daily Star commented: "Kids can learn to love history just so long as it's told to them in a way that brings it to life. And this new series ... does precisely that".[48] Harry Venning of The Stage wrote: "Horrible Histories scours the past for interesting, bizarre, unpleasant and unpalatable facts and uses them as the basis for some seriously funny, beautifully performed and endlessly inventive sketches."[49] Naomi West of The Daily Telegraph described the series as "boundary-pushing" and a "comic gem [that] delivered more laughs than most post-watershed comedies".[2] Tom Sutcliffe, also of The Independent, wrote "As a grown-up you might quibble with the fact that they don't always distinguish between things that genuinely are true and the things that people would like to be (sadly, there's no hard evidence that Aeschylus was brained by a tortoise dropped by an overflying eagle). But grown-ups and children should enjoy the gleefully anachronistic way in which information is conveyed".[50]

Before the third series was launched, Maggie Brown of The Guardian wrote that what set Horrible Histories apart was "its speed and variety, the ability to jump between six or seven different historical eras on each show, with several sketches about each of them".[51]

Radio Times deemed it "one of the best shows anywhere" and praised the third season, saying "three cheers for the return of this factual but funny series". It also complemented the series by explaining that "history hasn't been this much fun since the last series finished".[52] The Mail on Sunday referred to the series as "superior edutainment". The show has also been acclaimed by TV Times for its ability to surreptitiously teach children facts about history in a funny and clever show, "slapstick gags and hilarious pastiches disguising useful educational content ...our favourite take on British history... we wish history had been taught like this in our day!". The Sunday Express said "There's nothing kids like quite so much as violence and horror which is why Horrible Histories has been such a success" The Sunday Times referred to the series as "An attention grabbing mix of the wilder parts of history". The Independent called it "educational silliness".[53] The British Comedy Guide gave a positive review, saying "This show is great! A talented cast and writing team have made this a comedy highlight for us. In fact, it has become quite a hit with those outside its target audience. Why? Well, much like Sorry, I've Got No Head, the material doesn't patronise but instead treats the children watching as the intelligent people they are. The musical numbers are the real highlight".[54]

Damian Kavanagh of Controller CBBC said "Horrible Histories is a stand-out critical and ratings success for CBBC loved as much by adults as by our young viewers. The eleven awards the series has now picked are testament to its enormous appeal. Series three is a belter and is even bigger and better than the last." [55] Bafta winner Jesse Armstrong said, "Hit shows are very difficult to achieve. You need to have everything just right – that's what's so terrifying. But Horrible Histories has a great cast and brilliant writers. They're also blessed with great source material. The tone is perfect and it is done in a non-patronising, engaging way".[3]

In his review of the fourth series, Stephen Kelly of The Guardian complimented the programme on its "ideas, writing and performance" and emphasized the show's appeal to children and adults alike ("But Horrible Histories isn't just the best show on children's television – it's one of the smartest comedies on TV").[56] In 2013, The Daily said "It's in its fifth year, but is still unfailingly brilliant and funny and silly, without ever losing its sense of purpose... There just isn't anything else on TV that can match it for ideas, writing and performance".[37] Holy Moly said "Horrible Histories is the kind of brilliant that’s so good it’s actually a bit daunting."[27]

TV Pixie notes that some "have an issue with the historical element taking second place to the comedy".[41] The Guardian asked, "No one seems to question that the show is entertaining, but is it good history?". It quoted TV historian Dan Snow, who said: "We shouldn't try to dress it up as brilliant history...The Four Georges song is great, but George III was only mentally ill for a short period of his reign...It plays to stereotypes, but it's fantastic as entry-level history".[3] Jenner has counted eight major mistakes in total over four years, including George I's and George II's lines being muddled up in The Four Georges, which took place in the very first episode of the show. Howe-Douglas has commented that the show has received complaints about supposedly incorrect accents.[5] The Spectator suggests "here has been some whipped-up controversy about Horrible Histories", noting "where the books make a rudimentary attempt to teach history as a series of interconnected events, the television show is basically gags, chiefly about defecation, gluttony, murder and torture". The article adds, "It’s quite amusing, though whether it will pique an interest in the subject, or — as some say — merely encourage children to learn more about defecation, gluttony, murder and torture, we cannot know."[57] Alternatively, The Express said "The educational aspect is perhaps overplayed".[45]

TV Pixie referred to the captions that flash on screen revealing if something is true or silly as "slightly annoying", comparing them negatively to Stephen Fry in the repackaged version. Reviewing the repackaged version of the show, the site suggested one reason Rattus Rattus was replaced by Stephen Fry was because "the rat was likely considered slightly too childish for grown ups to bear".[58]

Accolades

In 2009, the first series of Horrible Histories received a Royal Television Society nomination for best Children's Programme, but the prize eventually went to Big & Small.[59] It was also nominated for two BAFTAs at the 2009 EA British Academy Children's Awards.[60] Executive Producer Richard Bradley said, "We are thrilled that Lion's first venture into children's television has been acclaimed in this way. It's a tribute to all the efforts of an incredibly talented team in creating such a fresh, innovative and ambitious show."[61] The nominees were Caroline Norris, Chloe Thomas and Steve Connelly for Best Factual Programme and the writing team for Best Writing, but they lost out to Serious Ocean and Dustbin Baby respectively.[62]

In May 2010, Horrible Histories: Series 1 received the Prix Jeunesse International Award in the 7-11 Non fiction category[63] Executive Producer Richard Bradley had commented on the nomination, "After one series, Horrible Histories' unique blend of historical fact and gory, grisly, bloody comedy has clearly made its mark with children and a surprising number of adults. We look forward to laughing ourselves even smarter with series two and three."[64]

Also in 2010, Horrible Histories: Series 2 won the Royal Television Society award for Best Children's Programme[65] and three BAFTA Children's awards: Best Comedy, Best Writer (the writing team) and Best Performer (Jim Howick).[66][67] It scooped the AIB Award in the category of "Best Children's Factual Programme or Series" as well. Judges described it as "thoroughly engaging and educational. A format that will work in territories worldwide. Looks great on the screen with inventive use of graphics and first-rate story-telling."[68]

In 2011, the second series collected three prizes (Best Kids Non-Animation or Mixed series, Best Writing and Best Acting) at the Kidscreen Awards annual ceremony in New York[69] and was also a candidate for a Broadcast Award in the category of Best Children's Programme – earned by the short animated film The Gruffalo[70] Horrible Histories: Series 3 was nominated for three British Academy Children's awards in Writing (writing team), Performer (Martha Howe-Douglas) and Comedy. It won the BAFTA for Comedy, but lost out on the other categories. The programme was also a nominee for the Royal Television Society Best Children's Programme award – won by Newsround: My Autism & Me.[71] Horrible Histories: Terrible Treasures, an interactive game based on the books and the TV series, launched on the CBBC website, won the Broadcast Digital Award in the category of Best Use of Interactive. [72]

In 2012, the third series won two more Kidscreen awards (Best Acting and Best Writing)[73] and received the Rose d'Or award in the Children Programme category.[74] It was nominated for the Best Children's Programme Broadcast Award as well.[75]

Horrible Histories: Series 4 was a candidate for three BAFTA Children's Awards: Performer (Mathew Baynton), Writer (the writing team) and Comedy (the production team). It won in the last category.[76] The programme also received nominations for the British Comedy Awards (Best Sketch Show),[77] the Writers' Guild Awards (Best Children's TV Script),[78] and three Royal Television Society Craft & Design Awards in the categories Costume Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions, Effects Picture Enhancement and Production Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions.[79]

Horrible Histories: Series 2 was the surprise winner of the Best Sketch Show category at the 2010 The British Comedy Awards,[80] thus becoming the first ever children's TV programme to be recognised at that ceremony. The third series of the show won the same award again in 2011.[81]

Awards and nominations table


Unless otherwise stated, source is LionTV site.[82]

Year Award Title Recipient Result
2009 Royal Television Society Award Best Children's Programme Horrible Histories Nominated[83]
2009 BAFTA Children's Award Best Factual Programme Caroline Norris, Chloe Thomas, Steve Connelly Nominated[84]
2009 BAFTA Children's Award Best Writing The Writing Team Nominated[84]
2010 British Interactive Media Association Award Best Game Horrible Histories: Terrible Treasures Nominated
2010 AIB Award Best Children's Factual Programme or Series Horrible Histories Won
2010 British Comedy Award Best Sketch Show Horrible Histories Won[85]
2010 BAFTA Children's Award Best Performer Jim Howick Won
2010 BAFTA Children's Award Best Writer The Writing Team Won
2010 BAFTA Children's Award Best Comedy Horrible Histories Won
2010 BAFTA Children's Award BAFTA Kids' Vote - Television Horrible Histories Nominated[86]
2010 Prix Jeunesse International Award Best 7-11 Non fiction Horrible Histories Won[87]
2010 Royal Television Society Award Best Children's Programme Horrible Histories Won[88]
2011 History Makers Award Best Interactive Production Horrible Histories Interactive Won
2011 British Comedy Award Best Sketch Show Horrible Histories Won
2011 KidScreen Award Best Kids Non Animation or Mixed Series Horrible Histories Won
2011 KidScreen Award Best Writing The Writing Team Won
2011 KidScreen Award Best Acting Cast of Horrible Histories Won
2011 Royal Television Society Award Best Children's Programme Horrible Histories Nominated
2011 Broadcast Award Best Children's Programme Horrible Histories Nominated[89]
2011 Digital Broadcast Award Best use of Interactive Horrible Histories: Terrible Treasures Won
2011 BAFTA Children's Award Best Comedy Horrible Histories Won
2011 BAFTA Children's Award Best Writing The Writing Team Nominated
2011 BAFTA Children's Award Best Performer Martha Howe-Douglas Nominated
2011 BAFTA Children's Award BAFTA Kids Vote Powered By Yahoo! - Television Horrible Histories Nominated[90]
2012 Kidscreen Award Best Acting Cast of Horrible Histories Won
2012 Kidscreen Award Best Writing The Writing Team Won
2012 BAFTA Children's Award Best Comedy Horrible Histories Won[91]
2012 BAFTA Children's Award Best Performer Mathew Baynton Nominated[91]
2012 BAFTA Children's Award Best Writer The Writing Team Nominated[91]
2012 British Comedy Awards Best Sketch Show Horrible Histories Nominated[92]
2012 Writers' Guild Award Best Children's TV Script The Writing Team Nominated[93]
2012 Rose d'Or Award Best Children Programme Horrible Histories Nominated[94]
2012 Broadcast Award Best Children's Programme Horrible Histories Nominated[95]
2012 Royal Television Society Craft & Design Award Costume Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions Horrible Histories Nominated[96]
2012 Royal Television Society Craft & Design Award Effects Picture Enhancement Horrible Histories Nominated[96]
2012 Royal Television Society Craft & Design Award Production Design Entertainment & Non Drama Productions Horrible Histories Nominated[96]

Cast

Main cast

Actor Characters
Mathew Baynton Charles II of England, Dick Turpin, George II of Great Britain, Pachacuti, Henry I of England, Mark Antony, Zeus, Caligula (series 2), Black Bart, Jack Sheppard, Robert Knox, Francis I of France, Menelaus, Pompey, Guy Fawkes, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Vercingetorix, Elagabalus, D.I. Bones, Ethelred the Unready, Will Sommers, William Shakespeare, Philip II of Spain, Charles I of England, Captain Robert Scott, Thomas Farriner, Leonidas I, Aristotle, Dick Whittington, spoof of Gok Wan in Historical Fashion Fix, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (only at The Proms), Hephaestion, Charles Darwin, Walter Raleigh, Host On Historical Points Of View, (series 4), Count Emicho, Pausanias, Leonardo da Vinci, John Stubbs, Christopher Columbus, Peter III of Russia, James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, James VI of Scotland and I of England, Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, Richard I of England, Fagin, Cesare Borgia, Alfred the Great, James II of Scotland, Walter Tirel, Histiaeus, Sigurd the Mighty, Archimedes (series 5), Jonathan Wild, Cambyses the Conqueror, Charles Dickens, spoof of Kevin McCloud in Gross Designs, Augustus, Johannes Gutenberg, William Darling, Hans Steininger, Aethelberht of Kent, Isaac Newton, John Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle, Henry VII of England, Matthew Hopkins, Emperor Augustus, Orville Wright, Henry Fox Talbot, Pliny The Elder, Bernard de Treviso, Alan Smallbog (spoof of Alan Titchmarsh in Homefront Gardening), Empedocles
Simon Farnaby Grim Reaper (Death), William the Conqueror, Caligula (series 1 and 3), George III of England (series 1 and at The Proms), William Burke, Hippocrates, Mercury, Robert Walpole, Walter Raleigh, PR agent Cliff Whiteley (spoof of Max Clifford), Tiberius, William Harvey, Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, William Davison, FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan, Scorpus, Israel Hands, Jocelin of Wells, Francis Tresham (series 1 and online content), Thomas Blood, Thunor, Edward Smith, Thomas Wolsey, Robert the Bruce, Philoxenus, Vlad the Impaler, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Augustine of Canterbury, Edmond Halley, Richard Simons, Cato, Edward I of England, Robert Stephenson, Earl Salisbury, Lord Stanley, Ramesses II, Titus Salt, John Mytton, Arthur Phillip, Neville Chamberlain, Marc Isambard Brunel, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
Martha Howe-Douglas Elizabeth I of England, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Queen Victoria (series 2 onwards), Florence Nightingale, Emmeline Pankhurst, Madame Tussaud, Caroline of Brunswick, Sam, the anchorwoman from HHTV News, Matilda of Flanders, Lady Jane Grey, Rhea, Lisa del Giocondo, Hannah Twynnoy, Pearl Hart, Mary, Queen of Scots, spoof of Karren Brady in Historical Apprentice, Lucrezia Borgia, Vannozza dei Cattanei, Sofie Hess, Rosie Ruiz, Frige, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Anne Boleyn, Margaret Pole, Mary Shelley, Flora MacDonald, Sophie Blanchard, Elizabeth II, Joan of Arc (series 5), Lily Parr, Diane De Poitiers, Agnes Randolph, Elizabeth of York, Empress Matilda, Mary Anning
Jim Howick Lord Nelson, George IV, Alfred Nobel, Wyatt Earp, Henry II of England, Richard III of England, Blackbeard, Nero, William Hare, Edmund II, Robert II of Artois, Shouty Man (spoof of Barry Scott of the Cillit Bang adverts), Winston Churchill, William Buckland, Matthew Webb, Samuel Pepys, Napoleon I, Archimedes, spoof of Gregg Wallace in Historical Masterchef, Douglas Bader, Plato, King Canute, Prince Albert, Martin Luther, Sir Peter Lely, Hannibal, James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, Trevor Geek, Bobby Leach, Henry Bessemer, Pope Alexander VI, John, King of England, John Flamsteed, Pope Clement VII, Sir Thomas Heneage, Robert Cocking, Molière, Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden, spoof of Alan Sugar in Historical Apprentice, Leofwine Godwinson, Woden, Aesop, Neil Armstrong, Arthur John Priest, Francis Walsingham, Jeremy Bentham, Kenneth Mellanby, Gerald FitzGerald, 9th Earl of Kildare, Owain Glyndŵr, Alexander Fleming, Ernest Shackleton, Samuel Bishop, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Xerxes, Publius Claudius Pulcher (consul 249 BC), Thomas Edison, Edward Doit
Laurence Rickard Bob Hale (spoof of Peter Snow), John Joseph Merlin, William II of England, Paul Revere, Draco, Pepi II, Henry V of England, Deiphobus, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, John Wright, Arthur Aston, Olaf Tryggvason, Diogenes, Thomas Cromwell, William Mullins, Captain Louis Nolan, Leif Ericson, Nicholas Culpeper, John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Pheidippides, Fred Lorz, Tiw, Buzz Aldrin, Erik the Red, William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, Beau Brummel, Agrippa, Wilbur Wright, Joseph Pujol, Domitian, Stephen, King of England
Ben Willbond Henry VIII of England, George I of Great Britain, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Kronos, Billy the Kid, Louis XVI of France, Paris of Troy, Commodus, Aeschylus, William Wallace, John Balliol, Sweyn Forkbeard, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Walter Rothschild, 2nd Baron Rothschild, Francis Bacon, Adolf Hitler, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, Clement Vallandingham, Robert Catesby, Sir Thomas Hardy, 1st Baronet, Mike Peabody, Sir Francis Drake, Francisco Pizarro, Ludwig Van Beethoven (only at The Proms), Socrates, George Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan, John Snow, Robert III of Scotland, Giovanni Borgia, Edward III of England, Pythagoras, spoof of John Humphrys in Historical Mastermind, Humphrey de Bohun, 4th Earl of Hereford, Griffith ap Llewelyn, Pierre de Coubertin, William Foulke, Aristagoras, spoof of John Torode in Historical Masterchef, Gyrth Godwinson, Claude Duval, Lord Byron, James Clay (spoof of James May in Stoneage Top Gear), Lewis Carroll, Ivan the Terrible, Charles VII of France, Henry Ford, Sir Robert Peel, James Watt, John of Bohemia, Virgil, Nikita Khrushchev, Pericles
Giles Terera Presenter of HHTV Sport, Jesse Owens, Imhotep
Dominique Moore (series 2 onwards) Mary Seacole, Agent Moses (Harriet Tubman), presenter of Ready, Steady, Feast (series 2), Ferne Polyester (spoof of Fearne Cotton), Rosa Parks
Sarah Hadland

(series 1, 2, 4 and 5)

Queen Victoria (series 1), Florence Nightingale, Helen of Troy, Hatshepsut, Minerva, presenter of Ready, Steady, Feast (series 1), Nefertiti, Nell Gwyn, Mandy the dental assistant (series 4), Mary I of England (series 4), Grace Darling, Nefertari
Katy Wix

(series 1 to 4)

Various roles
Lawry Lewin

(series 2 onwards)

George III of Great Britain, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas More, Francis Tresham (series 2), Duc de Chaulnes, William Prynne, Spiculus, Roland the Farter, Ned Low, spoof of Brian Cox in Wonders of the Egyptian/Viking/Saxon/Roman Universe, spoof of Nick Hewer in Historical Apprentice, Henry Cole, Martin Smith, Galen, James Hind, Saturn, William McMaster Murdoch, Michelangelo (deleted scenes), Charles Edward Stuart, Jeremy Clarkstone (spoof of Jeremy Clarkson in Stoneage Top Gear), Marie-Antoine Carême, Dave in Historical Grimefighters, Leslie Lever, Baron Lever
Alice Lowe

(series 2, 3 and 5)

Lady Jane Grey, Emily Davison, Marie Antoinette, Joan of Arc (series 2), Mary I of England (series 3), Henrietta Maria of France, Poppea, Calpurnia Pisonis, Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, Iona Spruce (spoof of Fiona Bruce in Antiques Roadshow), Matilda I, Countess of Boulogne
Katherine Jakeways

(series 4 onwards)

Caroline of Ansbach, spoof of Michaela Strachan from Historical Springwatch, Gertrude, Suffragette, Isetnofret

Actors in bold appeared in all five series of the show.

Recurring and guest cast

Additional cast
  • Susie Donkin (Series 1 to 5. Various roles, uncredited in series 2 & 3 but credited for series 1, 4 & 5)
  • Lisa Devlin (Series 1. Various roles, particularly characters from "Twisted Fairytales")
  • Javone Prince (Series 1. Various roles)
  • George Sawyer (Series 1. Franz Reichelt and Pausanias in "Stupid Deaths")
  • Nathaniel Martello-White (Series 2. Cowboy from "Cowboy Song" and American slave)
  • Daniel Lawrence Taylor (Series 2. American slave)
  • Allin Kempthorne (Series 2. Israel Hands in "Blackbeard's song", uncredited)
  • Rhashan Stone (Series 3. Various roles)
  • Jalaal Hartley (Series 4. Various roles)
  • Jessica Ransom (Series 4 Various roles)
  • Jason Lewis (Series 4. Fika and Sergio Motsoeneng in Olympic Special)
  • Gerard Foster (Series 5. Candidate in "Historical Apprentice")
Special guests
Puppeteers
  • John Eccleston: Rattus Rattus
  • Scott Brooker: additional puppetry and puppet maker
Additional voices

Episodes

Main article: List of Horrible Histories episodes

Caroline Norris, series producer explains that every series they produce 12 original sketch shows, one song special, and then other specials which are a mixture of old sketches in a clip show format, and new footage (most commonly the linking sketches which replace Rattus Rattus). She added that the show has done other specials in the past, including ones for Christmas and Halloween. Series 5 includes a Valentine's Day special.[14]

Ratings

In the week before 15 June 2009, the show topped the children's TV viewing figures with 191,000 viewers.[97] The Daily Telegraph commented on its success: "The show [...] proved a huge hit which appeared in top chart from CBBC, with nearly 60 per cent of six to twelve-year-olds in the UK tuning in to watch an episode. The BBC has decided that more series must continue for children and adults to watch".[2]

Episode ratings from Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB).[98]

Series 1

Episode No. Original airdate Viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
1 16 April 2009 N/A N/A
2 22 April 2009 119,000 N/A
3 29 April 2009 162,000 N/A
4 6 May 2009 103,000 N/A
5 13 May 2009 184,000 N/A
6 20 May 2009 125,000 N/A
7 27 May 2009 164,000 1
8 3 June 2009 154,000 N/A
9 10 June 2009 179,000 N/A
10 17 June 2009 177,000 6
11 24 June 2009 155,000 5
12 1 July 2009 235,000 1
13 8 July 2009 245,000 3

Series 2

Episode No. Original airdate Viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
1 31 May 2010 356,000 5
2 1 June 2010 450,000 1
3 2 June 2010 358,000 4
4 3 June 2010 302,000 10
5 4 June 2010 270,000 N/A
6 8 June 2010 453,000 1
7 15 June 2010 384,000 1
8 22 June 2010 296,000 5
9 29 June 2010 493,000 1
10 6 July 2010 368,000 1
11 13 July 2010 391,000 1
12 20 July 2010 379,000 1
13 27 July 2010 344,000 1

Series 3

Episode No. Original airdate Viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
1 30 May 2011 368,000 6
2 31 May 2011 261,000 N/A
3 1 June 2011 282,000 N/A
4 2 June 2011 265,000 N/A
5 3 June 2011 231,000 N/A
6 7 June 2011 434,000 1
7 14 June 2011 365,000 7
8 21 June 2011 425,000 1
9 28 June 2011 449,000 1
10 5 July 2011 539,000 1
11 12 July 2011 400,000 1
12 19 July 2011 437,000 2
13 26 July 2011 330,000 6

Series 4

Episode No. Original airdate Viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
1 9 April 2012 404,000 3
2 10 April 2012 386,000 6
3 11 April 2012 346,000 9
4 12 April 2012 353,000 8
5 13 April 2012 403,000 4
6 20 April 2012 455,000 1
7 27 April 2012 516,000 1
8 4 May 2012 410,000 2
9 11 May 2012 311,000 N/A
10 18 May 2012 428,000 2
11 25 May 2012 250,000 N/A
12 1 June 2012 334,000 1
13 4 June 2012 176,000 N/A

Series 5

Episode No. Original airdate Viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
1 27 May 2013 Under 305,000 Outside Top 10
2 28 May 2013 330,000 5
3 29 May 2013 390,000 1
4 30 May 2013 306,000 9
5 31 May 2013 315,000 7
6 4 June 2013 372,000 1
7 11 June 2013 442,000 1
8 18 June 2013 295,000 1
9 25 June 2013 253,000 9
10 2 July 2013 548,000 1
11 9 July 2013 356,000 1
12 16 July 2013 330,000 2
13 23 July 2013 261,000 1

Specials

Episode Original airdate Total viewers CBBC Weekly Ranking
Christmas Special 17 December 2010 472,000 2
Sport Special 20 July 2012 165,000 N/A
Scary Special 29 October 2012 400,000 9

Spin-offs

Horrible Histories: Gory Games

Main article: Horrible Histories: Gory Games

A spin-off game show entitled Gory Games, hosted by Dave Lamb, aired its first series alongside Series 3 on 31 May 2011 and returned for a second series in 2012 along with Series 4 of its parent show.

Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry

Main article: Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry

Horrible Histories was repackaged for a prime-time slot with Stephen Fry as host. Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry is a compilation of the best clips from Series 1 and 2 and new segments featuring Fry, who replaced the rat puppet host, Rattus Rattus. It began on 19 June 2011 on BBC One and ran for six episodes.[99]

Horrible Histories at the Proms

Horrible Histories performed at the Proms in 2011. The Telegraph gave the show a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, noting "The clever touch was to bracket each sketch and song with a smartly chosen selection of classical greatest hits...Children who came to see their television heroes were cunningly exposed to music that might in future sound familiar, not frightening".[30]

Horrible Histories Interactive and Terrible Treasures

Horrible Histories Interactive is an online experience for children, commissioned by CBBC in order for the show engage in multimedia. The online experience includes 12 exclusive Behind the Scenes clips, sing-along versions of the show's songs. These are available via the CBBC website or by the Red Button platform. Horrible Histories Interactive won Best Interactive Production at the History Makers Awards 2011.[100]

Terrible Treasures is a point-and-click computer game available for free on the CBBC website, and is one of the most popular pieces of Horrible Histories Interactive software. It was co-produced by Littleloud Studios.[100] The premise involves Rattus Rattus recovering pieces of map in the Horrible Histories Time Sewers in order to find treasure. The game was "created for a sophisticated children’s audience" and has both aesthetically pleasing environments, and video material. Like the television series, it has a unique “soft-learning” approach to historical content. The game has the same comedy style and has the same writers and actors. There are four time period chapters, which were each released separately: The Terrible Tudors, The Awful Egyptians, The Rotten Romans, and Measly Middles Ages. The final Time Sewer Challenge is done once all four adventures have been completed.[100] LittleLoud explains, "Initially launching with two adventures, the Terrible Treasures experience was broadened a year later with two more episodes and a bonus minigame".[101]

The Lion TV site explains, "they meet characters – played by actors from the television series – who they can interact with, by asking questions and getting clues", adding "The actors were filmed entirely on green screen and then composited on the detailed backgrounds".[100] Each adventure has their own unique minigames and fetch quests.[102] The game was nominated for a British Interactive Media Association Award for Best Game.[103]

The Horrible Histories producer said LittleLoud "combine[s] the best of rich interactive gaming with high quality video...They are brilliant storytellers, their visual design is stunning and they completely got what made Horrible Histories successful as a brand and television show".[101]

BILL

The same troupe of six main cast members are also to appear in a Monty Python-style cinema comedy for BBC Films/Cowboy Films/Punk Cinema, separate from the Horrible Histories brand yet also using the connection in pre-publicity. Written by Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond, and directed by Richard Bracewell, the film purports to be an entirely fictional biography of "hapless lute player Bill Shakespeare", and is not intended to follow the educational lineage of its parent series by being based on any historical facts or trivia. The film has yet to be shot and a release date has not been set.[104][105]

DVD releases

The first series of Horrible Histories was released on Region 2 DVD in the United Kingdom on 10 May 2010 [106] and on Region 4 DVD in Australia on 1 July 2010.[107] The Series 2 DVD was released in Region 2 on 30 May 2011.[108] In June 2012, the Series 3 DVD was released simultaneously in Region 2[109] and Region 4,[110] alongside a Region 2 DVD boxset containing Series 1 to 3.[111] Special features include Behind the Scenes featurettes, Unseen Sketches featurettes, blooper reels, and sing-along versions of Savage Songs.

References

External links

  • BBC Programmes
  • Internet Movie Database
  • British Comedy Guide
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