Big Train – tape 2431

Here’s something more to my taste. Big Train, the sketch show created by Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, which featured Simon Pegg, Mark Heap, the actor Kevin Eldon and Julia Davis among its cast.

There’s a pleasing sense of surrealism in the sketches here, particularly the showjumpers who are obsessed with firefighters, and the boss who uses magic tricks to distract his workers from complaining – Mark Heap is a very good juggler, we find. And there’s a wild west gunfight between The Bee Gees and Chaka Khan.

The only parts I never liked were the World Championship of Staring.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th November 1998 – 22:00

Episode two features the classic ‘jockeys in Africa’ sketches.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 16th November 1998 – 22:00

The third episode features Emperor Ming relaxing at home.


Ming at home

And Portaccio, the greatest Shakespeare lookalike the world has ever seen. Played by series co-creator Arthur Mathews.


BBC Genome: BBC Two – 23rd November 1998 – 22:00

Next episode features Hitler in the green room after Nuremberg.

Hitler in the Green Room

Simon Pegg fashions a bra and pants out of a flipchart.

Pegg Bra & Pants

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th November 1998 – 22:00

The next episode looks at Hall & Oates helping out with local community problems.

Hall & Oates in the community

You might spot series co-creator Graham Linehan in the community meeting.

Graham Linehan

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th December 1998 – 22:00

The next episode brings us Sweary Florence Nightingale

Sweary Florence Nightingale

George Martin is kidnapped by terrorists

George Martin Kidnapped

There’s a New Romantic auction

New Romantics

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th December 1998 – 22:00

After this, there’s a Video Nation featuring Anthony Sayonas from Liverpool. Then, an episode of Newsnight starts, looking at a treatment for male infertility. This recording stops as Newsnight starts, and underneath, part of On Air The Truth About TV looking at fake news reports about the drug scene in Germany, presented by David Aaronovitch.

David Aaronovitch

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 30th November 1998 – 23:15

After this, there’s a trailer for Human Rights Season. Then Peter Cockroft presents the weather. Then another trailer for Naked.

Then, Andrew Neil presents Dispatch Box.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 1st December 1998 – 00:00

After this, The Learning Zone starts, rather incongruously, with a clip from The Brittas Empire.

The Brittas Empire

The tape stops during Containing The Pacific.



  1. Yes! Big Train is one of my favourite TV series of all time, and congratulations on picking some brilliant images from it which sum it up perfectly. Even now I can quote huge chunks of it. Funnily enough I was talking about the Hall and Oates sketch when the news broke regarding June Sarpong being the face of the EU referendum, specifically Graham Linehan’s “What DO they do?!”

    The staring is brilliant, though, Barry Davies is fantastic in it. The bit where they corpse during Ted “The Head” Stead’s match is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on television. In fact this entry has inevitably spurred me on to watch the whole thing on DVD again.

    Of course, everyone says the second series is rubbish, but while it doesn’t hit the heights of series one it’s still a really good series. I’m delighted to see that Arthur Mathews is one of the writers on Tracy Ullman’s new series so I don’t doubt that at least his bits will be good.

    1. Not everyone thought the second series was rubbish – I actually preferred it to the first. The world’s worst film editor sketches had me crying with laughter. I will make a point of checking out this new Tracy Ullman show…

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