Flashback: Murder Most Horrid

Murder-Most-HorridATV Today remembers Dawn French’s 1990s dark comedy series Murder Most Horrid.

The dark anthological comedy series ran for four seasons on BBC Two between 1991 and 1999. Murder Most Horrid was created by Paul Smith who had written for comedies such as The Brittas Empire, 2.4 Children and Colin’s Sandwich as well as Central Television’s satirical show Spitting Image.

Each episode starred Dawn French who was often the murderer of the story with notable exceptions such as the first episode in which the actress played an female Police Officer drafted in to investigate a murder by the local Masonic Lodge. Another story in which French was not the murderer, also from the first series, featured a parody of long-running kids programme Blue Peter in which the actress played the diva main presenter.

Murder Most Horrid was written by various writers alongside Smith who contributed several scripts. Ian Hislop also wrote several episodes of the series; at the time he was also writing for Spitting Image but is perhaps best known now for being editor of Private Eye and his role on Have I Got News For You. Future Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Steven Moffat penned three episodes of the series including the season two opener Overkill which was typically dark in nature.

Dawn French starred in every episode, playing a different cast, with new guest stars for each instalment. The comedy attracted an impressive range of guest stars with its first season featuring Jane Asher, Martin Jarvis, Bill Paterson, Timothy Spall, Kate Williams, Kenneth Graham, Gwen Taylor, Kevin McNally, Harriet Thorpe, Kathy Burke, Jim Broadbent, David Harewood and Jim Carter. The following three seasons featured guest stars such as Colin Salmon, Amanda Donohoe,   Philip Jackson, Sean Gallagher, James Fleet, David Bamber, Mark McGann, Nigel Havers, Brigit Forsyth, Roger Lloyd Pack, Minnie Driver, Sarah Lancashire, Hugh Bonneville, Sean Hughes, Frances Barber and Thelma Barlow.

The first series of Murder Most Horrid featured an opening scene in which Dawn French read from a book, usually a quotation she attributes to William Shakespeare. From the second season onwards though that opening scene was dropped. The series’ theme tune was sung by Ruby Turner and the lyrics often changed each episode in slight ways.

Future BBC One controller/ITV controller Peter Fincham was the show’s executive producer for 15 episodes from 1991 to 1996. In all 24 episodes of the comedy were produced between 1991 and 1999.

The first two seasons of the DVD have been released on DVD with the third season due for release later this month.

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