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Murder Most Horrid

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Title: Murder Most Horrid  
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Subject: Dawn French, Jonathan Harvey (playwright), French and Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Steven Moffat
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Murder Most Horrid

Murder Most Horrid
Genre British dark comedy
Anthology series
Created by Paul Smith
Developed by Talkback Productions
Written by Various
Starring Dawn French
Theme music composer Simon Brint
Simon Wallace
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 24
Executive producer(s) Peter Fincham
Producer(s) Sophie Clarke-Jervoise
Jon Plowman
Editor(s) Geoff Hogg
Michael John Bateman
Location(s) London, England
Running time 30 minutes
Distributor FremantleMedia
Original channel BBC Two
Picture format 4:3 (1991-1996)
16:9 (1999)
Original release 14 November 1991 (1991-11-14) – 2 April 1999 (1999-04-02)
External links

Murder Most Horrid is a British dark comedy anthology series starring Dawn French. It was broadcast on BBC Two for four series runs, in 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1999.

Created by Paul Smith, who also co-created Colin's Sandwich (with Terry Kyan, as noted below) and has written for The Brittas Empire, among other programmes, the series starred French as a different character in each episode. Many episodes were directed by the noted director Bob Spiers, who also worked with French on The Comic Strip Presents... and French and Saunders.

Most episodes parodied the thriller and murder mystery genres with one notable episode lampooning the trials and tribulations of being a children's presenter in general, and Blue Peter in particular. In 1998, this episode ("Murder at Tea-Time") was repeated to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Blue Peter, as part of a section entitled "Spoof Peter", which also featured (among others) the Python skit "How to Do It".[1]

Each episode was standalone, and the episodes were written by different writers or writing teams with several contributing multiple episodes across the four series. Among these writers, the pairing of series-creator Paul Smith with Terry Kyan (who had previously collaborated on Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones) is particularly notable. The two would subsequently create and write Bonjour la Classe, starring Nigel Planer.[2]

Other series writers included Private Eye editor and Have I Got News For You stalwart Ian Hislop, Press Gang creator and Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, award-winning children's author Anthony Horowitz, Nick Newman and John O'Farrell.

Episodes in series 1 mostly opened with French selecting and reading from a book, usually a quotation actually or allegedly from Shakespeare; series 2 onward dropped this opening. The series' theme song, which featured at the end of the episode, was sung by Ruby Turner. The lyrics changed between episodes, the penultimate line always a word rhyming with "horrid", sometimes humorously forced. The murders ranged from the straightforward to the bizarre, with the murder weapon shown on a pedestal during the end credits.


  • Episodes and Dawn French's characters 1
    • Series 1 (1991) 1.1
    • Series 2 (1994) 1.2
    • Series 3 (1996) 1.3
    • Series 4 (1999) 1.4
  • Awards 2
  • Video and DVD releases 3
    • Video 3.1
    • DVD (Region 2) 3.2
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Episodes and Dawn French's characters

Series 1 (1991)

  • "The Case of the Missing" - with French as WPC Diane Softly, traffic officer
  • "The Girl from Ipanema" - with French as Maria, a Brazilian immigrant who moves in with the Howling family.
  • "He Died a Death" - with French as Judy Talent, an actress in a play
  • "A Determined Woman" - with French as Rita Proops, a scientist
  • "Murder at Tea Time" - with French as Bunty Bresslaw, presenter of children's TV show Write Away.
  • "Mrs. Hat and Mrs. Red" - with French as Katie Hatcliffe and Sonya Redfern, two identical-looking women with opposite personalities
# Title Director Writer(s) Guest actors UK air date
1 "The Case of the Missing" Bob Spiers Ian Hislop
Nick Newman
John Boswall (Judge), Paul Mark Elliott (Max Rammell), Stephen Frost (Sgt. Dawkins), Gary Love (Constable Williams), Timothy Spall (Pathologist), Geoffrey McGivern (Mason), Bill Paterson (Chief Inspector) 14 November 1991 (1991-11-14)
A traffic WPC is suddenly put in charge of a seemingly straightforward murder case, which gradually becomes more complex and mysterious.
2 "The Girl from Ipanema" Bob Spiers Terry Kyan
Paul Smith
Marsha Fitzalan (Lydia's friend), James Cossins (Sir Hugh Lotterby), Jane Asher (Lydia Howling), Jacey Sallés (Silvia), Martin Jarvis (Maurice Howling), Christopher Good (Leonard) 21 November 1991 (1991-11-21)
When housekeeper Maria arrives at the house of MP Howling and his wife Lydia, she doesn't quite find things the way she expected. But one day, Maria witnesses a violent attack on Lydia by her husband and things start to take a turn for the better.
3 "He Died a Death" Bob Spiers Nick Newman
Ian Hislop
Kevin McNally (Inspector Turner), Stephen Moore (Basil Hampton), Kevin Allen (Simon Pleasance), Kenneth Cranham (Inspector Salford), Ben Miller (PC Watkins), Robin Driscoll (Reg), Tony Slattery (Tony Sparkle), Harriet Thorpe (Sarah Deveraux), Greg Cruttwell (Timmy Duval), Togo Igawa (Japanese tourist) 28 November 1991 (1991-11-28)
Backstage at a London theatre, rivalry turns into suspicion when one of the cast is murdered during a performance.
4 "Determined Woman" James Hendrie James Hendrie Michael Sharvell-Martin (Judge), Soo Drouet (Porter), Caroline Blakiston (Dr. Rachel Vine), Kathy Burke (Helen), Jim Broadbent (Selwyn Proops) 5 December 1991 (1991-12-05)
Scientist Rita Proops brings her equipment home to start working on the ultimate invention — the time machine. But this causes friction at home with disastrous results.
5 "Murder at Tea Time" Bob Spiers Jez Alborough
Graham Alborough
Jane Booker (Sally), Geraldine McNulty (Mandi), Rebecca Stevens (Lizzie), David Harewood (Jonathon), Dexter Fletcher (Colin), Marco Williamson (Donald) 12 December 1991 (1991-12-12)
Bunty is a successful children's television presenter, an expert in sticky-back plastic and a favourite with the young viewers of Write Away. However, when her younger co-presenter is asked to pose for a wax modelling session at Madame Tussauds, jealousy arises off camera, and Bunty decides to put her young rival in his place.
6 "Mrs Hat and Mrs Red" Bob Spiers Dawn French
Ian Brown
James Hendrie
Robert Llewellyn (Taxi Driver), Jim Carter (Roy Redfern), Kate McEnery (Jemima Redfern), Ricco Ross (Gary), Geoffrey McGivern (Guy), Beresford Le Roy (Supermarket Manager), Claire Cathcart (Cashier), Brian McCardie (Supermarket Assistant), Mia Soteriou (Pianist), Susie Fairfax (Friend), Harriet Thorpe (Friend), Matilda Thorpe (Friend), Francesca Brill (Jemima's Friend) 19 December 1991 (1991-12-19)
Mrs Hat is shocked when she bumps into her doppelgänger, and ends up following her home. She finds herself literally stepping into her shoes and taking over her luxurious lifestyle.

Series 2 (1994)

Series 3 (1996)

Series 4 (1999)


Video and DVD releases


Two videos of the series were released by the BBC in 1996, through BBC Worldwide/Talkback (the former of which became 2|entertain). Both were released on 7 May 1996, the first containing three episodes from series one and the second, three episodes from series two. These two series were not repeated on British television as often as the later series and, as a result, episodes not featured on the videos released by the BBC (The Case of the Missing, He Died A Death, Mrs Hat and Mrs Red, A Severe Case of Death, We All Hate Granny and Smashing Bird) have proven fairly difficult to view.

  • Murder Most Horrid: The Girl from Ipanema/A Determined Woman/Murder at Tea-Time (BBCV5854) EAN: 5032680800767
  • Murder Most Horrid: Overkill/Lady Luck/Mangez Merveillac (BBCV5855) EAN: 5014503585525

DVD (Region 2)

  • Murder Most Horrid: Volume 1 was released by Fremantle Media on 10 March 2008. The second series was released on 10 September 2012, with the third on 8 April 2013 and the fourth being 28 October 2013.[4]
  • Murder Most Horrid: The Complete Collection was released 18 November 2013 by Freemantle Media.[5]


  1. ^ Here's one the BBC made 40 years earlier: Blue Peter Celebration. Retrieved 11 January 2008
  2. ^ Episode Guide at"Bonjour la Classe". Retrieved 11 January 2008
  3. ^ British Comedy Award Winners of 1994 at IMDB. Retrieved 11 January 2008
  4. ^ Amazon UK. "Murder Most Horrid - Series 3 & 4". Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Amazon UK. "Murder Most Horrid - The Complete Collection". Retrieved 3 February 2014. 

External links

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