Your next box set: Monkey Dust

A dark and depraved comic look at broken Britain first aired on BBC3 in 2003

A man is window-shopping for a new tie. Children are playing games in the street. A sparrow is singing triumphantly in the trees. But don't be fooled by this sunny snapshot of suburbia – as, in a skip of the soundtrack, the idyll becomes a nightmare. A crow swoops down to snatch the chirping bird. The sweet-looking children swap skipping ropes for switch-blades. And the be-suited window-shopper shoots up in a rat-infested side street, using his newly purchased tie as a tourniquet.

In the course of three series, Monkey Dust, an animated sketch series that aired on BBC3 from 2003 to 2005, presented us with a gloriously dystopian vision of broken Britain, tackling subjects ranging from suicide to bestiality, via kids making Vin Diesel fight a bear. In short, it contained whatever the depraved minds of co-creators Harry Thompson and Shaun Pye could come up with in-between.

It's a world populated by a cabal of grotesquely comic characters whose gloom-laden existence is played in hilariously shocking vignettes.

There's Ivan Dobsky, the Meat Safe Murderer convicted of strangling a typist with women's underwear; frequently exonerated, he joyfully bounces out of prison on a space-hopper only to find himself ill-suited to life outside. There's the Paedofinder General, who leads a witch-hunt for potential sex offenders by the powers vested in him by "tabloid-reading imbeciles" and "mawkish ITV documentaries presented by Martin Bashir". And then there's by far my favourite character, Clive Pringle, a middle-aged automaton whose attempts to explain his lateness and absences to his wife eventually give way to tragi-comic admissions of sexual degradation – such as the time he used the plot of Humpty Dumpty to try to explain a lost weekend he had actually spent volunteering as "the anal gimp of a German businessman". In another episode, his cover story – for an absence that saw him forced to fellate a monkey after losing a bet – was an A-Team plot.

When Thompson died in 2005, an episode of Have I Got News For You closed with the words: "In memory of Harry Thompson, the first producer of Have I Got News For You (1960 - 2005)." In all, three series were made; seasons two and three have yet to make it on to DVD although half a dozen or so episodes have graced iTunes.

Inevitably, given that nine years have passed since the show originally aired, some of the material looks dated. But for the most part, it's hard to know whether to laugh or cry at how ominously prescient Monkey Dust's observations have proved.

Contributor

Daniel Bettridge

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Your next box set series with Twin Peaks

Jim Shelley kicks off the new G2 series with Twin Peaks - a cross between Blue Velvet and Peyton Place

Jim Shelley

06, Mar, 2009 @12:01 AM

Article image
Your next box set: Entourage
It's Jeremy Piven as the monstrous agent that makes this comedy-drama tick, writes Michael Hann

Michael Hann

04, Mar, 2011 @8:00 AM

Article image
Your next box set: Oz

Kathy Sweeney: Don't look for Dorothy, and Toto in Emerald City. Oz is unrelentingly grim drama

Kathy Sweeney

28, May, 2009 @11:01 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Brass
There's hilarious trouble up mill in this lovably daft DH Lawrence pastiche from the 80s, writes Lucy Mangan

Lucy Mangan

24, May, 2012 @3:00 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Treme
This meandering story of post-Katrina New Orleans is rich in music and colourful characters, writes Kate Abbott

Kate Abbott

13, May, 2011 @6:59 AM

Article image
Your next box set: Lost

From its visceral, shocking opener to the final, rhapsodic payoff, Lost pulls you in so completely that you soon stop noticing how crazy it all is, writes Richard Vine

Richard Vine

03, Sep, 2010 @5:46 AM

Damages | Your next box set
Your next box set: With its twists, turns and a hard-as-nails Glenn Close, Damages is a riveting drama, writes Kathy Sweeney

Kathy Sweeney

28, May, 2010 @7:00 AM

Article image
Your next box set: Boomtown

Original and offbeat police drama that explored cases from the differing perspectives of its seven main characters

Paul Brown

14, Feb, 2012 @2:30 PM

Outnumbered: Your next box set

Your next box set: Funny, painful and squirmworthy, Outnumbered is a useful guide for new parents

Stuart Jeffries

01, Oct, 2009 @11:05 PM

Article image
Your next box set: Mistresses
Late-night liaisons, lustful depravity, and a guest appearance by Joanna Lumley – talk about a guilty pleasure, writes Laura Barnett

Laura Barnett

19, Nov, 2010 @8:00 AM