The Comic Strip Presents.... Credit: Comic Strip Productions
The Comic Strip Presents...

The Comic Strip Presents...

  • TV comedy drama
  • Channel 4 / BBC Two / Gold
  • 1982 - 2016
  • 41 episodes (5 series)

Periodic series of satires and spoofs that helped bring alternative comedy to the mainstream and forge a comedy reputation for then-new Channel 4. Stars Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders and more.

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Red Top

The Comic Strip Presents.... Image shows from L to R: Bob Harris (Peter Richardson), Wendi Deng (Eleanor Matsuura), Andy Coulson (Russell Tovey), Rebekah (Maxine Peake), Tony Blair (Stephen Mangan), Johnny Bristol (Johnny Vegas), Ross Kemp (Harry Enfield). Copyright: Comic Strip Productions
Comic fantasy telling the story of Rebekah, an innocent and beguiling Northern girl who accidentally becomes Chief Executive of News International and gets caught up in a seventies Watergate-style scandal.

Preview clips

Further details

This outlandish 75-minute comic fantasy tells the story of Rebekah an innocent and beguiling Northern girl who accidentally becomes Chief Executive of News International and gets caught up in a 1970s Watergate-style scandal.

The film brings together a roll call of universally treasured British comedy greats, alongside exciting new comic talent.


This episode is also known as The Red Top!.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Rik Mayall.

Broadcast details

Wednesday 20th January 2016
75 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 23rd January 2016 9:00pm Gold
Tuesday 26th January 2016 10:40pm Gold
Wednesday 27th January 2016 1:45am Gold
Friday 29th April 2016 12:35am Gold
Tuesday 3rd May 2016 11:00pm Gold
Sunday 4th December 2016 1:10am Gold
Saturday 7th July 2018 2:50am Gold
Monday 9th July 2018 2:30am Gold
Tuesday 4th February 2020 2:45am Gold

Cast & crew

Guest cast
Stephen Mangan Tony Blair
Maxine Peake Rebekah
Nigel Planer Rupert Murdoch
Russell Tovey Andy Coulson
Eleanor Matsuura Wendi Deng
Peter Richardson Bob Harris
Johnny Vegas Johnny Bristol
Harry Enfield Ross Kemp
Dominic Tighe David Cameron
Alexei Sayle Colin Goodman
James Buckley Blitzy
John Sessions The Accountant
Catherine Shepherd Julie
Lewis Macleod Alan Rusbridger
Sid Mayall Cotton
Steven O'Donnell (as Steve O'Donnell) Raffle
Joy Richardson Emma
Red Richardson Cosmo
Sadie Tonks Samantha Cameron
Lily Burton Fan
Chris Devlin Lorry Driver
John Dollins Telecom Engineer
Kevin Feaviour TV Floor Manager
Brigit Grant News Reporter
Neil Gold Mamood
Robbie Carwithen (as Robert Carwithen) Phone Tapper
Jon Lane Phone Tapper
Devon Lomax News Presenter
Ian Rodwell Lynn Undercover Cop
Bevis Taylor Undercover Cop
Sam Morgan Sun Doorman
Ian Perks Equerry
Willow De la Rouche News Reporter
Johnny Rowden Guardian Reporter
Mitch Tonks Mirror Reporter
Nick Smith Murdoch's Butler
Christine Sweetman Ross's Screen Wife
Nigel Way (as Nigel Waye) Concierge
Writing team
Peter Richardson Writer
Pete Richens (as Peter Richens) Writer
Brigit Grant Writer
Production team
Peter Richardson Director
Nick Smith Producer
Peter Richardson Executive Producer
Michael Wood Executive Producer
Simon Lupton Executive Producer
Richard Watsham Executive Producer
Nick Smith Editor
Harry Chapman Production Designer
Brian Burrows Composer
Simon Lupton Commissioner


Red Top Trailer

A brand new fantasy comedy...

Featuring: Stephen Mangan (Tony Blair), Maxine Peake (Rebekah), Russell Tovey (Andy Coulson), Johnny Vegas (Johnny Bristol) & Harry Enfield (Ross Kemp).

Meet the Characters of Red Top

Meet the all-star cast from Comic Strip Presents... Red Top.

Behind The Scenes on Red Top

A video going behind the scenes of Gold's brand new fantasy comedy, Comic Strip: Red Top.

The Guardian newspaper offices

A look at the offices of The Guardian - "Never Knowingly Enjoy Yourself".

Tony Blair goes for a hip look

Tony Blair has gone for a new direction after going on the run, and is interviewed by whispering Bob Harris on The Old Grey Whistle Test.


The Comic Strip trains its eye on the hacking scandal and manages to get a decent smattering of its shots on target. This, like many of the alternative comedy group's recent specials, is a hit-and-miss affair, but does feature a brilliantly savage portrayal of Rebekah Brooks from Maxine Peake, and some very funny digs at us pinko liberals at the Guardian.

Gwilym Mumford, The Guardian, 25th January 2016

Red Top, the latest outing for the once splendid Comic Strip team, and we won't begrudge them a certain resting on ancient laurels, was an altogether mixed bag, as Peter Richardson and co gleefully ran rings round lawyers to bring us the purported tale of phone hacking and the Met, Rupert M and Tony B and Rebekah Brooks (played with peppy malevolence by Maxine Peake), set with a certain bizarreness in the 70s. Much was shambolic, missing easy marks. Wendi Deng as pastiche of Chinese sex ninja? But Johnny Vegas was great as the tabloid sleazehound turned Deep Throat, and there was great guilty joy at seeing Lewis Macleod as The Guardian's ex-editor Alan Rusbridger, played as a lisping, patronising Chris Biggins in a yachting cap and mincing below a banner reading "Never knowingly enjoy yourself". And the gang still managed, rather subtly, to skewer Brooks's implausible juxtapositioning of a reputation for micromanagement with that breezy verdict that said she knew nothing of phone taps.

Euan Ferguson, The Observer, 24th January 2016

The Comic Strip Presents... Red Top, saw some of the brand's original cast members including Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson appear beside some new recruits. These new recruits included Maxine Peake who took the lead as disgraced News International boss Rebekah Brooks in this retelling of the phone-hacking scandal that was written like it was set in the 1970s despite its many modern references. Peake provided the narration from Rebekah's own point-of-view painting herself as a naive Northern girl even though all of her co-workers thought differently. The action played out over 75 minutes and shot at many targets including The Guardian, David Cameron's attempts to become prime minister as well as the whole phone hacking scandal itself. But despite its satirical edge, I found that Red Top was quite scattershot in its approach and the script never really hung together that well. There were some elements of the programme I liked namely Russell Tovey's turn as Andy Coulson and his relationship with a stereotypical Sun journalist played by Johnny Vegas. Vegas' kind hearted reporter was eventually revealed to be the man who exposed the whole hacking scandal and the references to the Watergate Scandal were actually quite amusing. Even though it didn't really fit into anything else in the piece, I also quite liked the fact Red Top's portrayal of Tony Blair as a new-wave hippy who'd reinvented himself as a musical God. In a lovely bit of continuity Blair was played by Stephen Mangan who'd previously portrayed the former PM in The Comic Strip's last outing. However I do feel that the negatives outweighed the positives as I found a lot of the gags a bit obvious for example Wendi Deng's drugging of Rupert Murdoch in order for her to have control of his empire. Additionally I didn't feel some of the famous faces necessarily needed to be part of the story and this was particularly true in regards to Harry Enfield's Ross Kemp whose participation in the piece was minimal at best. But my main issue with Red Top was that the central joke about Rebekah Brooks' innocent outlook on events wore thin by about the halfway point. This is a shame as I believe that Peake did a good job with what she was given but I do feel that the material let her down to an extent. Overall I think that Red Top had some interesting elements but will ultimately go down as a rather forgettable entry into The Comic Strip collection.

Matt, The Custard TV, 24th January 2016

Comic Strip Presents ... Red Top review

Great turns from Maxine Peake as Rebekah Brooks, Nigel Planer as Rupert Murdoch and others provide lots of lols - especially the scene set in our offices.

Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 21st January 2016

Comic Strip Presents... Red Top, review: 'lacked bite'

This satirical take on the tabloid phone hacking scandal felt like yesterday's news, says Rupert Hawksley.

Rupert Hawksley, The Telegraph, 21st January 2016

News International gets a thorough skewering in this new instalment of the veteran satire series Comic Strip. The peerless Maxine Peake stars as flame-haired red top editor Rebekah Brooks, an "innocent and beguiling northern girl" who rises to the top of the tabloid publishing empire alongside Russell Tovey's Andy Coulson. As ever, it's a star-studded affair, with Stephen Mangan as a 70s Tony Blair and Harry Enfield as Ross Kemp, alongside top turns from Johnny Vegas, Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle.

Ben Arnold, The Guardian, 20th January 2016

The Comic Strip Presents... Red Top, Gold, TV review

he hacking tale remains a dreamland of outrageous dramatic material - as the saying goes, you just couldn't make it up.

James Cusick, The Independent, 20th January 2016

Rik Mayall's son Sid follows in his father's footsteps

Viewers will see Sid Mayall, 27, play a corrupt police officer in the one-off show.

Daily Star, 20th January 2016

How the Comic Strip took on the phone hacking scandal

Maxine Peake, Stephen Mangan and the other cast of Red Top open up on their 70s-inspired take on News International.

Vincent Graff, Radio Times, 20th January 2016

Review: Comic Strip Presents... Red Top

Collusions between the top echelons of media and politics exposed by the phone-hacking scandal prove a treasure trove of inspiration for Comic Strip guru Peter Richardson.

Steve Bennett, Chortle, 20th January 2016

The Red Top preview

It's 75-minutes of pure entertainment and pure escape, and if nothing else, watching Maxine Peake, Russell Tovey, Eleanor Matsuura, Johnny Vegas, Alexei Sayle, Harry Enfield, James Buckley, John Sessions, Stephen Mangan and Peter Richardson share the screen is a real joy.

Elliot Gonzalez, I Talk Telly, 19th January 2016

Radio Times review

This will be the 42nd instalment of The Comic Strip Presents pageant to be aired over the best part of 35 years, and it promises to be the kind of shamelessly silly, flight-of-fancy spoof that has become something of a national institution in the other 41.

The target for their satirical boot this time is the phone-hacking scandal, but transposed to the disco-era 1970s. Rebekah Brooks (Maxine Peake) is here a naive northern girl who more or less accidentally becomes chief executive of News International and roller-skates (literally) through life unaware of the dreadful things going on around her.

One of the only survivors of the troupe that first launched Channel 4 on air in 1982 is Nigel Planer, here playing a hen-pecked Rupert Murdoch, while Stephen Mangan reprises his Tony Blair turn (as a groovy rocker) and Harry Enfield dons the bald cap to embody Brooks's sometime husband, Ross Kemp.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 12th January 2016

Imagine Rebekah Brooks roller-skating through The Sun

It's a glorious, irreverent post-hacking lampoon, a fantasy set in the 1970s with flairs, moustaches and disco music, that tells the story of Rebekah, an ingenue from the north of England who, having accidentally become chief executive of News International, gets embroiled (innocently of course) in a scandal.

Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 6th January 2016

The Comic Strip gives a satirical kicking to Brooks

With The Comic Strip's latest fantasy screening this month, its creators talk about their phone-hacking parody and why they set it in the Seventies.

Gerard Gilbert, The Telegraph, 5th January 2016

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