British Comedy Guide

The Comic Strip Presents.... Copyright: Comic Strip Productions.

The Comic Strip Presents...

Gold and Channel 4 comedy drama. 41 episodes (pilot + 5 series), 1982 - 2016. Stars Adrian Edmondson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Robbie Coltrane and others.

Press Clippings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share this page