Ripping Yarns
Ripping Yarns is a British television
British television
Public television broadcasting started in the United Kingdom in 1936, and now has a collection of free and subscription services over a variety of distribution media, through which there are over 480 channelsTaking the base Sky EPG TV Channels. A breakdown is impossible due to a) the number of...

Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 series, shown on BBC 2 from 1976 to 1979. It was written by Michael Palin
Michael Palin
Michael Edward Palin, CBE FRGS is an English comedian, actor, writer and television presenter best known for being one of the members of the comedy group Monty Python and for his travel documentaries....

 and Terry Jones
Terry Jones
Terence Graham Parry Jones is a Welsh comedian, screenwriter, actor, film director, children's author, popular historian, political commentator, and TV documentary host. He is best known as a member of the Monty Python comedy team....

 of Monty Python
Monty Python
Monty Python was a British surreal comedy group who created their influential Monty Python's Flying Circus, a British television comedy sketch show that first aired on the BBC on 5 October 1969. Forty-five episodes were made over four series...

 fame. Each episode had a different setting and characters, each looking at a different aspect of British culture and parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...

ing pre-World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 literature aimed at schoolboys.


The series grew out of a one-off BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 programme called Tomkinson's Schooldays (1976), loosely inspired by Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays is a novel by Thomas Hughes. The story is set at Rugby School, a public school for boys, in the 1830s; Hughes attended Rugby School from 1834 to 1842...

, and suggested by BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 director Terry Hughes
Terry Hughes (director)
Terry Hughes is a British Emmy Award-winning television director.Hughes has directed or written for The Two Ronnies, The Golden Girls, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Friends, and series such as Ripping Yarns among other shows....

. Palin and Jones both wrote and starred in multiple roles.

Palin thought of the name while driving down the A15 road and when passing the village of Rippingale
Rippingale is a village in Lincolnshire, England on the A15 road about 5 miles north of Bourne. Its local government district is South Kesteven. Rippingale is a civil parish and an ecclesiastical parish in the Aveland Deanery of the Diocese of Lincoln....

 in Lincolnshire
Lincolnshire is a county in the east of England. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders...

. The name played in his mind till he turned it to Ripping Yarns. The Manor house used to film "The Curse of the Claw" was Rippingale House near Bourne
Bourne, Lincolnshire
Bourne is a market town and civil parish on the western edge of the Fens, in the District of South Kesteven in southern Lincolnshire, England.-The town:...

, and its grounds and Vicarage.

Production details

Tomkinson's Schooldays was shot on videotape
A videotape is a recording of images and sounds on to magnetic tape as opposed to film stock or random access digital media. Videotapes are also used for storing scientific or medical data, such as the data produced by an electrocardiogram...

 with filmed exterior scenes and has a laugh track
Laugh track
A laugh track is a separate soundtrack invented by Charles "Charley" Douglass, with the artificial sound of audience laughter, made to be inserted into television programming of comedy shows and sitcoms.The term "laugh track" does not apply to the genuine audience laughter on shows that shoot in...

. The remaining episodes were all shot on film
Film stock
Film stock is photographic film on which filmmaking of motion pictures are shot and reproduced. The equivalent in television production is video tape.-1889–1899:...

. They were also originally shown with laugh tracks, but with a couple of exceptions these have been omitted from reruns.

The theme tune for the series was Fanfare from the Facade Suite No 2', by Sir William Walton
William Walton
Sir William Turner Walton OM was an English composer. During a sixty-year career, he wrote music in several classical genres and styles, from film scores to opera...

, played by the City of Birmingham Orchestra, conducted by Louis Frémaux‎.


Terry Hughes
Terry Hughes (director)
Terry Hughes is a British Emmy Award-winning television director.Hughes has directed or written for The Two Ronnies, The Golden Girls, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Friends, and series such as Ripping Yarns among other shows....

 directed most of the episodes, and would later direct The Two Ronnies
The Two Ronnies
The Two Ronnies is a British sketch show that aired on BBC1 from 1971 to 1987. It featured the double act of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, the "Two Ronnies" of the title.-Origins:...

, The Golden Girls
The Golden Girls
The Golden Girls is an American sitcom created by Susan Harris, which originally aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992. Starring Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty, the show centers on four older women sharing a home in Miami, Florida...

and 3rd Rock from the Sun
3rd Rock from the Sun
3rd Rock from the Sun is an American sitcom that aired from 1996 to 2001 on NBC. The show is about four extraterrestrials who are on an expedition to Earth, which they consider to be a very insignificant planet...

. Others were the responsibility of Jim Franklin, known for The Goodies
The Goodies
The Goodies are a trio of British comedians who created, wrote, and starred in a surreal British television comedy series called The Goodies during the 1970s and early 1980s combining sketches and situation comedy.-Honours:All three Goodies now have OBEs...

, and two episodes in the second series were directed by Alan J. W. Bell
Alan J. W. Bell
Alan J. W. Bell is a British television producer and director. He has produced and/or directed many BBC series since the early 1970s, most notably Last of the Summer Wine, Ripping Yarns and the TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy...

, also known for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (TV series)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is a BBC television adaptation of Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy broadcast in January and February 1981 on BBC Two...

and Last of the Summer Wine
Last of the Summer Wine
Last of the Summer Wine is a British sitcom written by Roy Clarke that was broadcast on BBC One. Last of the Summer Wine premiered as an episode of Comedy Playhouse on 4 January 1973 and the first series of episodes followed on 12 November 1973. From 1983 to 2010, Alan J. W. Bell produced and...

. Bell used Michael Radford
Michael Radford
Michael Radford is an English film director and screenwriter.-Early life and career:Radford was born on 24 February 1946, in New Delhi, India, to a British father and an Austrian Jewish mother. He was educated at Bedford School before attending Worcester College, Oxford...

 who later became noted for the films Nineteen Eighty-Four
Nineteen Eighty-Four (film)
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a 1984 British science fiction film, based upon George Orwell's novel of the same name, following the life of Winston Smith in Oceania, a country run by a totalitarian government...

, White Mischief
White Mischief
White Mischief is a 1987 film dramatising the events of the Happy Valley murder case in Kenya in 1941, when Sir Henry "Jock" Delves Broughton was tried for the murder of Josslyn Hay, Earl of Erroll....

and Il Postino
Il Postino
Il Postino is a 1994 Italian film directed by Michael Radford. The film was originally released in the U.S. as The Postman, a straight translation of the Italian title...



Each episode featured, apart from Palin, well-known guest actors including Ian Ogilvy
Ian Ogilvy
Ian Raymond Ogilvy is an English film and television actor.-Early life:He was born in Woking, Surrey, England, the son of advertising executive Francis Ogilvy and actress Aileen Raymond .He was educated at Sunningdale School, Eton College and at the Royal Academy of...

, Kenneth Colley
Kenneth Colley
Kenneth Colley is an English actor. A long-time character actor, he came to wider prominence through his role as Admiral Piett in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi....

, Liz Smith
Liz Smith (actress)
Liz Smith, MBE is a British actress, best-known for her roles in the sitcoms The Vicar of Dibley and The Royle Family. She also appeared in the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.-Early life:...

, Roy Kinnear
Roy Kinnear
Roy Mitchell Kinnear was an English character actor. He is best remembered for playing Veruca Salt's father, Mr. Salt, in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.-Early life:...

, Frank Middlemass
Frank Middlemass
Francis George Middlemass was an English actor, who even in his early career played older roles. He is best remembered for his television roles as Rocky Hardcastle in As Time Goes By, Algy Herries in To Serve Them All My Days and Dr. Alex Ferrenby in Heartbeat...

, Iain Cuthbertson
Iain Cuthbertson
Iain Cuthbertson was a Scottish character actor. At 6' 4", he was known for his tall imposing build and also his distinctive "gravelly" heavily accented voice.-Early life:...

, John Le Mesurier
John Le Mesurier
John Le Mesurier was a BAFTA Award-winning English actor. He is most famous for his role as Sergeant Arthur Wilson in the popular 1970s BBC comedy Dad's Army.-Career:...

, Jan Francis
Jan Francis
Jan Francis is an English actress, best known for playing Penny Warrender in the 1980s romantic comedy Just Good Friends.-Early life:Francis was born at the former Charing Cross Hospital near Trafalgar Square, London...

, Denholm Elliott
Denholm Elliott
Denholm Mitchell Elliott, CBE was an English film, television and theatre actor with over 120 film and television credits...

, Richard Vernon
Richard Vernon
Richard Vernon was a British actor. He appeared in many feature films and television programmes, often in aristocratic or supercilious roles...

, Joan Sanderson
Joan Sanderson
Joan Sanderson was an English television and stage actress. During a long career she invariably played dragonish dowagers, stuck-up spinsters and suburban matrons.-Theatre:...

 and others.


The series was nominated for a BAFTA award in 1978 for "Best Film Cameraman" (Peter Hall) and won in 1980 for "Best Light Entertainment Programme/Series".


The scripts were published in book form, with sepia-tinted stills, as Ripping Yarns (1978; ISBN 0-413-46250-1) and More Ripping Yarns (1980; ISBN 0-413-47530-1), and later collected in an omnibus volume, The Complete Ripping Yarns (1999; ISBN 0-413-77360-4).

Across the Andes by Frog originally appeared in Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls
Bert Fegg's Nasty Book for Boys and Girls
Bert Fegg's Nasty Book For Boys And Girls is a humorous book first published by Methuen in 1974 which purports to have been written by a psychopathic character, Dr. Fegg. In fact, the book is the work of Terry Jones and Michael Palin, who adapted a range of material from scripts written for the...

, co-authored by Palin and Jones.

Video and DVD

The series was released on three VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....

 tapes in the UK in the 1980s. Two of these compilations were reissued (not by the BBC) on Region 0 (worldwide) DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

 in 2000. As this was an unofficial release, the six episodes included were not remastered.

The fully restored series was released in October 2004 as The Complete Ripping Yarns. This 2-disc Region 2 DVD set included commentaries on all nine episodes by Palin and Jones and a deleted scene (without soundtrack) from Murder at Moorstones Manor. All of the episodes, except Tomkinson's Schooldays and Murder at Moorstones Manor, have optional laugh-free soundtracks.

The DVD set also includes the only surviving (and rather poor quality) recording of Palin and Jones's comic BBC play Secrets
Secrets (play)
Secrets is a one-hour 1973 BBC Television play by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, starring Warren Mitchell as the owner of a chocolate factory...

from 1973, as well as a documentary by Michael Palin entitled Comic Roots in which he goes back to visit his home town. Not linked in the menu are scans of the first drafts of the scripts for six episodes (Tomkinson's Schooldays, The Testing of Eric Olthwaite, Murder at Moorstone Manor, Across the Andes by Frog, The Curse of the Claw, and Whinfrey's Last Case), type-written with Palin's handwritten comments and changes in the margin. There is an informative booklet enclosed, written by Andrew Pixley.

This set also saw release in Region 1 with all of the above included, apart from Secrets.

A further box set, fully remastered, including the directors commentary, was released in 2004.

External links

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