Drop the Dead Donkey

Running from 1990 to 1998, Drop The Dead Donkey was one of Channel 4's most important and successful sitcoms. Written by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin (who worked on Not The Nine O'Clock News. Who Dares Wins, A Kick Up The Eighties and Shelley), it was a comedy based in a satellite TV newsroom. With scripts finalised close to transmission, it included topical references to real-life news stories and events, and had a fast-paced, flowing style, akin to US comedy shows.

The sitcom wasn't an immediate success. Like many TV shows about TV, it took the public a while to grasp the concept. The show's title (a reference to a lightweight story that could easily be removed from the news agenda to make way for more important news stories, or if time was running short) possibly perplexed some, while the topical news references may not have always been fully understood. Nevertheless the show gradually built in popularity, probably because of its superb ensemble cast.

Set at the Globelink News TV studio, Robert Duncan played smarmy Gus Heges, the yuppie yes man, keen to implement the "dumbing down" plans of Globelink's new owner Sir Royston Merchant. He regularly came up against harrassed and nervy George Dent (a super role for Jeff Rawle), the head of the editorial unit, who valiantly tried to maintain his department's high editorial values. Dent's second-in-command was tough and fearless Alex Pates (Haydn Gwynne), later succeeded by the equally bright but gentler Helen Cooper (Ingrid Lacey), a lesbian who pondered the wisdom of coming out. Also on the team were rampant womaniser and keen bookmaker Dave Charnley (a great role by Neil Pearson), field reporter and unprincipled hack Damien Day (Stephen Tompkinson on fine form), and editorial co-ordinator, general grouch and all-purpose firebrand Joy Merryweather (Susannah Doyle). Fronting the team on camera were veteran news reader Henry Davenport (David Swift) and dullard bimbo Sally Smedley (Victoria Wicks), who had been recruited by Sir Royston, much to the team's irritation.

The show was a big stepping stone for Pearson (Between The Lines) and especially Tompkinson (Ballykissangel, Wild At Heart, etc). And Hamilton and Jenkin, the show's writers, continued to prosper, reuniting in 2007 for the part-scripted, part-improvised sitcom Outnumbered.

Genre: Sitcom

Running Time: 30 minutes (approx)

3/5 Stars

Main Cast

Haydn Gwynne
Robert Duncan
Victoria Wicks
Susannah Doyle
Image for Jeff RawleJeff Rawle
Image for Neil PearsonNeil Pearson
Image for Jaye GriffithsJaye Griffiths
Image for Stephen TompkinsonStephen Tompkinson
David Swift
Ingrid Lacey