The Unbelievable

Nigel Watson

Talking Pictures alias






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Emily Bruni, Rik Mayall and Michael Maloney.Rik Mayall the star of Believe Nothing claims it “make The X-Files look like Gardener’s World”. Rik plays the part of Professor Adonis Cnut who becomes a member of the Council for International Progress that secretly runs the world. A murderous clone, TV game shows, GM crops, Watergate, global warming, a serial cannibal and a rogue meteorite are just some of the outlandish topics woven into this comedy series, but that’s about as close to The X-Files (or Gardener’s World) as it gets. 

Like most of his past roles (The Young Ones, The New Statesman and Bottom) Rik plays a self-important, devious, sexually frustrated character who will stop at nothing to promote his ego-fuelled dreams.

Here Rik inhabits his rooms at Queen Edward’s College, much like Bruce Wayne (Batman) in his mansion or Sherlock Holmes in Baker Street. This gives Believe Nothing a fictionally familiar setting - his rooms even have a laboratory hidden behind a bookcase, fortunately Mayall doesn’t don an outlandish comic hero outfit to give it a full comic book gloss.

Michael Maloney, Rik
                  Mayall and Emily Bruni.To help him in his work, and play, there is his faithful manservant (batman) Albumen (Michael Maloney). There are a considerable amount of double entendres traded between this pair. Maloney has worked in many Royal Shakespeare Company productions, appeared in countless radio dramas, starred in the comedy TV adaptation of Scoop!, and appears on our TV screens on a fairly regular basis yet he has yet to become an household name. I met him back in the 1980s at the University of Warwick and he gave us a very funny and entertaining interview. It's just a matter of time before he becomes a star in his own series.

Rik Mayall and
                  Michael Maloney.The final regular character is is Dr Hannah Awkward (Emily Bruni) Chair of Pedantics at Queen Edward’s College. She sets Cnut’s passions ablaze but she is as her surname says awkward and as eccentric as the two men.

The show pokes fun at our accepted view of reality and twists and turns our notions to comic effect, but at its core are the dynamics between the three central characters. They do work well together but Rik Mayall doesn’t seem to have quite the spark of comic energy that he displayed in The New Statesman or more recently in Bottom.

The Believe Nothing scriptwriters Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran have produced funny and clever stories but somehow the first series of six half-hour shows don’t quite hit the mark. This is frustrating because the basic idea for the series is good and all the performers work hard to make it successful. Perhaps everyone was trying to hard and should have relaxed a bit more, as I found the out-takes on the DVD more funny than the show itself.

In many ways it reminds me of the first series of Black Adder which delivered a funny format but few outright laughs. Black Adder got funnier with the introduction of Ben Elton as a co-writer for the subsequent series, whether Believe Nothing will get the chance to prove itself is more doubtful.

The DVD of Believe Nothing contains interviews with the main actors and scriptwriters Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, plus out-takes that contain the f word in fair abundance! 

Web References 

The Rik Mayall Webpage
An unofficial site produced by Jennifer C. Huebl with lots of information about Mayall's career.

Believe Nothing
This is the official website for the series.

TV Tomes
Contains episode guide to Believe Nothing and lots more information related to the series.

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Material Copyright © 2001 Nigel Watson