Whilst anyone with a fleeting interest in British comedy will be familiar with Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson’s star turns in BBC’s The Young Ones and Bottom, there are precious few who will be aware of – let alone have seen – the Ben Elton-written Filthy Rich & Catflap. Having reportedly only ever been aired on British TV twice since its inaugural appearance in 1987, Filthy Rich & Catflap arrived between the groundbreaking anarchy of The Young Ones and the hyper-real slapstick silliness of Bottom.
At the centre of the show is Richie Rich (Mayall), an out of work and thoroughly untalented actor and light entertainer, looking to make his big break in the world of television, and Eddie Catflap (Edmondson) as his haphazard and violently-inclined ‘minder’. Also thrown in for good measure is the superb Nigel Planer as Ralph Filthy, Richie’s ineffectual and somewhat sleazy agent, along with a host of special guest appearances from the likes of Harry Enfield, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Chris Barrie, Barbara Windsor and David Baddiel.
Although slightly unbalanced and spectacularly heavy-handed in places, Filthy Rich & Catflap is in many ways one of Mayall, Edmondson and Elton’s most ambitious projects. Its combination of slapstick violence, Thatcher-bashing, and trademark toilet humour also incorporates moments of spoof and surrealism, with the fourth wall frequently shattered by Mayall and Edmondson breaking from character and plot to directly address the audience. Above all else, the show’s most memorable moments lie with Mayall’s performance as Richie, who regularly steals the show with his unique ability to induce belly laughs with his majestic knack for physical comedy and rubber-faced absurdity.
Despite lacking the bite of its predecessor and quite the same levels of farce as its successor, the six episodes that make up this one-off series should surely be regarded as one of British comedy’s hidden gems. Unlikely to break from its cult status or attract any new fans to Mayall and Edmondson’s inimitable style, Filthy Rich & Catflap is sure to delight fans of the duo’s work that are as yet uninitiated with this bizarre, ridiculous and, at times, sublime lost treasure.