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Alfresco (TV series)

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Title: Alfresco (TV series)  
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Subject: Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Alfresco.jpg, Hugh Laurie, Alfresco
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Alfresco (TV series)

Starring Robbie Coltrane
Ben Elton
Stephen Fry
Hugh Laurie
Siobhan Redmond
Emma Thompson
No. of episodes 13
Producer(s) Granada Television
Running time approx. 25 minutes
Original channel ITV
Original release 1 May 1983 (1983-05-01) – 2 June 1984 (1984-06-02)

Alfresco is a British television series starring Robbie Coltrane, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Siobhan Redmond and Emma Thompson, produced by Granada Television and broadcast by ITV from May 1983 to June 1984. Running for two series, it totalled 13 episodes and was named Alfresco (from the Italian al fresco, meaning "in the fresh air") because, unusually for a comedy sketch show of the time, it was shot on location rather than in a studio.


  • Production 1
  • Recurring characters 2
    • Mr Butcher and Mr Baker 2.1
    • Alan & Bernard 2.2
    • Doctor De Quincy 2.3
    • Pretend Pub 2.4
  • Episodes 3
  • DVD release 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The programme is a sketch show which was scheduled as an answer to the BBC's highly successful Not the Nine O'Clock News. The main writer was Ben Elton, with Fry and Laurie receiving writing credits by the second series. Of the original team, Tony Slattery was supposed to join the cast for the three-part pilot There's Nothing To Worry About! in 1982, but accepted an offer from Chris Tarrant to join Saturday Stayback, his follow-up to O.T.T.

After There's Nothing To Worry About!, which featured Elton, Fry, Laurie, Redmond, Thompson and Paul Shearer and was shown in the Granada region only,[1] a first series of Alfresco was commissioned, broadcast nationally and replacing Shearer with Robbie Coltrane. The third of the seven transmitted episodes in 1983 was in fact a compilation show of the pilot series, featuring some additional material.

The sketches of the first series had a very odd and surreal mood to them. In the second series in 1984 the overall style changed slightly. A linking device in form of a "Pretend Pub" was created, and the sketches themselves were less dark than in the first series.

Recurring characters

Though the programme is mostly composed of one-off sketches, a few characters appear over several episodes.

Ben Elton & Hugh Laurie as
Mr. Butcher and Mr. Baker

Mr Butcher and Mr Baker

Elton and Laurie appear four times during the first series as two odd gentlemen in a strange cinematic black and white setting. They usually have a dialogue which relies heavily on wordplay, and Laurie does an obvious impression of Peter Cook in EL Wisty mode.

Alan & Bernard

Fry and Laurie appear four times during the first series as two young men discussing topics such as war prevention, a trendy cinema and the SAS. The characters appeared before on There's Nothing To Worry About! and the Cambridge Footlights Revue.

Doctor De Quincy

Fry appears twice as Doctor De Quincy, a character he also plays in the sitcom Happy Families in 1985, which was also written by Ben Elton.

Pretend Pub

The cast appear as crew and guests of a pretend pub, which serves as a linking device during the episodes of Series 2: Pretend pub landlord Bobzza (Coltrane), barmaid Shizza (Redmond), Lord Stezza (Fry), Huzza (Laurie), Bezza (Elton) and Ezza (Thompson).


  • Series One: 1 May – 12 June 1983 (Seven episodes)
  • Series Two: 28 April – 2 June 1984 (Six episodes)

DVD release

DVD box sets containing all 13 episodes, plus the three episodes of There's Nothing to Worry About as bonus features, have been released by Network DVD in the United Kingdom (Region 2) and Acorn Media in North America (Region 1).


  1. ^ at BFI ScreenonlineAlfresco

External links

  • SOTCAA article on Alfresco
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