Drop the Dead Donkey

Drop the Dead Donkey
Created by Andy Hamilton
Guy Jenkin
Written by Andy Hamilton
Guy Jenkin
Nick Revell
Malcolm Williamson
Ian Brown
Starring Robert Duncan
Jeff Rawle
Haydn Gwynne (Series 1–2)
Ingrid Lacey (Series 3–6)
David Swift
Victoria Wicks
Stephen Tompkinson
Neil Pearson
Susannah Doyle (Series 2–6)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 6
No. of episodes 65 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Hat Trick Productions
Running time 24 minutes
Original network Channel 4
Original release 9 August 1990 (1990-08-09) – 9 December 1998 (1998-12-09)

Drop the Dead Donkey is a situation comedy that first aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom between 1990 and 1998. It is set in the offices of "GlobeLink News", a fictional TV news company. Recorded close to transmission, it made use of contemporary news events to give the programme a greater sense of realism. It was created by Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin. The series had an ensemble cast, making stars of Haydn Gwynne, Stephen Tompkinson and Neil Pearson.

The series began with the acquisition of GlobeLink by media mogul Sir Roysten Merchant, an allusion to either Robert Maxwell or Rupert Murdoch. Indeed, Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin note on their DVDs that it was fortunate for their libel lawyers that the two men shared the same initials. The series is mostly based on the ongoing battle between the staff of GlobeLink, led by editor George Dent, as they try to maintain the company as a serious news organisation, and Sir Roysten’s right-hand man Gus Hedges, trying to make the show more sensationalist and suppress stories that might harm Sir Roysten’s business empire.[1][2]

According to Swedish comedian Kryddan Petersson, he and the group behind Helt Apropå had come up with an idea for a show like this, which they presented to British colleagues sometime around 1989-90. Most of them were not impressed, but two of them took the idea seriously and wrote this show. Later on, the Swedish group bought the material rights to the show back to Sweden, and created the show Döda danskar räknas inte ("Dead Danes don't count"), which aired on SVT in 1994.[3]

The show was awarded the Best Comedy (Programme or Series) Award at the 1994 BAFTA Awards. At the British Comedy Awards the show won Best New TV Comedy in 1990, Best Channel 4 Comedy in 1991, and Best Channel 4 Sitcom in 1994.


The original working title was Dead Belgians Don’t Count which was replaced by Drop the Dead Donkey:

Finally, the title ‘Drop the Dead Donkey’ has been the subject of many column inches. Various journalists have with great authority explained its provenance as a well-known industry expression. The truth, sadly, is that the writers made it up. It’s just something stupid that they imagined might be shouted out in the tense few minutes before a news broadcast.
Andy Hamilton & Guy Jenkin, Drop the Dead Donkey—The Writers’ Choice


Major characters

Recurring characters


Unusually for a sitcom, the show was topical, and was usually written and filmed in the week before broadcast. The writers commented that this made for a very natural style of acting. In most offices people normally converse while looking at monitors, clipboards or newspaper crosswords; the cast of the show reproduced this while actually cribbing their lines. Typically, the last scene was filmed either the day before or sometimes on the day of broadcast, and episodes concluded with audio-only dialogue or (in later seasons) an additional scene during the credits, which would usually involve topical references. The most frantic rewrite is said to have occurred when, on the day of filming, British media mogul Robert Maxwell drowned. (As the writers said in a later episode, "We don’t want to go overboard with the story.") A number of politicians including Neil Kinnock and Ken Livingstone made guest appearances.

The humour, like that in a real newsroom, was often very black, as the writers did not shy away from sensitive subjects. A typical line (from Henry): "The ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. What a bloody stupid phrase. What do they think two thousand people have died from? Stress?" The view of relationships in the programme is also very bleak: all the main characters have very unstable romantic lives, with no-one being happily married.

The series ended with GlobeLink being closed down, with Series 6 being spent with the main characters trying to plan their futures elsewhere (largely unsuccessfully). The format for the final series differed slightly from the previous five. As well as being shorter (seven episodes), far less emphasis was placed on the news than before (both in terms of topical references and stories covered in the newsroom). Instead, much of the focus was on where the main characters would be once GlobeLink closed, after an announcement in the second episode of the series. Several minor characters appeared over the course of a few episodes in the final series, whereas most previously had only been in single episodes.

The ending contradicted the already thoroughly contradicted novel Drop The Dead Donkey 2000 by Hamilton and Alistair Beaton (1994) ISBN 0-316-91236-0, in which the company is almost destroyed in a bomb blast at the turn of the millennium.

Home media

Five VHS videos, each featuring three selected episodes of Drop The Dead Donkey, were released during the 1990s. There was also a sixth, called "The Writer's Choice", which featured six episodes plus 50 classic moments chosen by the writers Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin.

Volume 1

  • The Gulf Report (Series 2 Episode 1)
  • George's Daughter (Series 2 Episode 11)
  • The Christmas Party (Series 2 Episode 13)

Volume 2

  • Paintball (Series 3 Episode 9)
  • George and His Daughter (Series 3 Episode 10)
  • Awards (Series 3 Episode 11)

Volume 3

  • A New Dawn (Series 1 Episode 1)
  • Sally's Arrival (Series 1 Episode 2)
  • A Clash of Interests (Series 1 Episode 3)

Volume 4

  • In Place of Alex (Series 3 Episode 1)
  • Sally's Accountant (Series 3 Episode 2)
  • Sally's Libel (Series 3 Episode 5)

Volume 5

  • Henry's True Love (Series 3 Episode 3)
  • Sir Roysten's Wife (Series 3 Episode 6)
  • The New Newsreader (Series 3 Episode 7)

Volume 6 - "The Writer's Choice"

  • Sally's Viking (Series 1 Episode 6)
  • Baseball (Series 2 Episode 4)
  • Gus and the Grim Reaper (Series 4 Episode 1)
  • Helen's Fake Boyfriend (Series 4 Episode 5)
  • Damien's Virus (Series 1 Episode 5)
  • The Final Chapter (Series 1 Episode 7)

Between 2005–2007 VCI (UK, now part of 2 Entertain) released all six series on DVD, via their Cinema Club label. They were also collected into two box sets, featuring three series apiece. Extra features included the unaired pilot, and introductions and interviews with Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin and the cast. In 2015, all six series were re-released in a "Complete Series" box set by Spirit Entertainment.


Repeats of the programme often appeared on Comedy Central Extra. Before the show starts, there is often a short review of the major news events which happened during the week of each episode’s filming. Episodes on DVD compilations are introduced in the same way (although not for Series 6 when topical references were very limited).

Channel 4 now has a Video on Demand service, 4oD, where episodes can either be downloaded from the Internet and watched on computers for a limited time (30 days) or watched on cable TV. All series are now available via Netflix.

All episodes are available in the US on the online streaming service Acorn TV starting in December 2014.

See also

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Drop the Dead Donkey


  1. Thomas Sutcliffe (21 March 1995). "REVIEW : Drop the dead donkey, we'll run with the cheese - TV & Radio - Arts and Entertainment". The Independent. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  2. "Entertainment | Dead donkey finally dropped". BBC News. 3 July 1998. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  3. ESS med Kryddan Peterson! in "Humorhimlen" (in swedish).
  4. Caryn James (23 July 1995). "TELEVISION VIEW; The News From Britain, Sort Of - New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 26 July 2014.


  1. Drop The Dead Donkey—The Writers Choice (DVD). London, UK: Hat Trick International. 1999. 5-014138-068608. Retrieved 26 July 2014. 
  2. Passmore, John (6 December 1991). "Travails with a Donkey". London Evening Standard. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Archived from the original on 4 February 2003. 
  3. Bond, Matthew (24 October 1998). "Old faces bid a short but sweet farewell". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 February 2003. 

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/27/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.