|Created by||Graham Linehan
Amelia Bullmore (series 1)
Julia Davis (series 1)
Rebecca Front (series 2)
Tracy-Ann Oberman (series 2)
Catherine Tate (series 2)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||12|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original channel||BBC Two|
|Original run||9 November 1998– 11 February 2002|
Big Train is a surreal British television comedy sketch show created by Arthur Mathews and Graham Linehan, writers of the successful sitcom Father Ted. The first series was broadcast on BBC Two in 1998, while the second, in which Linehan was not involved, aired in 2002.
Following in the tradition of Monty Python, the comedy of Big Train is based on the subversion of ordinary situations by the surreal or macabre. For example, one scene features a bad-mannered man casually stabbed to death by his embarrassed wife at a dinner party. In a recurring sketch from the first series, an animated staring contest is accompanied by commentary from BBC football commentators Barry Davies and Phil Cornwell. The stare-out competition was based on a comic book by Paul Hatcher and was animated by Chris Shepherd.
Despite running for two series, Big Train attracted only a limited audience. Even so, the first series was voted "Best 'Broken Comedy' Show" at the prestigious British Comedy Awards in 1999. Both series were released on DVD on 25 October 2004.
Its stars included Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Simon Pegg in both series one and two, with Julia Davis and Amelia Bullmore in the first series (Nick Frost also appeared in two episodes), and Rebecca Front, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Catherine Tate in the second series. All its lead actors have starred in a variety of other comedy shows including I'm Alan Partridge, Look Around You, Spaced, Smack the Pony, Brass Eye and Green Wing. Catherine Tate went on to get her own show on the BBC, The Catherine Tate Show. The first series was directed by Graham Linehan and other series contributors included David Mitchell.
The pilot episode was directed by Chris Morris but was never broadcast in full. Some sketches from the pilot are scattered through the series. Apart from Pegg, all of the first season regular cast members subsequently starred in Morris' sketch comedy Jam (2000).
The title of the show is derived from the song run during the credits, "Big Train", which was recorded by Max Greger and his Orchestra. The writers were fond enough of the song to name the show after it. The song has since been adopted for a commercial for Virgin Trains.
The series included a series of animated sketches written by Paul Hatcher and animated by Chris Shepherd, with composition and additional animation by Rhodri Cooper and Jeff Goldner of Animation Post. The animation satirised televised sporting events coverage and its over-excited commentary, inspired by events such as the World Chess Championship, boxing and the football World Cup. The sketches are set during the World Stare-out Championship Finals, a staring match which is described as a global event broadcast all over the world.
The television sketches concerned the 43rd World Stare-out Championship Finals. All of the events were commentated by John, and David Joyce, voiced by real life commentator Barry Davies and impressionist Phil Cornwell. Each episode followed a different match, the last one being the grand final between the Italian Alessandro Kampagnola and the previous champion, the Polish Sigmund “Siggy” Spatsky, with Siggy emerging as the victor. Often the stories told by the commentators echoed those of real sporting events, such as performance-enhancing drugs, streakers, and a tale about the trophy based on the theft of the World Cup in 1966.
Whilst the first series received rave reviews from critics and fans, it was some years before a second series was produced. The second series had a mixed reception. Some felt the dynamic had changed due to casting changes, while others felt that the comedy scene itself had moved on whereas the show had remained mired in the late 90s. A third series was not commissioned.
Transmission details 
Big Train originally aired on BBC Two on Monday nights during the following periods:
- Series one (6 episodes): 9 November – 4 December 1998
- Series two (6 episodes): 7 January – 11 February 2002
DVD release 
The Complete Series 1 and 2 has been released in the US and the UK.
- Big Train at BBC Online
- Big Train at BBC Programmes
- Big Train at the Internet Movie Database
- Big Train on TV.com