Trigger Happy TV
|Trigger Happy TV|
Image from the show's title sequence
|Directed by||Dom Joly
|Opening theme||"Connection" by Elastica|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2 plus Christmas specials including Pilot (Comedy Lab) and 'Greatest Hits' Specials|
|No. of episodes||17|
|Running time||approx. 23 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Absolutely Productions|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Picture format||PAL (4:3/16:9)|
|Original release||14 January 2000– 24 December 2016|
|Related shows||World Shut Your Mouth
Trigger Happy TV is a hidden camera/practical joke reality television series. The original British edition of the show, produced by Absolutely Productions, starred Dom Joly and ran for two series on the British television channel Channel 4 from 2000 to 2003. Joly made a name for himself as the sole star of the show, which he produced and directed with cameraman Sam Cadman. Trigger Happy TV and World Shut Your Mouth, Dom's other major show, would both be categorised as deadpan or "dry humour". The show returned for a one-off Christmas special on Channel 4 after 13 years, airing Christmas Eve 2016.
The show consists of Joly deliberately entering into ludicrous or embarrassing situations in public places, which were filmed surreptitiously by Cadman. Sketches took place in a variety of locations, though most appeared to be filmed on the streets of Central London and Cheltenham.
Unlike most hidden camera shows, many of the scenes in Trigger Happy TV do not revolve around trapping normal people into embarrassing and impossible situations. Instead, he often makes fun of himself rather than others, and many scenes made people stop and either laugh or simply wonder what was going on; the passers-by are never made aware of the fact that they are on television, presumably until they sign a release form allowing the use of the footage shot. Such scenes include Joly answering a gigantic novelty mobile phone and shouting at the top of his voice into it (normally in quiet locations like golf courses, cinemas, libraries and parks), a chef chasing an actor in a large rat costume out of a restaurant, and two actors dressed as masked Mexican wrestlers getting into spontaneous fights in grocery stores. Other scenes included people dressed as animals breaking into a fight and the progress of various costumed pedestrians (such as a snail and an old man) across a zebra crossing in London. Joly also often dressed as a Cub Scout, a foreign person with bad English, or a park attendant.
Two series and two Christmas specials of the show were produced in the UK, from 2000 to 2003. Three DVDs were released, containing the "best of" both series and the Christmas specials. Despite the show's popularity over two continents, Joly says he will not make any more in Britain, as his face and voice are now too well known. The comedy was also known for its contrastingly sombre musical soundtrack, which was released commercially. He notes in the booklet of the soundtrack CD for Series 2 "Also Johnny Vaughan ask me why all the music is so sad and not plinky-plonk, happy-clappy cartoon type stuff, 'cos I don't want to be the Big Breakfast, 'nuff said."
- The signature sketch of the series sees Joly innocuously present in a public location, often a place of relative quiet such as an art gallery, a library or an internet café, when a loud Nokia ring tone sounds. After a moment's pause, he lifts an oversized model of a mobile phone into view and shouts "Hello?!" into it. He then proceeds to yell conversational dialogue about where he is and what he's doing. Apart from an occasion where he was "On a boat in Holland!", this was usually while he slowly exits the area. It almost always concluded with him saying some variation of "Yeah, it's rubbish...ciao!"
The status of this sketch premise as synonymous with the series, and arguably Dom Joly's eventual boredom with it, was reflected in the final episode, where it served as the final sketch. It began with him sitting on a bench at a train station, smoking, beneath a sign reading "The End". He looks somewhat downbeat, with the phone resting beside him. In time the familiar ring tone sounds and he lifts the phone only to speak in a low and measured voice "Hello? No... No... I can't talk now, bye." and soon a fade to black.
- A random customer about to enter a grocery store is told by Joly (dressed up in a flamboyant suit, flanked by glamorous women and beneath a celebratory banner) that they are the millionth customer and anything they can get in their shopping trolley in a one-minute "dash" will be free. The customer proceeds to speed through the store filling up their cart while he and the other actors removed the set and quickly left.
- Joly is seen dressed in a stereotype burglar costume and asks a random passerby to aide him in some apparently criminal endeavour. Invariably after completing his "crime" he'd start yelling his joy at the success and implicate the passerby as an accomplice, while departing ("escaping") the scene. One instance saw him shouting from the upstairs window of a house asking a passerby to put a ladder back up for him and hold it while he climbs down (complete with a bag marked "Swag"), upon reaching the bottom he runs away screaming "We burgled the house! Me and him just burgled the house!", leaving the passerby holding the ladder.
- Joly, dressed in authentic costumes, would walk up to people sitting at a table or bench, often outside a restaurant, and offer (usually in a mock-foreign accent and broken English) to perform some form of entertainment, most commonly play a musical instrument, sing or perform a dance. Whether they accepted or refused the offer, he'd proceed to give a performance of terrible quality and, however they reacted, hold out a hand in expectation of a tip. On one occasion, Joly, wearing a porkpie hat and white jumpsuit, walks up to a couple sitting on a bench in a park. Despite no encouragement, he proceeded to do a terrible Morris dance. When finished, he calmly places his hand out as if asking for change.
- Joly is seen in a laundrette with boxer shorts and an undershirt on, and wearing a hockey mask on his face, à la Jason Voorhees. He stuffs a bloody jumpsuit into the washer.
- Outside an incongruous location (such as a pornography shop or public toilet), a random customer is seen to enter and quickly Joly sets up outside in flamboyant suit and wig, holding a microphone, flanked by glamorous women holding champagne, a couple of men with brass horn instruments, photographers, and all beneath a large banner, faced by a television crew. When the customer leaves the shop, fanfare erupts, cameras flash and Joly yells congratulations to the person for being the millionth customer.
- Joly, dressed in a stereotypical hooligan-like outfit including piercings, spiked hair and 'anarchy' facial tattoos, accosts random people in an extremely polite and intellectual manner, often quoting poetry or prose and behaving completely at odds with his rough appearance.
- Joly stands in front of an enormous picture of himself plastered against a wall that says "Do not trust this man!", but still manages to get passersby to talk to him and do things for him. In one memorable sketch, somebody actually comes up to him and asks him for directions.
- In Trafalgar Square, people sit down to have Joly, dressed as a French artist, paint their portrait. Rather than actually painting the portrait, he paints a comical phrase or picture on the canvas and walks away, leaving the customer sitting in their pose. Examples include him painting "I need to sing" before picking up a nearby guitar and strumming away across the square and "Goodbye cruel world" before climbing into the nearby fountain and floating face-down.
- Persons are stopped at random on the street by Joly, accompanied by a cameraman and boom operator, and asked to take a blindfolded taste test of a new foodstuff or drink. Once the person is blindfolded and given a sample in each hand, he and his crew silently but quickly walked away leaving the person standing there. Sometimes, a noticeably different crew replaced the original one.
- Joly is in the process of conducting a streetside interview with a British celebrity, but becomes increasingly distracted before abruptly departing. Distractions took the form of his own dissatisfaction with the job (walked off after expressing it), an ardent fan who kisses him and dares him to chase after her for more (he pauses for a moment then runs off after her), a persistent busker constantly getting in the frame (chases after him having smashed his guitar and threatening to do worse) and his kidnapping right in front of the interviewee by a van of hoodlums.
- Joly, disguised in trench coat, dark glasses and hat plays the role of a KGB spy. He would approach a random member of the public and usually uttered a code word or phrase ("You are red fox?") in an apparent attempt to confirm they were the contact he was supposed to meet, and tried to hand them a briefcase. The most elaborate set up involved an unsuspecting phone-box user becoming the centerpiece of a bizarre money exchange laced with secret codes involving a "nun" and a "doctor".
- Joly, dressed as a Swiss tourist, holding a Phrasebook, asks a passerby a question in comical and especially bad broken english, such as "Where may I go to empty my bottom?" (go to the toilet). Some people laugh; others genuinely try to help him.
- Various sketches involving actors in animal costumes copulating, urinating, or violently assaulting others, in the presence of ordinary people. The sketches with animal costumes, especially the violent ones, are arguably second only to the mobile phone sketches as a "signature sketch."
- Other examples were the "___-a-gram" services, wherein Joly delivers an actor in costume to an innocuous business location (often a laundromat) and the actor proceeds to stand in the corner, looking completely forlorn and sighing often after he leaves.
- Assuming the role of a park-keeper, Joly attempts to politely vilify elderly park goers, all-but accusing them of behaving like young hooligans. Each sketch starts with the park-keeper saying that he's been "tipped off" and that someone "matching your description" was acting improperly (setting off fireworks, doing graffiti, joyriding, etc.) When the elderly victim pleads innocence, the park-keeper will sometimes persist, but usually make a highly qualified acceptance, politely by strongly implying he doesn't believe them but as he can't prove anything he'll let them off this time.
- Joly, dressed as a traffic warden, accuses motorists stopped in traffic or at traffic lights of being illegally parked and proceeds to ticket them. In this character (an over-zealous jobsworth essentially), his oft-repeated mantra is "not on my patch, never". Other targets included a street cleaner who was forced to move his wheelbarrow of equipment away from double yellow lines, a bus which Joly attempted to ticket for illegal parking when it is at a bus stop and a taxi, which he himself hailed to a stop.
- Joly and other actors wearing "fat suits" and trying to fit into tight places, such as a telephone booth or narrow alleyway. One memorable example included Joly and another actor in fat suits holding up an entire escalator full of people.
- Joly will walk into a crowded public area (train car, bus stop, etc.) wearing a bright red satin jacked with a red beret and loudly announce that his name is Arron and the location is now under control of the "Guardian Angels". He will usually open his jacket to reveal a matching shirt that reads "Guardian Angels" when making his initial announcement. This is followed by "There will be no violence in this...(trolley, sidewalk)! Now does anybody have a problem with that!"
Being Dom Joly
A spoof documentary about Joly followed the original three series, called Being Dom Joly which was produced and written by Joly himself. This aired prior to screenings of Trigger Happy TV in the USA and earned critical acclaim, with one reviewer Bob Croft, LA Times calling Joly "the funniest man in Britain".
A new series of Trigger Happy TV was made for the US market in 2003, for Comedy Central. It retained the original format but almost all sketches were performed by a cast including Jessica Makinson (13 episodes), Travis Draft (4 episodes), Jerry Minor (4 episodes) and Brett Reylander (3 episodes). A total of 13 episodes were made and broadcast on Comedy Central in the US, comprising the one series. Recurring sketches included a waitress with a large pepper mill appearing in incongruous places such as a park and offering members of the public fresh ground pepper, and a cheerleader whose inappropriate cheers featured topics such as skin cancer. The series was subsequently broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK, under the title "Trigger Happy TV USA." Though Joly did cameo sporadically on the show (he appeared to a greater or lesser extent in 4 episodes), he was very unhappy with the programme and called it "Trigger Happy by numbers". He had a producer credit on the show, but disassociated himself with the project.
The British series 1 and 2 episodes also aired in the US on Comedy Central, but with different music than in the UK, and with a few scenes edited out.
Separate "Best of" collections have been released on VHS and DVD for each of the British Series 1, 2 and 3 (Christmas Specials), with each containing an amount of unseen footage. The three individual releases have also been released together, along with "Being Dom Joly" as a box-set entitled "Trigger Happy TV Complete", again on both VHS and DVD, along with unseen footage of "Being..."
All of the British episodes are available to view online in the UK on Channel 4's All 4 service, and available for download from the UK version of iTunes. As of May 2012, there have been no DVD releases of the British episodes as originally aired, and no video releases of the American episodes.
On 5 September 2015, Dead Parrot gained rights to start showing clips and full episodes on their YouTube channel.
Three soundtrack CDs have been released, each compiling most of the tracks used in the respective series. They are all on the label "4 Music", copyright Channel Four Television Corporation.
"Soundtrack to the Series" (Series 1)
"Soundtrack to Series 2" (Series 2)
"Soundtrack 3" (Christmas Specials and 'Being Dom Joly')
Perhaps the most notable absentee from the soundtracks, considering prominence during the series, were Eels, whose song "Novocaine for the Soul" was often used but appeared on none of the CDs. Although appearing in the Christmas Special, Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Forbidden Colours" was not released on any soundtrack. Gordon Lightfoot's 'If You Could Read My Mind' was also used multiple times in the series, in the street-artist segment, but he would not give permission for the song to be included in a compilation. "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" by Paul McCartney and Wings was also used for the oversized men segments but was not on the soundtrack.
Other songs in the show
Paul McCartney and Wings - 1985 (Episode 1/2/4/6)
Eels - Novocaine for the Soul (Episode 1/2/3/4/5/6)
Elton John - Rocket Man (Christmas Special Part 1)