Whoops Apocalypse TV Series Overview (1982)


Introduction

Whoops Apocalypse is a six-part 1982 television sitcom by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick, made by London Weekend Television for ITV.

Marshall and Renwick later reworked the concept as a 1986 film of the same name from ITC Entertainment, with almost completely different characters and plot, although one or two of the original actors returned in different roles.

Outline

The series details the weeks leading up to the Apocalypse. It features a chaotic and increasingly unstable global political situation in which nuclear alerts are accidentally triggered by malfunctioning Space Invaders machines. The naïve and highly unpopular Republican US President Johnny Cyclops (an obvious Ronald Reagan parody, played by Barry Morse) is advised by an insane right-wing fundamentalist security advisor, called The Deacon, who claims to have a direct hotline to God. The Deacon was so named because of the previous role of the actor who played him (John Barron) as a Cathedral Dean in the sitcom All Gas and Gaiters; the writers claimed not to know at the time that Alexander Haig, Reagan’s first Secretary of State, was known as The Vicar in the White House.

In the Eastern Hemisphere, things are similarly unstable. Soviet Premier Dubienkin (Richard Griffiths) is in fact a series of clones, which keep dying and being replaced. Meanwhile, the deposed Shah of Iran, Shah Massiq Rassim (Bruce Montague), led by his advisor Abdab (David Kelly) who is always blindfolded to avoid looking upon the Shah’s magnificence, is shunted around the world in search of a refuge (spending most of the series in a cross channel ferry’s toilet).

The main danger is the Deacon’s development of a new super-powerful American nuclear weapon. This is originally called the Johnny Cyclops Bomb; later, when the President vetoes the name, it is renamed the Quark Bomb (Formerly Known As The Johnny Cyclops Bomb After The President of the Same Name). The Deacon arranges for Lacrobat (John Cleese), a disguised international arms smuggler nicknamed The Devil (a parody of Carlos the Jackal), to steal a Quark Bomb and take it to Iran, to help the Shah in his counterrevolution. The Soviets get word of this (via Rassim’s parrot) and decide to invade, gaining control over the world’s oil supply.

The Soviets have a new ally in British Prime Minister Kevin Pork (Peter Jones), a parody of left-wing Labour politicians Michael Foot and Peter Shore. Pork, who has gone insane and believes himself to be Superman, heads an especially left-wing government (a parody of Foot’s Labour Party). The British Foreign Secretary is blackmailed by the Soviets to join the Warsaw Pact. This situation so unnerves the foreign secretary (Geoffrey Palmer, in a role based on David Owen) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Richard Davies) that they also lose their sanity, don Green Lantern and Hawkman costumes, and are locked up in a padded cell at 10 Downing St.

The Soviets are also holding two elderly American tourists named Jonathan and Martha Hopper captive. They are constantly tortured by Commissar Alex Solzhenitsyn (“no relation”, played by Alexei Sayle) in the belief they are secretly CIA spies. This turns out to be true, but the Hoppers are crushed by a helicopter in a bungled CIA rescue operation. This does not help Cyclops’s nosediving popularity rating, which is just below that of Charles Manson. The Deacon stages an assassination attempt in order to help Cyclops’ flagging popularity (a reference to the Reagan assassination attempt the year before). It is damaged further when the speeding ambulance carrying Cyclops to the hospital accidentally runs over his highly popular main opponent, Democratic Senator Jimmy Hennessy (a parody of Senator Teddy Kennedy). By the end of the series we’re told Cyclops is now less popular than the Boston Strangler. (These developments are followed by a dramatic newsreader named Jay Garrick, and his topless female counterpart across the Atlantic.)

Eventually the Quark Bomb is accidentally detonated in Israel when Lacrobat’s attempt to prevent it being incinerated goes horribly wrong, destroying the country and killing most of the US army who were stationed there. Meanwhile, the Shah, who has temporarily been given sanctuary aboard a space shuttle, manages to crash it into the Moscow Kremlin. Believing it to be a bomb, the Russians launch their weapons at America. In the final scene Soviet missiles are on their way to obliterate the United States and President Cyclops has to decide whether to retaliate. The title sequence already showed the aftermath of the decision, Earth reduced to a nuclear wasteland. In a final twist, we discover that the woman we see in the title sequence selling buttons reading “WEAR YOUR MUSHROOM WITH PRIDE” is in fact the First Lady, who was hidden in a fallout shelter and is one of the few survivors of the war.

Cast

  • President Johnny Cyclops … Barry Morse.
  • The Deacon (Presidential Adviser) … John Barron.
  • Premier Dubienkin … Richard Griffiths.
  • Lacrobat … John Cleese.
  • Prime Minister Kevin Pork … Peter Jones.
  • Shah Mashiq Rassim … Bruce Montague.
  • Jay Garrick (newsreader) … Ed Bishop.
  • British Foreign Secretary … Geoffrey Palmer.
  • British Chancellor of the Exchequer … Richard Davies.
  • Commissar Solzhenitsyn (“No relation”) … Alexei Sayle.
  • Abdab … David Kelly.

Also appearing are: Kirstie Pooley (as the British Newsreader), Matt Zimmerman (as Dean), Bob Sherman (as Buzz), Lou Hirsch (as Jed Grodd), Jack Klaff (as Dwight), Ed Devereaux (as General E.F. ‘Gizzard’ Pemberley), Rik Mayall (as Biff) and small uncredited roles by Stuart Milligan, Carmen Silvera, John Dair and Pat Astley.

Trivia

  • The six episodes were edited together into one long (138 minute) chunk by Weekend Video in the early 1980s, effectively turning the series into a feature film with a studio audience (not to be confused with the 1986 film).
  • Although very hard to find, it was reissued by Channel 5 video in 1987.

Whoops Apocalypse Series

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s):
    • John Reardon … (6 episodes, 1982).
  • Producer(s):
    • Humphrey Barclay … producer (6 episodes, 1982).
  • Writer(s):
    • Andrew Marshall … (writer) (6 episodes, 1982).
    • David Renwick … (writer) (6 episodes, 1982).
  • Music:
    • Nigel Hess … (6 episodes, 1982).
  • Cinematography:
    • Mike Humphreys … (4 episodes, 1982).
    • Dick Pope … (3 episodes, 1982).
  • Editor(s):
    • Derek Bain … (5 episodes, 1982).
    • Frank Webb … (1 episode, 1982).
  • Production:
    • London Weekend Television (LWT).
  • Distributor(s):
    • Pacific Arts Video Records (1983) (USA) (VHS).
    • ITV – Independent Television (all media).
    • London Weekend Television (LWT) (all media).
    • Thorn EMI Video Australia (1984) (Australia) (video).
    • Video Classics (1984) (Australia) (video).
  • Release Date: 14 March 1982 to 18 April 1982.
  • Running time: 30 minutes (per episode).
  • Rating: 15.
  • Country: UK.
  • Language: English.

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