25 years ago, at the height of the arms race between the West and the Soviet Union, against the backdrop of the Cold War and the very real fear of imminent nuclear war, the BBC broadcast “Threads”. This landmark piece of television was a chilling drama depicting in unflinching detail the grim reality of a nuclear holocaust. After almost two hours of relentless, brutalising misery one thing was abundantly clear: nuclear war is no laughing matter.
Thankfully nobody had told this to Andrew Marshall & David Renwick who only two years previously (1982) treated the subject somewhat differently with the dementedly brilliant “Whoops Apocalypse”. Being that rarest of things, a great ITV comedy, it managed to pull off the neat trick of wringing tear-inducing laughs from the terrifying events of a world spiralling toward nuclear armageddon.
It’s difficult to overstate the brilliance of this series. Whilst the plot was absurd it still packed a punch by echoing the insanity of real events as nuclear brinksmanship brought the world teetering to the edge of oblivion. It used canny parodies of contemporary political figures and had a cast to die for: Barry Morse as befuddled U.S. president Johnny Cyclops; John Barron (aka Reggie Perrin’s magnificent C.J.) as the Christian fundamentalist security advisor known as The Deacon; Peter Jones as the insane U.K. Prime Minister, Richard Griffiths as several versions of Russian Premier Dubienkin, and John Cleese (in his first TV role since Basil Fawlty) as international arms smuggler and master of disguise, Lacrobat.
But enough waffle, here’s a taster:
Until now it’s only ever been available on a much-coveted but long-deleted 137-minute Channel 5 VHS version. But finally, after a false start a couple of years ago it looks like it may finally get a DVD release:
We can’t recommend it highly enough. And don’t be put off if you were disappointed by the vastly inferior film version.