A 1980s BBC sitcom, set in Occupied France during World War II. Lasted from December, 1982 to December, 1992. A total of 85 episodes in nine seasons.
Very much a parody of Secret Army, it starred Gorden Kaye as René Artois, owner of a restaurant (who broke the Fourth Wall with his monologues to camera at the beginning of every episode) and a whole host of other characters.
Beyond that, however, the show was notable for various things:
- Bad French accents. In fact, all of the accents were bad, including the British ones. Whilst all the dialogue was actually in English, comical 'national' accents were used to imply the language being spoken -- several times, a 'French' character overhears a conversation in e.g. a British accent, then tells another 'Frenchman' (in the show's default French-accented English) they have no idea what was said, as they don't speak English.
- Multiple character and actor replacements of various types - Suspiciously Similar Substitutes for Leclerc, and various waitresses. The Other Darrin, for the Italian Captain. The Nth Doctor, for Herr Flick in later seasons, whose actor is replaced, and the change explained by Magic Plastic Surgery. Subverted, inverted, or simply trashed completely by Rene himself, who spent most of the series' run posing as his non-existent twin brother - ie, the same actor playing the same character, posing as a non-existent different character, well-known or undetected in-universe as the plot required....
- At least four Put on a Bus schemes involving various characters leaving Nouvion. (Maria, Hans Geering, the original Leclerc and eventually, the British Airmen, though they returned for a brief appearance in the finale)
- A very big Story Arc involving a painting. (Namely "The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies")
- Two very stereotypical British pilots and the Resistance's disastrous plans to get them back to England.
- The British agent disguised as a French policeman, who got his words wrong ("Good moaning").
- Virtually all the Resistance are female, and they almost always all wear black berets and long beige raincoats.
- the Communist Resistance dress in a different, but uniform fashion and only do things for money...
- "Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once". Catch Phrase of resistance leader Michelle.
- René's failed attempts to have illicit romance with three of his waitresses (two of them at the same time, mind you).
- The radio hidden under Edith's mothers' bed, complete with flashing knobs.
- More double entendres than you can (ahem) shake a stick at. See immediately above for one of the milder examples.
Came thirteenth in Britains Best Sitcom.
A one-off Reunion Show was aired in 2007.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: It's the cruelty what arouses Helga in Herr Flick.
- Ambiguously Gay -- Lt. Gruber. Camp as all get-out, and flirts endlessly with René. The Distant Finale makes it decidedly unambiguous, as he's hooked up with Helga.
- As You Know -- René recaps, originally meant to merely ape similar, more dramatic shows.
- Attending Your Own Funeral: René was executed by the Nazis but the Colonel and Hans save him by giving the firing squad fake bullets (and the real bullets as well, but they were lucky). René then poses as his own twin brother and has to organise his own funeral, and pose as the dead body when the undertaker arrives.
- Bad Habits: One of LeClerc's many disguises, such as when he came to give René and the others a saw to break out of prison. It doesn't help.
- Crabtree was replaced as the priest to marry René and the head of the resistance (who was replaced twice anyway).
- Backup Twin: An in-universe example, after René stages his death he pretends to be his own twin brother... who's also called René.
- The Baroness -- Helga, clearly a spoof.
- Becoming the Mask: Agent Crabtree. Almost immediately, Crabtree starts to live his assumed role of policeman, practically forgetting that he's supposed to be an undercover agent. Leads to much consternation and hilarity on several occasions as when Crabtree reports Gruber's little tank as missing (Rene and Capt. Geering have 'borrowed' it for a secret task) and bravely confronting Bertorelli's gang trying to break into Secret Gestapo Headquitters, *ahem* Headquarters, and getting knocked out as a reward. In fact, in the reunion special set years after the war, Crabtree is still in Nouvion and still a gendarme.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall -- Many episodes begin with René addressing the audience, recapping the previous episode to explain why he is in whatever bizarre situation du jour that he is in. ("You may be wondering why...")
- Break Out the Museum Piece: One plan to get rid of the British Airmen evolved around stealing an old plane out of a museum and use the engine for the General's lawnmower.
- Breast Expansion -- Helga in the episode A Woman Never Lies.
- Bride and Switch -- One of the many Gambit Pileups had Rene due to marry the leader of the Communist resistance, who was replaced by his waitress Yvette, who was then replaced by his wife Edith (although Rene at that point was playing his own twin brother). The vicar had also been secretly replaced by Officer Crabtree, so we aren't sure exactly whether anyone had managed to get married.
- British Brevity -- Played straight with most of the show's seasons, which usually had between 6 and 8 episodes each. Averted big-time by the fifth season however, which had 26 episodes, the same length as a season of most live-action American sitcoms, in an attempt to appeal to transatlantic audiences. The seventh season is a borderline case, as it had 10 episodes; still way short of what most American sitcoms would have in a season, but longer than the average Britcom season.
- The Bus Came Back -- When René and Edith go to England they meet Hans, who has since been brainwashed into working for the British government. Plus, the two airmen reappearing in the final episode after disappearing at the beginning of the 8th season.
- Catch Phrase
- Officer Crabtree's "Good Moaning!" is probably the most famous of the lot and the most likely to be repeated by those only familiar in passing with the show.
- Michelle of the Resistance's "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once". (There was a tie-in book that included a note from Michelle, which ended "Read this very carefully, I wrote it only once.")
- Anytime Edith would catch René in a compromising situation with one of the waitresses (almost never innocent) and ask him what they were doing, René would growl "You stew-pid woman! Can you not see...?!" followed by some ridiculous explanation that, despite its obvious implausibility, Edith would either believe or let slide. This notion was subverted in the series finale with "You stew-pid woman! Can you not see? I am eloping!!!"
- And Herr Flick's inordinate pride in all things of Gestapo manufacture. "Come Helga, stand beneath the brim of my wide Gestapo hat." "Come, von Smallhausen! To the special Gestapo disguise cupboard!"
- Lt. Gruber's "Little tank!"
- "What a mistake-a to make-a!"
- " 'Tis I, Leclerc"
- "Oooooooh, Rene!"
- " 'Tler!"
- "Zee flasheeng knobs!"
- This show is probably a prime example. Not only does every character have at least one, but in later episodes, the characters occasionally "borrow" them from other characters.
- Chekhov's Gun -- Subverted with the three suicide pill rings; they all turn out to be duds.
- Clark Kenting -- The running gag of LeClerc, whose disguises are inevitably pathetic, is that he always goes through the formality of taking René aside and revealing himself to be LeClerc by lifting up his glasses. Since he always wears glasses anyway, it's not much of a reveal at all.
- Or removing his false moustache to reveal the almost identical real moustache underneath.
- As René put it:
"He's a man of a thousand disguises... every one the same."
- The Comically Serious -- A poker-faced Herr Flick ("That was very amusing."), Helga and Michelle.
- Continuity Lock Out: The increasingly complicated plots can lead to this. However, René does recap the events of the previous episode to the audience at the start of each new one - though this is done at least partly to Lampshade how ridiculous the situation he's in is.
- The Crime Job: The episode "The Bank Job".
- Deadpan Snarker: almost every character, but especially René.
- Dirty Old Man: Monsieur Alfonse.
- Disguised in Drag: Multiple times. Herr Flick and Von Smallhausen pretend to be female German soldiers so they can visit Helga... and they're forced to do gym in their underwear and the obviously fake breasts go flying.
- The British Airmen are disguised as resistance girls once (René also takes on the disguise for one episode) and as nuns when they're in hiding.
- Distant Finale -- Takes place in The Nineties, several decades after the end of the war. The now elderly principal characters get together one last time, "The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies" is reunited with the missing piece, René steals it and finally succeeds in eloping with his waitress.
- Double Entendre -- a full list of which would be large enough to crash the internet.
- Dreadful Musician -- Edith, whose attempts at singing are so bad that customers will stick any readily available foodstuffs into their ears to avoid having to hear her. To a lesser extent, the two Leclercs; they certainly aren't good at playing the piano by any means, but their efforts are at least somewhat tolerable, especially when compared to Edith.
- Gruber, on the other hand, is very good about it...and seems to get a lot of male attention for it.
- During the War
- Enemy Mine -- On multiple occasions, the German military officials find themselves forced to cooperate with the French Resistance in such as plots as helping the British airmen escape or blowing up train tracks to derail a train bearing a superior officer.
- Even the Guys Want Him: René, if Gruber counts. One of the German Colonels was found of him as well.
- Everybody Did It -- In the second season Christmas special (included as the finale on the American release of the second season), the French Resistance, the German military officials, and the Gestapo all try to kill German general Von Klinkenhoffen (separately, however).
- Everyone Looks Sexier If French
- Faking the Dead: René fakes his own death though he wasn't sure if he was even going to survive. Fortunately he does and returns to be his own twin brother and has to organise his own funeral.
- Fan Service -- The vibrating ice cream truck for a start. Actually the series is pretty full of fanservice in general, though it admittedly never quite keeps pace with the double entendres. Female characters (come to think of it, quite a lot of the male ones, too) are forever baring legs for increasingly spurious reasons, and it's about 30% odds on a pantyshot per episode (again, some of them are male).
- It's difficult to work out if this strictly speaking counts as fan service as such. Were people tuning in to see Helga get undressed? Who can say, but this was a family show... What we do know is that quite a lot of British comedy from the 70's and 80's had girls dancing around in their underwear for no obvious reason and this was more a genre convention than a deliberate attempt by any particular show to boost ratings. Scantily clad young women show up right from the get-go but there was never really a 'demand' from anyone (or any fan interaction as we now know it).
- Farce -- If you, as a Brit of a certain age, were to describe Farce chances are the description will resemble an Allo Allo episode.
- The Fun in Funeral: René's funeral. As René isn't dead his coffin is filled with garbage and bombs the resistance need to get rid of. While on the way to the cemetery the cart with the coffin gets away. It explodes when it reaches the end of the road.
- Gambit Pileup -- NINE SEASONS of three different parties trying to steal away ONE PAINTING and/or return the airmen to Britain, with constant foulups and incredibly hasty improvisations every single episode.
- Oh god that's not he half of it. There was also the second painting, the Colonel's gold, the two forgeries of the two paintings each (Because General Klinkerhoffen thought he was getting the original while sending the forgeries to Hitler but they both got forgeries. The real paintings would go to René and the Germans in theory but with everyone trying to short everyone it all got horrible confused.), a whole season focused on getting the Invasion plans, and certain Macguffins that lasted two or three episodes, the forged Gestapo money, the T5 land mines, the exploding Christmas puddings etc. And that's just in one season imagine 9 SEASONS of this mess And enough gambits by the resistance and the Germans to try and liberate France/Get the British Airmen home/ Defeat the communist resistance and the Germans to make some money out of the mess/ not get sent to the Russian front. This is ignoring the bumbling by the Gestapo, Communist resistance and Berterelli.
- Giftedly Bad: Edith at singing.
- Girls with Moustaches -- Frequently used, whenever the female Resistance fighters and waitresses have to pose as gendarmes, engineers, soldiers and so forth.
- Human Mail -- Maria in 'Allo 'Allo! leaves the show this way, getting accidentally mailed to Switzerland. She's replaced by Mimi in the next episode.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Von Smallhausen has a shade of this as he is definitely more level-headed that Herr Flick who usually focuses on extremely complex plots and is oblivious of the most obvious solutions.
- Informed Attractiveness -- René. In fact, the idea that a fat, balding, middle-aged man like René could be so damn popular with the ladies (and even a guy or two) works only thanks to sheer Refuge in Audacity.
- Or a sheer faith in the powers of Kavorka Man.
- Alternatively, as they are waitresses in the Nazis' favoured watering hole, it may be that they actually have trouble finding Frenchmen who are interested.
- Lampshaded when Michelle started coming-on to him purely for manipulative reasons. Yvette learned of this and Michelle promised to dump him when the war was over, asking what the hell Yvette saw in him anyway. Yvette began comparing him to many cultural references of the time, from Michelle's reaction she also seemed at a loss as to why Yvette liked those things either.
- Or a sheer faith in the powers of Kavorka Man.
- Insane Admiral: Naturally Played for Laughs with every visiting general and colonel (not to mention the resident ones) falling squarely into this trope.
- Italians Talk with Hands: Captain Bertorelli, as part of his Italian stereotype.
- Lampshade Hanging: "Ah! Colonel! How nice that you should come into my Cafe at this precise moment!" Also, many of René's opening monologues to camera feature the tendency to lampshade the implausibility of events surrounding him.
- A priceless cuckoo clock is stolen, hidden and used as a MacGuffin for the better part of a season, then apparently forgotten by the writers. When, several seasons later, it's once again included in the list of stolen artifacts, René remarks "I had forgotten about the cuckoo clock..."
- La Résistance -- Two different ones, reflecting the Real Life situation in France; all female and all wearing the same grey trenchcoats and berets. The Gaullist lot, which Michelle is part of and the Communist lot, whose leader wants to sleep with René.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: for most of the run the main regular cast comprised eighteen characters, a vast number for a sitcom.
- Love Martyr: Poor Edith, despite being a clever woman, always falls for René's transparent lies when she catches him cheating on her.
- MacGuffin -- The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies, most notably. A second painting was added in a later season, and other MacGuffins show up as the plot demands.
- Meaningful Name -- Tons of them:
- The last name of the Gestapo officer Herr Flick comes from Flic -- an insulting French term for a police officer.
- René's wife Edith has a similar repertoire to Edith Piaf, except that she's a terrible singer, and her middle name Melba is also an ironic reference to a famous singer.
- All of the waitresses have Double Entendre last names -- Yvette's last name is Carte-Blanche, Maria's is Recalmier, a type of bed, and Mimi's surname, LaBonq has an obvious meaning.
- Many of the German officers, including a meeting which included, among others, a General Stiffenwalken and an Admiral Sinkenquicken. And there's the time Flick's diminutive sidekick von Smallhausen (get it?) tries to pass himself off as Field Marshal von Crackenfart.
- Not to mention in the play you also get General von Schmelling.
- My Card: Monsieur Alphonse's "Swiftly and With Style".
- Minion with an F In Evil: Colonel von Strom and especially Captain Geering are sometimes this to General von Klinkerhoffen (on an ordinary days they just fit the role of Punch Clock Villain). Von Smallhausen is this to Herr Flick.
- National Stereotypes: The French, Germans, British and Italians all fit into this trope.
- No Fourth Wall
- No Indoor Voice: Helga, when commanding and announcing.
- Noodle Implements -- The accessories that the waitresses would use in bed with Nazi officers, most notably the wet celery and the egg whisk, but also on occasion the flying-helmet. Word of God has stated that any idea they could actually make sense of was rejected.
- No Swastikas -- In the early seasons, swastikas are only mentioned. The Nazis gain swastika armbands from about season 3/4 onwards -- perhaps once the show was established enough to get away with it. The exception to this was that the painting of the Fallen Madonna with the big boobies was hidden originally in a sausage whose only distinguishing mark was a small swastika which you can hardly see on screen.
- Well, they did mention that the sausage was marked, they just never said what the mark was.
- There are swastikas present in all seasons. They are simply used realistically. Majority of the scenes are shot in and around the Café René and virtually all Germans are either Wehrmacht or Gestapo officers (swastika armbands were worn only by members of the SS). Whenever their presence is required (flags in front of German command post, insignia in Herr Flick's office, authentic photograph of Heinrich Himmler etc.), swastikas are in place. They are prominently displayed during René's execution in the season 1.
- Helga's swastika lingerie?
- Not What It Looks Like -- When René cuddles with one of the waitresses and his wife suddenly bursts in and gets suspicious, he promptly utters the catchphrase "You stupid woman!" and offers an improvised explanation. And Edith always buys it.
- Oblivious to His Own Description: Gruber, reading out the resistance's leaflet mocking the members of the German military staff:
"We will show that fat pig colonel, and that queer lieutenant - whoever can that be?"
- The Other Darrin -- Several times: Capitan Bertorelli, twice for LeClerc (though one of the replacements was specifically declared to be his brother), and also Herr Flick in the final season.
- subverted, or perhaps inverted, by the fact that for reasons not worth explaining, Rene spent most of the programme's run being passed off as his non-existent twin brother - ie the same actor playing the same character generally believed in-universe to be a non-existent different character.....
- Paper-Thin Disguise -- "It is I, LeClerc!"
- Happens in a different way with Herr Flick and Herr von Smallhausen. Usually their disguises are a lot more convincing than those worn by the French characters, but they undo this by continuing to act like Gestapo officers, regardless of what they're supposed to be disguised as.
- Virtually every single disguise (which are numerous given the nature of the show) is as paper-thin as possible (including moustached nuns) for purely comedic purposes.
- Playing Gertrude -- An unusually aged version; Rose Hill (67 when the show began) was only eight years older than her onscreen daughter Carmen Silvera (59 at the start).
- Possibly disguised better than usual as Hill spent most of the series almost invisible under her huge night-cap, with her body hidden under blankets.
- Punch Clock Villain -- the Nazis.
- Put on a Bus -- four times.
- Subverted with the British Airmen: the cast spent the entire series attempting to put them on a bus, but it never stuck.
- Queer People Are Funny: Gruber. As an example when Captain Bertorelli is introduced to the Colonel, Helga, and Gruber he gives the first 2 kisses on the cheek, then shakes Grubers hand.
- Gruber : Ah the General told me about you.
- Bertorelli : The General told ME about YOU.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Von Strom's usual motivation is that he'll be sent to the Russian front if he fails his superiors.
- Replacement Goldfish: Gruber feels guilty for executing René but doesn't cry long after him, he falls in love with his "twin brother" instead.
- Replacement Scrappy -- Captain Bertorelli is an in-universe example, mostly because the Germans tend to view the Italians as their poor cousins, though Bertorelli's personal mannerisms certainly don't help him any. Subverted by Mimi; Rene isn't all that keen on her, mostly because of how insane she is, but most of the other characters actually seem to prefer her over Maria.
- Rube Goldberg Device -- Many of the schemes involved something along these lines.
- Running Gag -- Several, especially the catch phrases
- Apart from the catch phrases René is always embraching Yvette when Edith comes in, yet manages to think up a halfbaked excuse to explain the awkward situation.
- Leclerc always enters in an obvious disguise, yet he still feels the need to explain who he is.
- Self-Deprecation -- Pretty much all the British characters are presented as complete idiots.
- Series Fauxnale -- The last episode of the second season was written as the Series Finale, because the show's producer thought there was zero chance of it being renewed for a third season. As it turned out though, he was quite wrong.
- Series Hiatus -- The show was put on hiatus between 1989 and 1991 due to Gordon Kaye suffering a devastating head injury when storm force winds drove a shaft of wood through the windscreen of his car and into his head, putting the show's future in doubt. Thankfully he went on to make a full recovery.
- Serious Business -- Most of the show, but especially anything Herr Flick does. You might think his excessively serious persona is a facade to make his gestapo work easier, but if it is he has long since become the mask.
- Shout-Out: During the season two Christmas special multiple people were trying to kill General Von Klinkenhoffer during the chicken dinner. Herr Flick was trying to get Helga to kill him with a poison dart and to make a long story short Flick got hit with it instead causing him to convulse on the floor. After Rene and Helga give him the antidote and get him back to his meal, Klinkenhoffer asks Helga what was wrong with him. She answers: "He had the fish."
- During the "escape from the prisoner of war camp" arc there's a number of little shout outs to The Great Escape, as they put dirt in Rene's trousers so he can dump it around the camp (in the original they had inside pockets that released the dirt).
- Something Else Also Rises -- Frequently. With medals, hair, baguettes, policemen's batons, knockwurst sausages... the list goes on.
- The Spock: Herr Flick.
- Spock Speak -- Herr Flick
- Spy Speak -- Played for laughs.
- Stealth Pun -- Lieutenant Gruber is Von Klinkerhoffen's aide-de-camp.
- The MacGuffin painting is by an artist named Van Klomp. If the 'Van' part didn't tip you of as to his nationality (and that he is a Van Gogh Expy), 'Klomp' is Dutch word for their famous wooden shoes.
- Story Arc
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute -- Le Clerc's brother. In a parody, René also has his death faked in the first season and spends the rest of the show posing as his identical twin brother with the same name, although this is forgotten by most of the characters (even the Colonel, despite him being the one who orchestrated the deception) after about a season and only brought up in order to make a joke.
- That Came Out Wrong -- When Rene is posing as his own twin brother and said he comes from the city of Nancy, Gruber asks if that was also true of his 'late brother':
Rene: Yes, we are both Nancy boys.
- Those Wacky Nazis
- Time Skip -- The first seven seasons took place over only a few months, then two years pass between the seventh and eighth.
- Too Soon -- The broadcast of the first season was met by serious protests from some quarters that it was mocking the real horrors and heroism of the Occupation and Resistance, since even though the events were forty years previously they were still within living memory.
- Translation Convention -- Since the English dialogue is "really" in French, other accents denoted other languages. Michelle would adopt a plummy I-say-chaps accent when speaking English to the British airmen, and Officer Crabtree's malapropisms - "Good moaning! I was just pissing by..." - are due to his poor command of French.
- Also, an odd syntax is used to help suggest French's different grammar (such as René saying things like "it is the bed of the mother of my wife!" without possessives).
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife -- Well, maybe not hot wife, but numerous hot women lusted after René... not to mention Lt. Gruber.
- And his affairs with his two waitresses have, according to Herr Flick in series 7, given him the nickname "Menage Artois".
- What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Maria or René implies Gruber isn't interested in her but what they brought: and they pull out the sausage...
- What Does She See in Him?: Even he doesn't understand what the girls find so irresistible in him.
- Who Is This Guy Again? -- No-one can ever remember who it is that Michelle's version of the Resistance works for.
Michelle: De Gaulle!
- This is most likely nodding at how the Brits see De Gaulle compared to the French. While he's a hero and great political leader to the French, he is definitively not the English. Any respect he gained during WW 2 (as a general and organizing the French resistance) immediately began to wane as he continually demanded that France be treated on equal terms with the Great Powers (despite it being full of Germans and lacking any military assets). Furthermore, in the years to follow he vetoed British membership to the European Community twice, withdrew France from NATO command and followed independent foreign policy, which as you might imagine went down quite badly what with the constant worry of soviet invasion and all. While the French, and certainly French nationalist, look upon him fondly, to us across the channel, he will always be "the one with the big 'ooter"
- World of Ham
- Zany Scheme -- Suffice to say that any attempt to acquire the Fallen Madonna or get the British airmen back to Britain is rarely straightforward.
- Hans' substitute for "Heil Hitler". This caused rumors that this was due to Sam Kelly (who is Jewish) refusing to do the full salute, which he denied, claiming that the "'Tler!" was meant to emphasize Hans' laziness.