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HORRIBLE HISTORIES SERIES 4 (Size: 4.68 GB)
Horrible Histories is a British children's television series based on the Terry Deary book series of the same name. It aims to provide entertainment while also informing its audience about history, thereby making a stereotypically boring topic fun. The series has become very successful, and many of its musical numbers have become viral hits. The show has spawned a gameshow spinoff, Gory Games, and a re-edit of the show, designed for an older audience and hosted by Stephen Fry was also released.
Each episode features a mixture of sketches and cartoons from different historic and prehistoric eras and commentaries from Rattus Rattus, the puppet rat who has coined the catchphrases "The Rat knows all" and "It's 100% accu-RAT". Some sketches, such as "Historical Wife Swap", "Historical Hospital" and "Historical Masterchef", are pastiches of familiar TV formats. The series also includes quizzes and numerous songs, and relies heavily on elaborated plays on words and puns.
The first series was thirteen episodes long, and was broadcast from 16 April to 9 July 2009 on CBBC on BBC One. The second series aired from 31 May 2010 to 27 July 2010. A Christmas special was broadcast on 17 December 2010. The third series aired from 30 May 2011 to 26 July 2011 on CBBC. The fourth series was broadcast from 9 April 2012 to 8 June 2012. A Halloween Special was broadcast on 29 October 2012. Series two, three and four consist of twelve episodes each, with the addition of a thirteenth episode, the "Savage Songs Special" (a compilation of various songs previously seen on each series), at the end. Series five began airing on 27 May 2013 and consists of 16 episodes.
Caroline Norris, series producer, announced in early 2013 that the show would not continue (for now) past series five, though added the Horrible Histories troupe would continue to work together in future projects.
1.1 Conception and relationship with book series
1.2 Writing and shooting
1.4 Casting, characters, costuming and design
2.1 Humour and cultural references
2.2 Historical accuracy and past-present relationship
2.3 Children's show
2.4 Dark content
3 Critical reception
3.2 Awards and nominations
4.1 Main cast
4.2 Recurring and guest cast
5 Eras and civilisations featured
5.1 Commonly featured
5.2 Occasional or single appearances
6.1 Recurring sketches
6.2 One-off sketches
6.3 Unseen sketches
7.1 Series 1
7.2 Series 2
7.3 Christmas Special
7.4 Series 3
7.5 Series 4
7.6 Blue Peter's Big Olympic Tour
7.7 Scary Special
7.8 Series 5
9.1 Series 1
9.2 Series 2
9.3 Series 3
9.4 Series 4
9.5 Series 5
10.1 Horrible Histories: Gory Games
10.2 Horrible Histories with Stephen Fry
10.3 Horrible Histories at the Proms
10.4 Horrible Histories: Terrible Treasures
11 DVD releases
13 External links
In 2009 a live-action television series based on the books by Terry Deary was made by Lion Television and shown on BBC One and CBBC in the United Kingdom. The production of the television series followed a relaunch of Deary's books, and Lisa Edwards, editorial director of Scholastic UK, said, "Following the hugely successful relaunch of the books this year, the TV show will be a great addition to the perennially popular Horrible Histories property."  Before the series went on air, BBC executive producer Kim Shillinglaw said that Horrible Histories would be "stuffed full of blood, battles and black humour, and will also give children some of the great facts and narratives of history".
Each series of thirteen episodes takes about a year to produce. The process includes two to three months of writing, eight weeks of filming, and three to four months of post-production. The historical consultants and researches begin months before the writers start work.
The second series of Horrible Histories began airing on BBC 2 and CBBC on 31 May 2010 in co-production with Citrus Television, following post-production by Platform Post Production, London. The show costs about half as much as any other sketch show, a relatively cheap show in TV terms. The crew are often given what they need by Platform Post Production for free, out of love for the show, meaning the show costs a lot less that it may seem. Farnaby points out that "nobody makes millions of pounds".
The third series began airing on 30 May 2011.
In September 2011, it was announced that The League of Gentlemen would reunite to perform sketches together on the fourth series of Horrible Histories, which began airing on 9 April 2012. They were seen in episodes 1, 3, 6, 12 and 14, playing a panel of film executives approached by several historical figures who were trying to pitch their own biopics.
Conception and relationship with book series
The idea for the series was brought up from interest in the Horrible Histories books. After an unsuccessful 2001 animated series, Terry Deary decided to try again with a live action adaptation of his books, despite being doubtful of TV's capability to capture the spirit of them. The makers of the new series felt pressure because they "didn't want to spoil the brand". They wanted to live up to the quality of the book series. Series producer Caroline Norris explained "Terry is quite anarchic in his attitude and he is really good at choosing the facts that kids will really engage with". For this reason, the attitude of the books was their "starting point". The book series also helped them by allowing them to "Tackle difficult subjects" on CBBC as the subject matter was in the books, meaning that kids already knew about it. Norris argues that if the book series had not existed, the show would probably have not been allowed to be "as naughty as it is". Simon Farnaby explains how kids really like Death, even though he is a very morbid and frighteningly looking character. In collecting staff, Norris and her team collected everyone they knew were really good at their jobs and "persuaded them to do it on a slightly smaller budget".
Especially in the first few seasons, the writers only took their facts from Terry Deary's books. After that, they "ran out of facts" and now use historical consultants to seek out usable tidbits elsewhere. The "visual style" of the series comes from the books. Norris says that this was a choice made because "this is what kids recognise as Horrible Histories". When they decided to use "animated links", they chose Martin Brown's illustration designs from the books, as "they had a strong brand to start with so it seemed silly to reinvent it". The non-linear quality to the books, as well as its use of multiple media (including diaries and newspaper articles etc.) are also reciprocated in the show. For example, Norris explains a "list of accidents that happened to the Home Guard" that was lifted straight out of the books and turned into a sketch. Other material gave them ideas on how to shape the show, for example the food recipes gave them the idea of doing a "cookery show", which morphed into many ideas such as the MasterChef parody. Norris said that the books "feel like the template for a sketch show". The creators created a show-reel of shows like Blackadder, Monty Python and Do Not Adjust Your Set in order to say "this is the sort of attitude we want". The stoning scene from The Life of Brian, which is both funny and dark, was also educational in explaining that people were "stoned for blasphemy" and that "women weren't allowed at stonings". As Norris explains, "you learn something from it", which was a big part of their attitude towards making the series.
Writing and shooting
Writers meetings take place during pre-production in which facts that would make good sketches are collected and shared. They take place on a weekly basis, and each revolve around a particular topic, for example Romans or Victorians. Sketch ideas are formulated from this process. Norris says that part of the reason writing sketches without the aid of Terry Deary's books is because he has already chosen true facts that are humorous by themselves (for example Romans communally bathing), whereas the notion of the printing press revolutionising communication (shown in a series five sketch) isn't inherently funny. She said you're often trying to make sketches out of thinner and less obvious facts, which makes it harder to find something interesting out of it and do something new and original. For this reason, she estimates about half of the first drafts were scrapped.
The writers do commission material, and actually both over-commission and overshoot (but only by a bit due to the tight budget). Norris tried to make sure there is a range of content from a range of historical eras. The ordering of sketches in episodes is done by writing every sketch title on a card, and reordering them in a big grid. The show does have some rules regarding recurring sketches in episodes. For example, each episode features one song. Sometimes a piece of writing that the writers think is very good doesn't translate well to film. At other times, because of a performance, a sketch comes out much better than intended. For this reason, "you can't really tell what's going to go with what until you get into the edit suite". Norris said that by series five the crew are were a lot more savvy to what works and what doesn't work, and often the cast would point of issues with the sketch. 
Sketches are not usually written with a cast member in mind. Laurence Rickard has jokingly pointed out that if a character gets covered in an unsanitary substance he is usually given the role. He says that he enjoys seeing the final edits of sketches that he's written but not acted in, and seeing the uniqueness and humour that the chosen actor has brought to the role. It's described as "logistics": who is free at a given point in time. An actor may not be in two consecutive sketches simply because they can't get changed in time. If an actor specifically asks to play a role, the crew will more often than not accept, and then schedule actors around that. Sometimes the crew deliberately go against typecasting, in order to give actors new opportunities and see where the sketches go as a result. Willbond said all the sketches are cast before scripts are handed out, and that he sometimes feels "sketch jealousy" due to missing out on opportunities to play characters.  Except in very rare cases (such as Queen Elizabeth, who has been played by at least who actresses over the course of the series), the show actively tries to keep actors portraying the same character. Baynton's Charles II and Willbond's Henry VIII are among the most beloved among the fanbase.
Location scouting takes place in August, after three to four months of research and three to four months of writing. They film on location for four weeks, then in the studio for four weeks. The scripts for the location block are received and read within three days, and are re-learnt on set if need be, due to minor changes including dialogue and casting. Actors have to be on set at 6:30, and filming commences at 8:00. The final post-production including editing takes places afterwards. The location shooting is split up into eras - as each historical era will be set in a seperate location. Wilbond referred to "Greek Week" as an example, which isparticular hard due to shooting in cold climates in relatively skimpy costumes. The live action aspects of the show are a mixture between shooting on set, shooting on location, and shooting on a green screen with computer effects. In many cases, the locations chosen are of historical value. Some of a scene where Howe-Douglas plays Queen Elizabeth is actually shot in the same location as the film Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.
Despite the need for accuracy, there some space for improvisation. While the actors can't change facts, in the parts of the sketch that aren't educational they can play with the content. There are a few running gag in-jokes between the actors that they try to sneak into sketches. For example, Simon Farnaby explained that he thinks he has "said 'Hey now' in about 50 times in various sketches in different accents". Ben says "hot sausage" often. The word so is also said often with an awkward pause immediately afterwards. The cinematographers leave the cameras running at the end of a sketch, a technique which usually results in a punchline coming from the cast. Norris explained that "the actors bring [the show] to life and then we cut out the bits that don't work".
A rule of the series is to have one featured in every episode, excluding jingles and other pieces. While originally most songs were original, during the second season, the songs have been parodies or pastiches of artists or styles of music. The Radio Times says "after some tinkering in the early days, [the show] quickly adopted the format of pastiching recognisable pop styles". The song choices are often picked for fun, and "sometimes [the crew are]...massively self-indulgent". The writers are naturally drawn towards older music so they make a conscious effort to find the modern equivalents for historical figures, for example choosing a Lady Gaga song for Cleopatra to sing. Sometimes the song choice is due to a something trivial, such as the choice to parody a David Bowie song to illustrate Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, so they could include the lyric "cha-cha-cha-changes". Norris said "we try to cover a range of styles, eras, and performers, and not repeat what we've done before. Everyone can pitch in with style ideas. I usually think about the song compilation episode [which ends the series after the 12 regular episodes] and what the mix will feel like in that. We're always looking for modern styles that the audience will know, as well as older music they might think is fun".
The song "Charles Dickens" was described as "a dead-on Smiths mash that will fly straight over the head of the kids in the CBBC audience". Baynton said of "Rosa Parks", "I remember seeing it cut together and thinking, I wouldn't bet against that one song having a life beyond Horrible Histories". The Radio Times described the "Price Tag" parody "Joan of Arc" as "One that the kids will definitely have got" and said "The interrogation breakdown is particularly good". "The Vikings" epitomises a common thread of many Horrible Histories pastiches: the inclusion of many cheeky references to the original text. These include lines like "just like Robbie" in the World War II-themed Take That parody. This Simon and Garfunkel homage makes reference to "Mrs Robinson", "The Boxer" and "Baby Driver". The Radio Times said of "Marcus Licinius Crassus": "HH is brilliant at finding lesser-known stories that prove history isn't boring: this is one of them, and the music fits it ideally".
The Radio Times described the creative process behind song production: "Each song has a long creative process behind it: series producer Caroline Norris and resident historian Greg Jenner find a subject matter, before commissioning a lyric from one of the writing team – almost always Dave Cohen. Norris and Cohen then write and rewrite, desperately trying to convey as much complex historical information as they can, as clearly as they can." The songs are written and recorded around August of each year. Only one song's lyrics were not written by the team - The Georgian Lady, whose lyrics are taken straight from the Horrible Histories Gorgeous Georgians book.
Richie Webb, the musical director for Horrible Histories, has composed each and every song featured on the show. According to him, "the style of the music is really important because it makes the lyrics even funnier". For example, the "pretty grim" lyrics for the "Pachacuti song" is paired up with a "sing-song happy summer pop style", in order to juxtapose the "horrible lyrics [with] a cheerful tune". He got inspiration for the tune from other catchy songs such as "Macarena", "The Birdy Song" or the "The Ketchup Song". He has been described by
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