Murder Most Horrid

Murder Most Horrid is a British dark comedy anthology series starring Dawn French. It was broadcast on BBC Two for four series runs, in 1991, 1994, 1996 and 1999.

Murder Most Horrid
Title screen
GenreBlack comedy
Created byPaul Smith
Developed byTalkback Productions
Written byVarious
StarringDawn French
Theme music composerSimon Brint
Simon Wallace
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series4
No. of episodes24
Executive producer(s)Peter Fincham
Producer(s)Sophie Clarke-Jervoise
Jon Plowman
Production location(s)London, England
Editor(s)Geoff Hogg
Michael John Bateman
Running time30 minutes
Original networkBBC Two
Picture format4:3 (1991-1996)
16:9 (1999)
Original release14 November 1991 (1991-11-14) 
2 April 1999 (1999-04-02)
External links

Created by Paul Smith, who also co-created Colin's Sandwich (with Terry Kyan, as noted below) and has written for The Brittas Empire, among other programmes, the series starred French as a different character in each episode. Many episodes were directed by the noted director Bob Spiers, who also worked with French on The Comic Strip Presents... and French and Saunders.


Most episodes parodied the thriller and murder mystery genres with one notable episode lampooning the trials and tribulations of being a children's presenter in general, and Blue Peter in particular. In 1998, this episode ("Murder at Tea Time") was repeated to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Blue Peter, as part of a section entitled "Spoof Peter", which also featured (among others) the Python skit "How to Do It".[1]

Each episode was stand-alone, and the episodes were written by different writers or writing teams with several contributing multiple episodes across the four series. Among these writers, the pairing of series-creator Paul Smith with Terry Kyan (who had previously collaborated on Not the Nine O'Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones) is particularly notable. The two would subsequently create and write Bonjour la Classe, starring Nigel Planer.[2]

Other series writers included Private Eye editor and Have I Got News For You stalwart Ian Hislop, Press Gang creator and Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, award-winning children's author Anthony Horowitz, Nick Newman and John O'Farrell.

Episodes in series 1 mostly opened with French selecting and reading from a book, usually a quotation actually or allegedly from Shakespeare; series 2 onward dropped this opening. The series' theme song, which featured at the end of the episode, was sung by Ruby Turner. The lyrics changed between episodes, the penultimate line always a word rhyming with "horrid", sometimes humorously forced. The murders ranged from the straightforward to the bizarre, with the murder weapon shown on a pedestal during the end credits.


Series 1 (1991)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
11"The Case of the Missing"Bob SpiersIan Hislop & Nick Newman14 November 1991 (1991-11-14)
WPC Diane Softly (French) is suddenly put in charge of a seemingly straightforward murder case, which gradually becomes more complex and mysterious.
Guest actors: John Boswall (Judge), Paul Mark Elliott (Max Rammell), Stephen Frost (Sgt. Dawkins), Gary Love (Constable Williams), Timothy Spall (Pathologist), Geoffrey McGivern (Mason), Bill Paterson (Chief Inspector)
22"The Girl from Ipanema"Bob SpiersTerry Kyan & Paul Smith21 November 1991 (1991-11-21)
When housekeeper Maria (French) arrives at the house of MP Howling and his wife Lydia, she doesn't quite find things the way she expected. But one day, Maria witnesses a violent attack on Lydia by her husband and things start to take a turn for the better.
Guest actors: Marsha Fitzalan (Lydia's friend), James Cossins (Sir Hugh Lotterby), Jane Asher (Lydia Howling), Jacey Sallés (Silvia), Martin Jarvis (Maurice Howling), Christopher Good (Leonard)
33"He Died a Death"Bob SpiersNick Newman & Ian Hislop28 November 1991 (1991-11-28)
Backstage at a London theatre, rivalry turns into suspicion when one of the cast is murdered during a performance. With French as Judy Talent, an actress in a play.
Guest actors: Kevin McNally (Inspector Turner), Stephen Moore (Basil Hampton), Kevin Allen (Simon Pleasance), Kenneth Cranham (Inspector Salford), Ben Miller (PC Watkins), Robin Driscoll (Reg), Tony Slattery (Tony Sparkle), Harriet Thorpe (Sarah Deveraux), Greg Cruttwell (Timmy Duval), Togo Igawa (Japanese tourist)
44"A Determined Woman"James HendrieJames Hendrie5 December 1991 (1991-12-05)
Scientist Rita Proops (French) brings her equipment home to start working on the ultimate invention — the time machine. But this causes friction at home with disastrous results.
Guest actors: Michael Sharvell-Martin (Judge), Soo Drouet (Porter), Caroline Blakiston (Dr. Rachel Vine), Kathy Burke (Helen), Jim Broadbent (Selwyn Proops)
55"Murder at Tea Time"Bob SpiersJez Alborough & Graham Alborough12 December 1991 (1991-12-12)
Bunty Bresslaw (French) is a successful children's television presenter, an expert in sticky-back plastic and a favourite with the young viewers of Write Away. However, when her younger co-presenter is asked to pose for a wax modelling session at Madame Tussauds, jealousy arises off camera, and Bunty decides to put her young rival in his place.
Guest actors: Jane Booker (Sally), Geraldine McNulty (Mandi), Rebecca Stevens (Lizzie), David Harewood (Jonathon), Dexter Fletcher (Colin), Marco Williamson (Donald)
66"Mrs Hat and Mrs Red"Bob SpiersDawn French & Ian Brown & James Hendrie19 December 1991 (1991-12-19)
Mrs Hat is shocked when she bumps into her doppelgänger, and ends up following her home. She finds herself literally stepping into her shoes and taking over her luxurious lifestyle. Both Katie Hatcliffe and Sonya Redfern are played by French.
Guest actors: Robert Llewellyn (Taxi Driver), Jim Carter (Roy Redfern), Kate McEnery (Jemima Redfern), Ricco Ross (Gary), Geoffrey McGivern (Guy), Beresford Le Roy (Supermarket Manager), Claire Cathcart (Cashier), Brian McCardie (Supermarket Assistant), Mia Soteriou (Pianist), Susie Fairfax (Friend), Harriet Thorpe (Friend), Matilda Thorpe (Friend), Francesca Brill (Jemima's Friend)

Series 2 (1994)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
71"Overkill"Bob SpiersSteven Moffat3 March 1994 (1994-03-03)
French as Tina Mellish, social worker turned reluctant assassin; also features Emma Amos, Amanda Donohoe, Colin Salmon, Peter Vaughan and Geoffrey McGivern
82"Lady Luck"Bob SpiersTerry Kyan & Paul Smith10 March 1994 (1994-03-10)
Dawn as Denise Cunningham, hairdresser; also features Ann Bryson and Sean Gallagher
93"A Severe Case of Death"Marcus MortimerChris England17 March 1994 (1994-03-17)
French as Maud Jenkins/'Dr Adams', Victorian maid turned cross-dressing doctor; also features Lucy Benjamin, John Fortune, Timothy West, James Saxon, Georgina Hale, David Gooderson, Brian Hibbard and Roy Evans
104"We All Hate Granny"Dewi HumphreysJames Hendrie24 March 1994 (1994-03-24)
French as Lily Gibbs, grandmother; also features James Fleet and Victoria Wicks
115"Mangez Merveillac"Bob SpiersIan Hislop & Nick Newman31 March 1994 (1994-03-31)
French as Verity Hodge, travel and cookery writer; also features Jane Booker, Philip Jackson, Kevin McNally and Clarke Peters
126"Smashing Bird"Dewi HumphreysJon Canter7 April 1994 (1994-04-07)
French as Vikky, nightclub singer; also features David Bamber, Hywel Bennett, Philip Martin Brown, Mark McGann and Ray Winstone

Series 3 (1996)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
131"Girl Friday"Dewi HumphreysPaul Smith10 May 1996 (1996-05-10)
French as Sally Fairfax, P.A.; also features Nigel Havers and Geraldine McNulty
142"A Life or Death Operation"Dewi HumphreysMark Burton & John O'Farrell17 May 1996 (1996-05-17)
French as Kate Marshall, surgeon and TV presenter; also features John Bird and Brigit Forsyth
153"Dying Live"Dewi HumphriesSteven Moffat24 May 1996 (1996-05-24)
French as Daisy Talwinning, sacked abattoir worker; also features Jim Carter, Helen Lederer and John Thomson
164"The Body Politic"Ferdinand FairfaxAnthony Horowitz31 May 1996 (1996-05-31)
French as Linda Bryce, schoolteacher and wife of the Leader of the Opposition; also features Hugh Laurie and John Bennett
175"Confess"Coky GiedroycJon Canter7 June 1996 (1996-06-07)
French as Wendy Hodge, police sergeant; also features Minnie Driver, Roger Lloyd-Pack and Clive Russell
186"Dead on Time"Ferdinand FairfaxIan Hislop & Nick Newman14 June 1996 (1996-06-14)
French as The Grim Reaper; also features Sophie Okonedo, Danny Webb and Brian Capron

Series 4 (1999)

No. in
TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date
191"Frozen"Coky GiedroycNick Vivian19 February 1999 (1999-02-19)
French as Lily Wood-Newton, churchgoer and pillar of the community; also features David Battley and Joanna Scanlan
202"Going Solo"Tony DowPaul Smith26 February 1999 (1999-02-26)
French as Tracey Phillips, yachtswoman; also features Jim Carter, Liam Hess and Sarah Lancashire
213"Whoopi Stone"Coky GiedroycJon Canter5 March 1999 (1999-03-05)
French as Barbara Greaves/Whoopi Stone, police constable turned 'Queen of New York'; also features Jamie Foreman and Will Barton
224"Confessions of a Murderer"Edgar WrightIan Hislop & Nick Newman19 March 1999 (1999-03-19)
French as Harriet Snellgrove, serial confessor and nuisance; also features Hugh Bonneville, Graeme Garden and Philip Jackson
235"Elvis, Jesus and Zack"Tony DowSteven Moffat26 March 1999 (1999-03-26)
French as Jill Tanner, head of the Obituaries Department at Broadcast One; also features Sean Hughes, Janette Krankie, Chris Langham, Paul Reynolds, Nick Stringer, Pip Torrens and Jake Wood
246"Dinner at Tiffany's"Dewi HumphreysJonathan Harvey2 April 1999 (1999-04-02)
Tiffany Drapes, school dinner lady; also features Frances Barber, Thelma Barlow, Geraldine McNulty and Peter Serafinowicz


Reviewing the DVD release, Empire wrote: "Dawn French's first solo effort has been eclipsed by the wider success of her Vicar of Dibley, and of comedy partner Jennifer Saunders' Ab Fab. But this arguably sees French on her best form".[3]


Video and DVD releases


Two videos of the series were released by the BBC in 1996, through BBC Worldwide/Talkback (the former of which became 2 | entertain). Both were released on 7 May 1996, the first containing three episodes from series one and the second, three episodes from series two. These two series were not repeated on British television as often as the later series and, as a result, episodes not featured on the videos released by the BBC (The Case of the Missing, He Died A Death, Mrs Hat and Mrs Red, A Severe Case of Death, We All Hate Granny and Smashing Bird) have proven fairly difficult to view.

  • Murder Most Horrid: The Girl from Ipanema/A Determined Woman/Murder at Tea Time (BBCV5854) EAN: 5032680800767
  • Murder Most Horrid: Overkill/Lady Luck/Mangez Merveillac (BBCV5855) EAN: 5014503585525

DVD (Region 2)

  • Murder Most Horrid: Volume 1 was released by Fremantle Media on 10 March 2008. The second series was released on 10 September 2012, with the third on 8 April 2013 and the fourth being 28 October 2013.[5]
  • Murder Most Horrid: The Complete Collection was released 18 November 2013 by Freemantle Media.[6]


  1. Here's once the BBC made 40 years earlier: Blue Peter Celebration. Retrieved 11 January 2008
  2. "Bonjour la Classe" Episode Guide at Retrieved 11 January 2008
  3. Thomas, William (2 March 2008). "Murder Most Horrid Review | TV Show – Empire". Empire. Retrieved 6 May 2016.
  4. British Comedy Award Winners of 1994 at IMDB. Retrieved 11 January 2008
  5. Amazon UK. "Murder Most Horrid — Series 3 & 4". Retrieved 12 July 2013.
  6. Amazon UK. "Murder Most Horrid — The Complete Collection". Retrieved 3 February 2014.
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