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Old Harry's Game is a British radio comedy written and directed by Andy Hamilton. The main character is Satan (yes, that Satan), who acts like a world-weary, cynical prison warder, presiding over an increasingly run-down and over-crowded Hell.
Many of the plots of the first four series involve Satan having lengthy philosophical discussions with the Professor, played by James Grout, a Wide-Eyed Idealist and Flat Earth Atheist. Satan would often try to persuade the Professor that Humans Are Bastards, while the Professor would take the opposite view. Satan's chief minion was originally Reliable Traitor Gary, replaced by cringing lackey Scumspawn. Other characters included Thomas, a man with no redeeming qualities (and the driver of the car that killed the Professor), and numerous historical figures who had somehow ended up in Hell (including foul-mouthed Jane Austen, hypocritical Thomas Jefferson and meretricious Will Shakespeare).
In season five, Satan left Hell, subverting his usual role by visiting world leaders and trying to persuade them to get people to live more virtuous lives in order to ease the over-crowding in Hell. At the end of each episode he would return to Hell in order to sort out the messes his subordinates had made in his absence.
Season six introduced Edith, an academic who agreed to write a biography of Satan in return for him looking into the mysterious events surrounding her death. (She's also Thomas's mother-in-law, and loathes him as much as ... well, anyone who's met him. Naturally, Satan makes them roommates.) In season seven, a dog and a baby arrive in Hell, due to a cock-up in Heaven's new computer systems; Satan ends up trying to locate the baby's new parents, while Thomas, surprisingly, finds himself literally Petting The Dog.
The show is lighter and funnier than it sounds, and usually manages to avoid being Anvilicious in its handling of weighty philosophical issues.
A clay-motion television adaptation was supposed to premiere in September 2012, but other than a pilot on various Internet video sites, there is no evidence that it was ever completed.
Old Harry's Game includes examples of:
- Affably Evil: Satan.
- Alternative Character Interpretation: In-universe. Most notably Jane Austen, who's a violent, cockney-accented thug and Will Shakespeare, portrayed as a dopey Brummie who only wrote the jokes in his plays, the real author being his mate Trevor.
- And Starring: "And Andy Hamilton as Satan". He may well have written the show just to hear that credit.
- Anti-Hero: Satan.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Satan's list of the types of sinners who are continually arriving includes murderers, rapists, blackmailers, robbers, arsonists, and people who support Manchester United Football Club who aren't from Manchester.
- Arc Words: "Hope". It's the Professor's last name, the name of Satan's lost love interest, and is the topic of several episodes. Essentially, it's the one way to deal with being in Hell, and the one thing Satan can never have.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: The Professor
- Ax Crazy: Jane Austen.
- Berserk Button: God does not like non-believers or being called by his real name - ( Nigel - Jehovah is his middle name)
- Black Humour: A thick vein runs through the whole series, given that it's a comedy in which Satan is the protagonist and a large amount of the early jokes revolved around the ironic punishments meted out to sinners, but Series 2 Episode 2 stands out in particular as it centres on what happens to a dead suicide bomber. Word of God says this is still one of his favourite episodes.
"Did I not lay down my life for the one true religion? Did I not pack a lorry full of gelignite and drive it at high speed into the infidel's top-security military base? I did! I remember the explosion!"
—Wazim Al-Habib and Satan, Old Harry's Game "Series Two, Episode 2"
- British Brevity: Each series lasts for only 6 half-hour episodes, except series 5 which only got four episodes.
- The show started in 1995 and has had seven seasons and two Christmas specials. This counts up to fifty-four episodes over fifteen-years.
- Butt Monkey: Thomas. At one point, literally, when he's transformed by Satan into a piece of amoebic dysentery in Robert Maxwell's alimentary canal.
- Catch Phrase: Thomas's 'What? Why are you looking at me like that?' everytime he says something particularly diabolical offhand.
- Celestial Bureaucracy: Hell appears to be marginally better-organized than Heaven.
- Particularly when Heaven tries to install new software.
- Christmas Episode: Three of them - in the 2010 one Satan tries to cancel Christmas.
- The Coconut Effect: When demons walk into a scene, the stock "horse hooves galloping" sound is used.
- Conservation of Competence: Satan appears to be the only demon in hell who can tell his arse from his elbow.
- Continuity Nod: In Season Seven, Thomas recalls the spoon prank that Gary played on him in Season One
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: passim (it is, after all, a sitcom set in Hell).
- Corrupt Church: Frequently. Satan observes that he's "got every dead Pope in there since 1472" in reference to the Pope Enclosure in the first episode, and then there's the Rev. Elmer Butt who appears in Season 2, an American televangelist who bribes IRS officials (73 times) and had sex with a 14-year old girl.
- Deadpan Snarker: Satan. He's written and played by Andy Hamilton, so it comes with the territory.
- Demonic Possession: Satan has no problems with taking on the guise of humans, but he draws the line at actually entering them.
"I would never, ever, enter the body of a human being because I know what they do with them. And the thought's making me quite ill, actually."
—Satan:, Old Harry's Game
- Even Evil Has Standards: * Even Evil Has Standards: Thomas is such an awful creep that Judas Iscariot calls him "The Guv'nor".
- Up to Eleven: Thomas is such a horrendous human being that his behaviour shocks Satan.
"And I'm the Devil - it takes a lot to shock me!"
—Satan:, Old Harry's Game
- In one instance, Satan temporarily puts Nero in charge of Hell, and he is so insane and depraved that even the demons are disgusted.
- Evil Gloating: Satan loves to gloat. Especially when religious fundamentalists arrive. Several times, he's made bets with the Professor where the prize is strictly gloating rights.
- Evil Laugh: Satan does it to be impressive. Thomas occasionally does it because he's Thomas. Scumspawn tries, bless him.
Thomas: Ooh! Do you mind if I join you in your evil laughter?
- Faustian Rebellion: Several Demons are persuaded to rebel against their overlord, egged on by Thomas. Satan seriously considers letting them win, but realises that he can't bear to lose to Gary.
- For the Evulz: Satan's MO.
- The Fun in Funeral: Referenced by Satan: "I always laugh at funerals."
- Gilligan Cut: A few.
A food critic: A-and what punishment have you planned for me?
- God Is Evil: Not quite... God is petty, easily-offended and vengeful. The reason Hell is so overcrowded is that God has set such impossibly high standards that almost nobody gets into Heaven. He has given up listening to the prayers of the faithful, but he will turn up if there's a chance of a nice pancake.
- And as of season seven has completely lost interest in humanity, and gone on sabbatical. Apparently Sarah Palin was the last straw.
- The Grim Reaper: in one of the Christmas episodes Satan asks the Deaths to bring someone back to life. Chess with Death is averted.
- Hellish Pupils: Since Old Harry's Game is a radio show, we have to take their word for it.
- Hell Hound: Satan's pet dog, Cerberus.
- A Hell of a Time
- Heterosexual Life Partners: "Scumspawn, we are not a gay couple."
- Hollywood Atheist, subverted: The Professor is undoubtedly the kindest and most idealistic character in the series.
- Played for Laughs: Buddha is in Hell, because he didn't believe in God. Nietzche is in Hell, too.
- Horny Devils: Averted as all the devils have no genitalia so they can't.
- Maybe in later series, but in Season One Thomas offers to take over the tedious task of ravishing Marilyn Monroe from Gary.
- Ignore the Disability: Satan becomes this toward the Professor when he discovers that the Professor's wife was in a coma.
- Insult Backfire Satan, often
- Ironic Echo: In the episode "The Beautiful Game", the Professor appoints Thomas as England captain for the Underworld Cup, in the belief that he'll rise to the challenge and prove himself, much to Satan's disbelief. The Professor says "I'd hate to be as cynical as you, you know. Always seeing the worst aspects of people." Then Satan appoints Scumspawn referee, and the Professor accuses him of deliberately trying to turn the tournament into a disaster. "I'd hate to be as cynical as you, Prof. Always seeing the worst in devils."
- Ironic Hell: most of them.
- Damned Jockeys are made to carry people around Hell on their backs.
- Mozart is tormented by having a demon in the form of a giant tapeworm play him his own music. On a Hammond Organ.
"How can a giant tapeworm play the Hammond organ?"
—Professor Richard Hope and Satan, Old Harry's Game "Season Two, Episode One"
- I Shall Taunt You: Satan wants to get God's attention to discuss the overcrowding issue. Since the usual Chanel aren't working, he tries to first torture Thomas into calling God's name in vain by turning him into a pancake and frying him. When that doesn't work, he gives up and settles for shouting insults
Satan: Jesus had it coming! You only chose the Jews as your chosen people cos the Welsh didn't want you! Richard Dawkins is brilliant!
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: It is buried extremely deeply in his cold, unwelcoming shell but sometimes (okay, twice) Thomas does do some nice things. One of the season two episodes had the Once an Episode Professor vs Satan beat be whether or not Thomas had any good in him. He does.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Even though God's kind of a dick, Jesus is spoken of as good and holy; even Satan seems to respect him (in a Worthy Opponent kind of way). He's rather embarrassed about the time he punched him for being "holier-than-thou", and gets very defensive if it's brought up.
Edith: Well thank you for your concern, but if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not be taking advice about handling my emotions from someone who punched Jesus because he was pissed!
- King of All Cosmos: (God is a bit like this. He created the Earth while he was drunk and created the first few single-celled organisms as part of a bet to see which would evolve into intelligent life first. He's rather upset that it's "all got out of hand", and refuses to take responsibility for any of it.)
- List of Transgressions: In episode one, when Thomas arrives in Hell, Satan can't find his list - only finding the various things he did for charity and when he's about to let Thomas go he finds the list. And it's very long.
- Minion with an F In Evil: Scumspawn.
- Noble Demon: Satan.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Very averted. Living celebrities, particularly those involved in some sort of scandal, are frequently mocked, and deceased ones inevitably end up in Hell, where they're harmed a lot as a matter of course.
- Noodle Incident and You Do NOT Want to Know: Whatever it is that humans do with cellophane that gets them sent to Hell.
- Once an Episode: Some sort of debate between Satan and the Prof, the former always taking the pessimistic side and the latter always taking the optimistic.
- Prescience Is Predictable: God's mid-eternity crisis.
- Rage Against the Heavens: Thomas gets two of these: in the first episode of Season 5, he blames God for the overcrowding in Hell, and in the final episode of Season 7, he stands up for Scumspawn, as mentioned above.
- Retcon: In Season 3, we meet the Angel Graham, the messenger who told Mary she was with child, who's annoyed his name was miswritten. In Season 7, we meet a completely different Angel Gabriel.
- When The Prof first appeared in Season One, he was named Professor Richard Whittingham. In Season Two his name has become Professor Richard Hope.
- Running Gag: 'Scumspawn, you're the only demon in Hell who...' (does something exceptionally un-demonic, for example, donating to a donkey sanctuary).
"You're the only demon I know who collects Furbys."
—Satan, Old Harry's Game
- Jane Austen being violent and crazy enough to frighten most of the demons in hell.
- Season Two's running gag was Scumspawn desperately trying to get the job as Gary's replacement and the various candidates Satan considered instead of him, including a villainous dolphin and a sentient computer.
- The Pope Enclosure, and Satan keeping all of the damned Pontiffs perpetually pregnant was referenced with regularity during the first two seasons.
- Sapient Cetaceans: Dophins are the only non-humans who have enough awareness to be damned. The most evil dolphin who ever lived is called Chuckles.
- Satan Is Good: Well, not quite; he comes off as a Punch Clock Villain who feels he ought to be a Complete Monster and is trying very hard to play the part.
- Six Is Nine: Satan receives a phone call intended for the emergency services because the caller had the phone upside down.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After the Professor Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, the historian Edith takes his role.
- Take That: A lot of insults are hurled at Robert Maxwell and Richard Nixon.
- Ted Baxter: Thomas.
- Too Dumb to Live:
"Thomas? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you just called me, Satan... a whinger. Now, do you really think that was wise?"
—Satan, Old Harry's Game
- Too Soon: One episode had Satan take the form of Jill Dando, and later reveal that he had always been Jill Dando. When, shortly afterwards, Dando was murdered, the episode was re-recorded to be about Gaby Roslin.
- Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth
- Who Dunnit to Me?: Edith's storyline.