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Basically, what Michael Palin and Terry Jones did after Monty Python's Flying Circus but completely different and just as funny. Ripping Yarns was the definitive parody of the "Boy's Own" genre of the inter-war years.
Ripping Yarns started a year after Python ended, with its pilot Tomkinson's Schooldays being broadcast in 1975. It was followed by a first series of six episodes (including a re-run of the pilot) was broadcast in 1977. It was followed by a second series of half the size in 1979.
Ripping Yarns contains examples of:
- Absurdly Powerful Student Council: Grayson the School Bully in Tomkinson's Scool Days
"In return for not hitting any of the masters, the Head had allowed Grayson certain privileges, such as having unmarried Filipino women in his room, smoking opium, and having a sauna instead of prayers."
- Abusive Parents: Kevin Orr's in Curse of the Claw. They locked Kevin's sister up inside her own home for putting too much butter on her scone and shot his brother for walking on the flower beds.
- Aliens in Cardiff: played for laughs a few times, notably with Kevin Orr's mansion in Maidenhead.
- Anachronism Stew: very slight and purely for comic effect.
- Artifact of Doom: The Claw in Curse of the Claw.
- Boarding School: Graybridge In Tomkinson's Schooldays
- Boarding School of Horrors
- Cardboard Prison: Escape from Stalag Luft 112B, in which Major Phipps becomes the only man never to have escaped from the prison camp of the title.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: when most of the episodes are set.
- Embarrassing First Name: Gordon's son, Barnstoneworth, in Golden Gordon. He was named after his father's (awful) football club, Barnstoneworth United. Gordon's so fanatical about Barnstoneworth United the only other name he could think of for Barnstoneworth was United.
- Everybody Did It: An odd variation. In Murder at Moorstones Manor, five people all claim to be the murderer. They get in a shoot-out when nobody believes them.
- Great Escape: Escape from Stalag Luft 112B ( A POW Camp )
- Gym Class Hell: In Tomkinson's Schooldays the school hopping team is trained to within an inch of its life and sent on a thirty-mile-hop across some of England's bleakest mountains, against a team of young Nazis. Note the ritual "Palfrey" - a blow on the head - bestowed by a teacher with a wooden club beforehand. Tomkinson only survives with the assistance of performance-enhancing drugs.
- Laugh Track: Originally all the episodes had them, but the DVD removes them from all except Tomkinson's Schooldays and Murder at Moorstones Manor, both of which were edited on videotape and never had laugh-free tracks.
- Leave Behind a Pistol: The regimental dinner in Roger of the Raj. See Suicide as Comedy below.
- Oop North: The Testing of Eric Olthwaite and Golden Gordon both take place in especially miserable locations oop North.
- The Raj: in Roger of the Raj
- Recursive Crossdressing: With the exception of Kevin and his first mate every crew-member on board the Greasy Bastard in Curse of the Claw is an attractive woman playing a man.
- School of Hard Knocks: Graybridge turns this Up to Eleven by making School Bully an official post.
- School tradition involves fighting grizzly bears and nailing freshmen to the walls on Saint Tadger's Day.
- First years have to ask permission to breathe out before 10:30 AM
- Suicide as Comedy: In Roger of the Raj, there is a scene at a regimental dinner where various officers express controversial opinions (such as passing the port to right or even allowing women to stay and drink port with the men). This leaves them with no choice but to do the honourable thing and they each leave the room in turn to administer the shot.
- Ten Little Murder Victims: Murder at Moorstones Manor
- The Thirty-Nine Steps: Parodied very thouroughly in Winfrey's Last Case. The episode is notable for being the most faithful adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps ever.
- Town with a Dark Secret: Winfrey's Last Case. It turns out that all the inhabitants of the Cornish fishing village where agent Winfrey takes his holiday in 1913 are in fact German spies. What's more, this turns out to be part of a conspiracy between the British and German Governments.
- Up to Eleven: a large chunk of what makes the show funny.