While Contest was the the third episode of Bottom to air, it was actually the pilot, filmed nearly two years before the full series. As such, there’s quite a few differences in the set, and the haircuts are a bit different, but what’s remarkable is just how in tune with what the show grew into it is.
Contest is a single scene, and it’s testament to Rik & Ade’s writing that their characters are there from the start. The philosophy of the show is evident from the very first shot too.
And that shot is gorgeous.
I’m not sure how many sitcoms have ever opened with their main character seemingly contemplating suicide (while later in the first episode their only friend encourages them to actually do it), but Bottom does.
That this episode can sit bang in the middle of the series and not stand out like a sore thumb is also remarkable. As pilots go, this one is about as accomplished as they get.
Let’s walk through the episode and see what else we learn.
What does it say on that vest hanging up at the back?
Even the pilot set, underdressed by necessity and budget is a work of wonder. The grot and grime are there. The dillapidation. The sheer bleakness of it. Even that forgotten, sad bit of tinsel is in the corner.
The arcane language is there too, with some interesting choices of words. Like this one.
One notable difference in the pilot is how Eddie refers to Richie. He keeps calling him Richard.
One of the boxes above the cupboards where games will eventually live is a Spears Weaving Loom.
One of my favourite moments of the episode is when Eddie has been chucked out, and Richie starts warming up for his onanism. The whole bit is brilliantly timed, and topped perfectly with Richie’s shush.
Also, this exchange.
I wonder how many televisions Ade has destroyed in his time.
A good pilot script will find a way to state the theme of the show (I think), and the opening moments of Contest do this really well. But it’s nice when Richie and Eddie slump, and take stock.