I remember watching Bottom’s Up when it first aired, and being surprised by a few things. It’s essentially a bottle episode, albeit set in a few different places, but it’s mostly just Richie and Eddie. It has an odd pace to it, an unusual structure, and a few revelations that changed the feel of the show for me.
But let’s start with Eddie and his VHS tapes.
Eddie’s line about spending an hour choosing his films rings so true with anyone who spent any time wandering around video shops in the 80s and 90s. This was probably early enough that the tapes were just in the newsagents, or in an independently owned shop above a record shop or something. Not really ready for chains just then.
Eddie and Richie also only ever mention their mothers. This is interesting. They never, once, as far as I remember, talk about their fathers. That’s a deliberate character choice, and informs them as people I think.
When Mr Harrison, the landlord arrives, we meet the always excellent Roger Sloman. This is the first thing that jarred with me, because before now, we have been told the flat belongs to Richie’s Aunt. No matter. Richie makes reference to Rachman, who was a notorious slum landlord in Notting Hill in the 50s and 60s.
I think one of the reasons this episode feels a little different than the ones before it is because this is the first time we’re seeing the flat during daylight. Maybe.
Then we head down to the shop.
Another eye-opening moment upon first viewing. We never knew before now that the flat was above a shop, nor that the stairs down from the flats lead out into the shop itself. That’s awkward. The boys have to enter and exit their home via the shop.
But the shop set itself is fantastic.
Look at the Kodak display, and what’s that picture up there with the weird face on? Anyone know?
And look at that Biarritz display back there.
Why did chocolate ads always used to imply lots of knobbing?
The timing of the hatch gag crushing Eddie’s crisps is fantastic.
It’s interesting that when Richie and Eddie run back upstairs, we miss a flight entirely, and cut straight to the top floor. I say ‘interesting’.
Also worth noting is the sign at the foot of the stairs up to the flat.
I wonder how often people have pissed on them.
And you can also get your photocopying done here.
Up on the roof, and another lovely set. I read somewhere that this set reuses elements of a set built for an episode of Are You Being Served?. A nice touch is the added reverb on the audio, giving a much bigger scale to the piece.
And then the telescope disappears.
There it is.
And there it isn’t.
There’s an odd feeling cut around this time, when Eddie asks Richie why he’s putting mayonnaise on his face. I thought maybe something happened to the telescope in an excised moment, but the action unfolds on screen exactly as it does on the page.
Indeed, the telescope doesn’t turn up again until the very end look.
Here’s the second time they break the fourth wall, when Richie says it doesn’t do to heckle with Eddie.
Eddie eats a pickled onon sandwich exactly like the ones I used to make as a four year old. Bread. Single onion in the middle. All washed down with a deep swig of the vinegar from the jar.
And finally, the old woman saying ‘bust him in the goolies’ is fab.