Horrible Histories

"I love the people and the people love me, so much that they restored the English monarchy. I'm part Scottish, French, Italian, a little bit Dane, but 100% party animal, champagne?" - Charles II

Horrible Histories is a British comedy sketch show set to make history fun and interesting for all ages. The original series ran for five seasons between 2009 and 2013, and is everything that an educational children's show should be - far surpassing everything I've ever seen on American tv. It is fast paced, funny, well acted, and historically accurate. Each episode is full of comedy sketches about different historical eras in the vein of Monty Python, and there is always an awesome song to cap it off. Rather than forcing you to memorize dates of events, you learn about all of the interesting bits of history no one thought to teach you in school. It makes me want to learn more about some of these historical figures and events, along with being wildly entertaining. There is also a lot of material I'm surprised they're allowed to get away with on a kids show, but I guess British standards are more lax than American. In 2015, Horrible Histories was brought back in a slightly different format with most of the original cast no longer involved. Instead of including sketches from various different eras, each episode focuses on a single historical figure or point in history. I think it's great that the show lives on in some form, but without the actors and format of the first series, I didn't find it to have the same charm.

Mat Baynton, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Simon Farnaby, and Martha Howe-Douglas rounded out the main cast throughout all five original seasons, and they really got to show off their amazing talents playing dozens of different characters each. They all have such good chemistry together and enjoyed working together so much that since the show ended, they created even more family entertainment together including the show Yonderland and the movie Bill so that they could continue working with one another. Mat is my favorite actor on the show, so I always tend to gravitate towards his characters (and he plays the most out of anyone), but his party animal Charles II and stuck up and full of himself Shakespeare are definite standouts. Ben playing Mike Peabody (and really any commentator on the show) is fun because he's such a great straight man for the others to play off of. Simon's Death is probably the most recurring character on the show, and when they turned Stupid Deaths into a parody of American Idol auditions, it only got better. Bob Hale is another highly recurring character, and his breathless one take history reports are pretty amazing to watch if only for the talent that Larry is able to show in them.

The songs in each episode are always my favorite part and they are actually really good parodies that get stuck in your head while doing a great job of teaching bits of history. They really started going all out with the production of their music videos in the second season, to the betterment of the show as a whole. The songs were actually the part that got me into the show in the first place. I watched "Pachecuti", "Divorced, Beheaded, and Died", and "Born to Rule" on YouTube and was hooked! I never much liked the Savage Stone Age segments or the extent of the potty humor, but both were just a small part of an otherwise exceptional show.

What's amazing about Horrible Histories is that it did not go wrong during its five season run. It maintained its quality throughout all of the episodes, and if anything it got better with time. The production values definitely improved, as did the songs and music videos. They certainly got more bold with their parodies of current pop culture, but did it in a clever and tasteful way so as never to stray from the core aspect of the show, which was to teach history. Horrible Histories doesn't need to be qualified as a great children's show, it is a great show, period.

Charles II, Bob Hale, Death, William Shakespeare, Mike Peabody
Death, Henry the VIII, Alexander the Great, George IV
Fashion Fix, Stupid Deaths, Wonders of the Universe, Movie Trailers (especially Armada)
Stupid Deaths, Historical Wife Swap, Cleopatra on the internet
Vile Victorians, Frightful First World War
Vile Victorians, Frightful First World War, Groovy Greeks
Pachecuti, Kings and Queens, Literally, RAF Pilots, We Are History
Richard the III, Suffragette Song, RAF Pilots, Georgian Navy