Series 4, Episode 43: ‘Nationwide’/Police Helmets
MICHAEL CHARLTON Eric Idle
REPORTER Graham Chapman
POLICEMAN Michael Palin
SECURITY MAN Terry Gilliam
The sketch:`Nationwide’ type music and credits. Michael Charlton in a
Charlton Good evening and welcome to `Nationwide’. The programme where we do rather wet things nationally and also give you the chance to see some rather wet items in the Regions. Well, everyone is talking about the Third World War which broke out this morning. But here on `Nationwide’ we’re going to get away from that a bit and look instead at the latest theory that sitting down regularly in a comfortable chair can rest your legs. It sounds very nice doesn’t it, but can it be done? Is it possible or practical for many of us in our jobs and with the sort of busy lives we lead to sit down in a comfortable chair just when we want? We sent our reporter John Dull to find out.
Cut to Dull sitting in a chair on Westminster Bridge.
Reporter Well, here I am on London’s busy Westminster Bridge, seeing just how much time sitting down can take. Well, I arrived here by train at about 8.50, it’s now 9.05, so I’ve been here approximately twelve minutes and if it’s any encouragement, I must say that my legs do feel rested.
A policeman walks up to him.
Policeman Is this your chair?
Reporter Er … well, no, it’s a prop.
Policeman It’s been stolen!
Policeman This belongs to a Mrs Edgeworth of Pinner — she’s standing over there.
(Cut to worried middle-aged lady, standing on the other side of the road, peering across. She has an identical chair in one hand.)
Reporter:Ah well, it’s nothing to do with me. It’s just a prop which the BBC… aaargh!
(The policeman pushes the reporter off and picks up the chair.)
Policeman It’s got her name on the bottom. (he indicates: Mrs E. Edgeworth)
Reporter Well er … perhaps you’d better give it back to her.
Policeman You don’t believe I’m a policeman, do you?
Reporter Yes I do!
Policeman What am I wearing on my head?
Reporter A helmet
Policeman(correcting him) A policeman’s helmet!
Policeman(taking off his helmet and demonstrating) You see that?
Policeman That little number there?
Policeman That is a Metropolitan Area Identification Code. No helmet is authentic without that number.
Reporter I see.
Policeman Kids helmets, helmets you get in toy shops, helmets you buy at Christmas. None of them is authentic… Hang on. (he turns and crosses the busy road)
Reporter Oh could I…
Policeman Hang on!
(He goes across to Mrs Edgeworth, and tries to grab the other chair from her. Mrs Edgeworth resists. He clouts her and pulls the chair away. He brings it back across the road and sits down next to the reporter.)
Policeman Mind you I didn’t join the police force just to wear the helmets you know. That just happens to be one of the little perks. There are plenty of jobs where I could have worn a helmet, but not such a nice helmet. (Mrs Edgeworth is gesticulating; another policeman comes up and drags her away) This helmet, I think, beats even some of the more elaborate helmets worn by the Tsar’s private army, the so-called Axi red warriors. You know about them?
Reporter: Well, no I don’t.
Policeman Ah! Their helmets used to look like … you got any paper?
Reporter Well only these scripts.
(The policeman gets up, looks up the street, and selects a businessman with a briefcase, who is hurrying away from him. The policeman runs up to him, grabs his arm, twists it up behind his back and wrenches the briefcase from his hand. He opens it, gets out some paper, then drops briefcase before the amazed owner, and ambles back to his chair, neatly grabbing a pen from a passer-by’s inside pocket.)
Policeman I’ll have that!
Man I say!
(The policeman sits down again and starts to draw, talking the while.)
Policeman Now then. Their helmet was not unlike the bobby’s helmet in basic shape. It had an emblem here, and three gold — and in those days it really was gold, that’s part of the reason the Tsar was so unpopular — three gold bands surmounted by a golden eagle on the apex here. Pretty nice helmet, eh?
Policeman I think the domed helmet wins every time over the flattened job, you know, even when they’re three cornered … (suddenly his eyes light on two office secretaries opening their packed lunch on a nearby seat) … you want something to eat?
Reporter(sensing what’s going to happen, hurriedly) Well no, er really …
Policeman(approaching the girls and getting out his notebook) Hang on. You can’t park here you know.
Women(bewildered) We’re not parked!
Policeman No parked! What’s that then?
Women That’s our lunch.
Policeman Right. I’m taking that in for forensic examination.
Policeman Because it might have been used as a murder weapon, that’s why! (the girls look at each other; the policeman grabs their lunch) Yeah, not bad. Could be worse. (to the reporter) Beer?
Reporter(desperately) No, no, please … honestly … please …
(The policeman walks off. There is a crash of breaking glass. An alarm bell starts to ring. The reporter winces. The policeman walks into shot again, holding two bottles of beer. He sits down, opens the beers with his teeth and hands one to reporter who is very embarrassed.)
Policeman Now, the Chaldeans, who used to inhabit the area in between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, their helmets were of the modular restrained kind of type …