Writers: Eddie Izzard & Nick Whitby
Director: Geoff Posner
Channel 4, 1st January 1997
Cows marked Eddie’s debut as a sit-com creator and writer (co-written with Nick Whitby). The long-awaited and much-hyped hour-long pilot was broadcast on Channel 4 on 1st January 1997, and focused on the Johnsons, a family of cows.
Cows begins with a news broadcast neatly providing the background the viewer needs to understand the present; a long campaign of emancipation by “bovine suffragettes” (Evening Standard) results in the realisation that cows have similar intelligence levels to man. By 1997, cows co-exist with humans, adopting our habits but at the same time, keeping some of their own (eating silage, mooing and licking out their nostrils).
The Johnsons (Pam Ferris, James Fleet, Nicola Walter, Jonathan Cake, Kevin Eldon and Patrick Barlow as a mad great-aunt – all unrecognisable in their cow masks) are faced with a dilemma – how to pay for the wedding of their eldest son Rex to his human girlfriend, Pinkie (Sally Phillips).
In general, Cows was not well-received and the series was not commissioned.
“The Johnsons hoofed their way to a castle, a party conference and a wedding, mooing some good lines along the way.” Daily Telegraph
“The show was suffused too with Izzard’s child-like gentleness….Jokes as good as these are not frequent visitors to sitcom-land. A lighter touch on the make-up and Cows might yet turn up a triumph….” Jim White, Evening Standard
“Udderly brilliant” Sky Magazine
“It is a bold concept for a sitcom and even bolder for the writers….Despite vulgarities which seem inseparable from television comedy these days, the joke is adroitly sustained….” Peter Waymark, The Times