Introduction – Best Phoenix Nights Episodes
In this article, we rank the best episodes of Phoenix Nights in chronological order. Now, Phoenix Nights is the show that would introduce most of us to Peter Kay. He had been on the North-West comedy circuit for some time, with a memorable Blackpool performance released on VHS in 2000. (Yes, VHS!) And C4 viewers had already seen That Peter Kay Thing in 1999. But Phoenix Nights is the show which would truly put him on the map. The trials and tribulations of a Bolton club, The Phoenix, would create some legendary TV moments. And Kay was the true star, in the roles of both club owner Brian Potter and bouncer Max.
But Phoenix Nights has a strong supporting cast as well. Notably, Paddy McGuinness, as fellow bouncer Paddy, would also become a household name after this series. Dave Spikey‘s performance as club compere Jerry St. Claire would bring him plenty of fame too. The same goes for Neil Fitzmaurice as the club’s somewhat unpopular DJ Ray Von. And not forgetting Ted Robbins as Den Perry, the wicked owner of the rival club The Banana Grove.
History – Best Phoenix Nights Episodes
Interestingly, we would only have two proper series of Phoenix Nights. There was a stage version for a charitable cause, and the spin-off Max & Paddy’s Road To Nowhere. But Phoenix Nights has yet to return, despite rumours occasionally popping up insisting that it’s coming back. Note that you rarely see repeats due to Kay not wanting to overexpose the show. With this in mind, the dozen episodes of Phoenix Nights are unlikely to expand in the future. But across those twelve editions, we have countless one-liners, bizarre situations and classic scenes to enjoy forever more.
In this regular feature, we take a look at the top editions of a particular TV programme. And so today, we’re picking the best episodes of Phoenix Nights. So, what tops our list? Read on to find out!
Best Phoenix Nights Episodes – Honourary Mentions
It’s Ladies Night
This is the fifth episode of series two. And it’s very different from most editions of Phoenix Nights. Max and Paddy end up with a deal to kill a furious woman’s husband. But despite their jobs, Max and Paddy are not exactly recognisable for their toughness, or even their competence. This raises questions as to how they can pull off the crime, for £8,000 no less. Meanwhile, as the episode title suggests, the Phoenix Club hosts a Ladies’ Night, which has a surprising climax.
For most sitcoms, the very first episode establishes who everyone is and what everyone does. So, it’s fine for this edition to be quite low down our list. But it still has some real laughs. A guest appearance by Roy Walker gives the Phoenix’s opening night some gravitas. However, a power cut threatens to disrupt the whole evening. Thankfully, some electrician work from Ray Von allows the show to go on. But we then learn that the folk band on the stage is a tad racist. Oh, and Ray Von might be a murderer. So, things begin badly for Brian Potter, but they begin very well for Phoenix Nights fans.
Best Phoenix Nights Episodes – Top Ten
10. Brian Gets Everyone Back Together
The first episode of series two covers the aftermath of the Phoenix Club burning down. Den Perry is the responsible party, but Potter is unable to prove it. So much so that he’s no longer able to manage a club, effectively shutting down the Phoenix. That is, until he brings everyone back to the scene of the crime, one-by-one. All with the vision of reopening The Phoenix in the face of adversity, and with Jerry as manager. This episode includes Jerry’s classic Black Bin Bags version of Men In Black. And we also get the first use by Peter Kay of Is This The Way To Amarillo? Ranking the best 12 episodes of Phoenix Nights is pretty difficult with this only being number ten.
9. Stars In Their Eyes
The final episode continues Max and Paddy’s saga from Ladies Night. Turns out that the bloke they were supposed to murder is going about his business like nothing ever happened. So, his furious wife threatens to have the Phoenix bouncers done in for good, making Max petrified at the potential consequences. For Brian, though, a Stars In Their Eyes tribute night is on the verge of collapsing after some dirty tricks by Perry. Yet Den not only fails to stop the event from happening, but he admits burning down the original Phoenix Club. A recording of his confession leaves Potter with a happy ending as Perry finally gets what’s coming to him.
8. Wild West Night
At this stage, we’re still getting to know the Phoenix Club team. But it’s already clear that they find themselves in hot water too many times. For instance, Ray Von’s smoke machine ends up causing The Captain to pass away in his sleep due to a lack of oxygen, presumably. And the Wild West Night sees a horse, Trigger, do a number two on the dancefloor. For Jerry, though, he ends up regretting his decision to pit rival regions against one another in a shoot-out. Oh, and Trigger ends up trying to hump a bucking bronco.
7. Talent Trek Finals
The big climax to series one sees the Phoenix Club host the annual Talent Trek Finals. This is a huge opportunity for Brian and co. But it comes at a price. Namely, the suggestion that Jerry is dying, hence the club being given this chance in the first place. Brian’s reasoning is that, with Jerry heading for a job on a cruise, he’s not going to be around anyway. But Jerry still wonders how he can get through his “farewell”. Meanwhile, Right Said Frank, a Right Said Fred tribute band, only makes the night even more of a struggle. And it’s here that Den Perry burns the Phoenix down, though we don’t see the consequences until series two. This may top most other sitcom lists; for the best 12 episodes of Phoenix Nights, though, it must settle for 7.
By this stage, the Phoenix Club is on the comeback trail. But Brian still feels that neither he, nor the Phoenix as a whole, have justice. So, he agrees to appear on the Crimetime programme to catch the perpetrator of the original fire. In Potter’s mind, Den is the prime suspect, and he assumes that the TV show will oust him completely. But when the Crimetime team opt to point their fingers elsewhere, it leads to a meltdown by Brian. Elsewhere, there are several noteworthy sight gags, as well as the appearance of an Elvis Presley impersonator. Sure, he has one leg, but that’s not a big deal, right?
Best Phoenix Nights Episodes – Top Five
One of Brian’s big ideas is to have a pub quiz. And having struck a deal for cheap Japanese lager, Potter decides that a year’s supply of lager should be the prize. This conveniently allows Brian’s crew to end up refilling their alcohol supplies without involving the brewery. This assumes, though, that the Phoenix team is capable of winning the quiz. Meanwhile, Jerry attempts to fulfil his Free And Easy Night despite the distraction of the quiz. Yet a mix-up with medication causes him to spiral out of control. There are some nice twists here, as well as an ending that sums up Brian’s bad luck.
4. Robot Wars
Here, the Phoenix Club hosts a double-header. Robot Wars sees Ray Von, Max and Paddy working together to win £63. But, to me, the funnier moments come from an open comedy night with the name The Funny Farm. Brian sets out the rules to avoid offensive or embarrassing content. Yet each performer lets him down, one by one.
One guy brutally insults pensioners. Another comedian is so dull that a female in the audience continues her knitting. And a third “comedian”, supposedly a teacher, is so horrific that an older couple immediately leave (the man swigging his pint before going is a great touch). In the end, Jerry ends up having to defend criticism from students who bring an unpleasant atmosphere to an already awful night. A great edition, but one which falls short of the upper quarter amongst the best 12 episodes of Phoenix Nights.
3. Family Fun Day
So, the Phoenix Club is back from the ashes, but it still needs to make a true return. Cue a Family Fun Day, with the Phoenix aiming to attract younger visitors for a harmless afternoon of entertainment. This includes Jerry dressing up as the cartoonish Jerry The Berry. But there’s trouble ahead because the bouncy castle features a rather rude inflatable. Hence the gang dresses up the offending element as Sammy The Snake. Yet even this doesn’t work, causing disastrous consequences. In addition, Young Kenny ends up with tiger face paint that never comes off, like, for the rest of the entire series. Max and Paddy’s trip to France for cheap beer also goes wrong in this memorable episode.
2. Disco Inferno
Don’t let the name fool you. This episode largely focuses on a fire safety inspector which marks Peter Kay’s third different character in the show. Cue the return of Keith Lard, previously in That Peter Kay Thing. Lard’s cold nature makes him a villainous character, but his scenes are side-splitting. Rumours of him “interfering with dogs”, erm, dog him throughout, which results in brilliant gags. Amongst those is his illustration of fire exits within a club forming a canine creature. And him recapping a fire victim’s story with the lyrics to Disco Inferno, totally deadpan, has me almost crying tears of laughter. Oh, and there’s also Clinton Baptiste, a psychic whose abilities are questionable to say the very least. I could easily put this top because it’s so good, but I feel that one episode is better.
Top Ranking – Best Phoenix Nights Episodes
1. Singles Night
Topping off the best episodes of Phoenix Nights is this absolute gem from the first series. The first few minutes are amusing enough, with the regulars having varying levels of success on the Phoenix club’s Singles Night. But then we move towards Brian and his budding romance with Beverley. The scenes which see Potter on dates at the bowling alley, paintballing and at a posh restaurant are short yet hilarious. Sadly, it all ends in tears for the Phoenix club owner. But not before Jerry’s attempt to give him advice suffers from the disguise of a hand-dryer. This means that all Brian hears from Jerry are the words, “covered in piss!”
Meanwhile, the show-closing routine of a wannabe entertainer dancing near-naked to Nellie The Elephant is truly ludicrous. And the opening scene, where Max and Paddy prank Brian by suggesting an inferno at his club, is priceless. This episode sums up everything that still makes Phoenix Nights a treat to watch, 20 years on from its debut.
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