The Amish Sex Pistols: the weirdest, unlikeliest, most glorious TV sketch ever

The cast of the Amish Sex Pistols set in the studio
(Image credit: Thames TV)

It's one of the most notorious episodes in UK TV history. When The Sex Pistols appeared on the Today Show in December 1976, chaos ensued. 

In a short, expletive-strewn segment broadcast on the first day of December that year, The Sex Pistols were introduced to the nation, and the nation was not happy with what it saw. "THE FILTH AND THE FURY!" screamed the Daily Mirror's front page headline. "UPROAR AS VIEWERS JAM PHONES!" 

Famously, truck driver Jason Holmes was so infuriated by the profanity on display that he kicked in the screen of his brand new TV, then rang the broadcaster, Thames TV, to complain about the damage. 

In Julien Temple’s The Filth & The Fury movie about The Sex Pistols, guitarist Steve Jones – who called Today Show host Bill Grundy a "dirty fucker" during the interview –  explained what had happened. “I remember downing about four bottles of Blue Nun and I was fucking just having a fucking good old time, pissed," he said. "By the time we went out there. And that’s all I remember."

The fallout was considerable. Grundy was suspended, and the show – which had been running for the best part of a decade – was canned just two months later. The Sex Pistols went on to achieve global notoriety, and the Today Show clip became the most viewer-requested footage in UK TV history. 

On March 1, 2013, the interview resurfaced, with a brilliant, unexpected twist. And it happened during an episode of It's Kevin, a BBC comedy show starring actor and comedian Kevin Eldon. 

The segment is billed as "A famous interview from the archives." The set is the same. The dialogue is identical. The mumbling. The accents are replicated perfectly. The pacing matches the original, as does the cast's body language and the awkward glances to camera. It's a brilliantly choreographed recreation of the Today Show fiasco.

But all the characters are all Amish. 

Dressed in Amish clobber. 

Wearing Amish hats.

It's an extraordinary piece of television, not least for the fact that there's no twist, no payoff, and nothing to explain what the hell is going on. It's exactly the same as the original clip, but with an Amish makeover. For absolutely no apparent reason. 

"I think the only thing I changed was Arthur [writer Arthur Mathews] had the Sex Pistols Amish younger than the Grundy Amish but I thought it would be good if their ages were indistinguishable, Eldon told Beyond The Joke in 2013. "I considered having them all speak in an American Amish accent and was going to but at the last moment dropped that idea and went back to them speaking as closely to the originals as poss. 

"It was perfect team work. Al [Campbell] the director noted and reproduced it shot for shot and the designer Simon Rogers really did a terrific job re-creating the set. We tried as far as possible to mimic every movement of everyone at every second in the original interview. I notated the ad libs, the off camera comments, laughs and exhalations of cigarette smoke etc from the original and multi tracked myself doing them in the dub."

Bridget Christie, who played Siouxsie Sioux in the sketch, revealed just how much work went into getting the 90-second segment right. "I watched it [the original clip] about 100 times to get it right," she said. "Also she was a bit of an idol of mine growing up so didn't want to fuck it up."

Rather brilliantly, the two clips can be viewed side-by-side on YouTube, confirming the mind-boggling attention to detail that makes Eldon's recreation so perfect. There's absolutely nothing else like it. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.