The Wipers Times

Wed Sep 11, 9-10.30pm, BBC2

When it comes to laughing and crying at the madness of the First World War, ‘Blackadder Goes Forth’ is still the show to beat. But ‘The Wipers Times’, telling the story of a spoof newspaper (‘like Punch, but with jokes’) created by two British army officers on the Western Front, is an honourable entry in the canon. Written by Private Eye veterans Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, it captures the very particular horrors and futility of that war while showcasing those evergreen national traits of stiff upper lips and black humour under fire.

Ben Chaplin and Julian Rhind-Tutt are urbane and dignified to a fault as the Times’ uniformed editors – at least until it comes to camping it up in the sketches that bring their written words to life – and Michael Palin twinkles as a sympathetic member of the top brass. It’s a quietly remarkable story, told with respect and, appropriately, irreverence. Gabriel Tate