Thursday, 28 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Brush Strokes (1 March 1990)


 This series sometimes has a rather ambient feel to me, with loosely constructed storylines that rely more on Jacko's easy-going charm and how he fits into the world than much in the way of overtly funny occurrences.

 There are some very nicely judged, thoughtfully directed filmed inserts in this episode that wouldn't have the same effect on videotape. When Jacko chats up a policewoman on the beat (an action that has the potential to come over as unsympathetically inappropriate) we are shown the couple walking down the street in an overhead panning very wide shot with the dialogue dubbed in, placing the comedy as almost a natural consequence of the environment. Later, when the woman says goodnight to Jacko and returns to her police flats in the rain at night, real attention has been paid to lighting and framing, drawing attention to the playful movement of her twirling her umbrella in the doorway - an understated, little action that leaves the viewer with a sense of optimism.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Only Fools & Horses - Strained Relations (28 February 1985)


 I hadn't seen this for over 30 years, but I remembered it very well. The production turnaround for this series was absolutely incredible. Lennard Pearce died on 15 December 1984 and somehow within two and a half months new scripts had been written marking the death of a much-loved character, a new replacement character had been conceived and cast, and these new episodes had been organised, recorded, edited and broadcast. Under these circumstances - and with the production team still in mourning - it’s miraculous that this was even halfway good. It’s actually considerably more than that, although probably not the first episode of Only Fools & Horses that many people would pick up first if they were looking for enjoyment.

 The most interesting parts are the more purely dramatic moments between the brothers, comparing their reactions to the death without their dialogue being required to do much heavy plot lifting. Oddly the thing that really made me laugh this episode was just watching a prop. After the initial emotional resonance of Del cooking a sausage and mash meal for Rodney ("No. I can't eat that. Its not like how Grandad used to make it. Its nice") the food itself is twice used again to signify other things, first being pushed away by a hung-over Uncle Albert and then, congealed, marking the passage of time into the next morning.

 I've never rewatched Only Fools and Horses systematically, and have seen repeats of the early series a lot more often, so I've never really thought much about Uncle Albert in the same way that I have about the brothers. He generally seems to just be there, doing useful things to advance the story. But - especially considering the circumstances in which it was written - his initial appearance does a good job of establishing a distinctive character: The ancient mariner, teller of tall tales, a shifty cadge but someone probably ultimately benign. I'll be interested to see if any episode ever turns up which really develops or complicates the character.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Duty Free - Praying Mantis (27 February 1984)


 Its only the third episode, but this most formulaic of comedies is already set in stone... You can hear the usual Eric Chappell strength of pleasurably-crafted dialogue in Amy's complaints about David's middle aged delusions of youthful physicality (which probably ring a bit more true through being co-written by a woman), but the whole thing is so agreeably predictable that its never going to feel sharp.

 The highlight is the appearance of an Alsatian (credited to 'Woofers Animal Agency') with David's shoe in his mouth - it’s a shame that they didn't get this hound to do some more.

Monday, 25 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: A Sharp Intake of Breath - Your Very Good Health (26 February 1979)


 This week, Peter Barnes breaks his foot and is admitted to hospital. A little bit of OB recording with an ambulance at the doors and in a long hospital corridor works wonders in making the location feel convincing - two things that we never really saw in 29 episodes of Only When I Laugh! Richard Wilson's Doctor here is a more passive and less angry character than Dr Thorpe was in that series.

 The funniest bits are the most purely physical. Get David Jason to try to walk with a pair of mismatched crutches - or just fail to swallow two pills - and you get comedy that works on a very elemental level, but realised through high-level performance skills.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Porridge - Poetic Justice (25 February 1977)


 I don't think that I've ever seen this one (in which the judge who sentenced Fletcher now shares a cell with him) before. Its striking quite how dialectical Clement & La Frenais' dialogue is in this episode, with characters spending much of the time considering the wider implications, ironies and inconsistencies of their position and changed circumstances - although every discussion is always topped off and illustrated by an action. Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads already had much dialogue that worked in this way, with Bob and Terry both liking to philosophise about their place in society, but the institutional prison setting of Porridge (a place where knowledge of hierarchies and rituals is vitally important) created the ideal opportunity for this type of comedy to be explored to its fullest extent.

 Considering that he started off in ITMA and Much Binding In The Marsh Maurice Denham (as the disgraced judge) didn't do much sitcom comedy, and his performance demonstrates the value of having a really good actor as a guest performer. His quiet responses to the cell door shutting behind him for the first time, or when being cornered by three threatening prisoners, are understated but clear, and register to the viewer as being emotionally true.

Saturday, 23 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Galton & Simpson Playhouse - Swap You One Of These For One Of Those (24 February 1977)


 One of Galton & Simpson's risqué scripts, as Richard Briers' sexually frustrated office man hopes to try his hand at wife-swapping, after a party invitation from King of the Swingers Henry McGee. I haven't seen Briers play a lecher before - well, would-be lecher - and the slight unfamiliarity of the casting makes the idea of being trapped in a hot little office with this a secretary-ogling older man a bit more uncomfortable than it might have been with another actor.

 There are two scenarios and settings, one each side of the break. The first half is set in the office, and the situation establishes that the Briers character's frustrations are bubbling over, presents him with the potential salvation of the invitation to the swingers' party, and has him anticipate the enticing prospect while wrestling with the catch that he'll have to bring his wife with him in order to to be allowed in. This section is very funny, backed with a depth of convincing details of office politics and jealousies and the Briers' character's status envy of McGee, which then reverses and becomes fawning as soon as McGee offers to introduce him to willing women.

 The second act is set on the landing outside McGee's flat, where Briers has become separated from his wife and has to wait outside the door. The farcical business of the husband and wife just missing each other through separate lift doors is amusing enough (and the story requires it), but there's less character development or insight into inner lives, making the comedy end up less interesting than it initially promised to be.

Friday, 22 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Benny Hill Show (23 February 1977)




 Granada's 1976 themed single play anthology series Victorian Scandals is one of the more obscure contemporary television sources that Benny Hill drew upon.

  I am intrigued by comely five-girl dance troupe Love Machine, choreographed by Arlene Phillips on an off day. Their song (listed as 'The Best Is Yet To Come', but going by the chorus really ought to be called 'Think Of The Boys') appears to have only ever been heard on this programme. Its lyrics are hard to make out on first hearing, but appear to offer life lessons to other women. The song and routine invites a feminist ideological reading... It seems to say that hopeful young women are wishing for the day when they have "got a home and family and all the little things a girl should want", but then goes into some detail about how men will ignore or mistreat their women ("the game of love it can't be cheated"). But - leaping into the soaring chorus, if you "think of the b-o-o-o-ys" then that explains the pleasures of the game, even if (I think they sing this) "their manly jokes/ are not for woman folks". This is unconvincingly mimed through tremendous grins, the lead dancer more than once winking at the viewer. For no obvious reason, they are dressed as Red Indian squaws.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Sez Les (22 February 1974)


  Les Dawson is all well and good, but his comedy is of secondary interest to the amount of thought and imagination that went into the light entertainment sections of his shows. This week's musical guest is Lynsey De Paul (performing one of her signature flirtations, 'Let's Boogie'), sat behind the piano and singing in a sequence of close-up asides to various cameras with interesting mixes between shots.

 Of yet greater interest are the Irving Davies Dancers, whose routine is of the same idiosyncratic quality as their science fiction number of the 25th of January. I don't recognise the song, which lists the senses with a 'touch me' chorus, of the school of Hair or Tommy. It is interpreted with an Eastern spiritual theme, the troupe forming a deity with multiple arms, and an interest in choreographing the unit into one organic entity, from which individuals then break away from and again coalesce. As well as vivid colour lighting - a lime green filter this week - there's an interest in superimposing images, with the lead dancer wearing an enormous blue cloak which then becomes CSOed into a close-up of her face. These bold sequences must have been some of the most ambitious and abstract performance on British television at the time, and it’s exciting to think that they went out on such a mainstream show.
 

A Comedy On This Day: It Ain't Half Hot, Mum - The Inspector Calls (21 February 1974)


 Sergeant Major Williams gets another voice-over devious soliloquy in this episode, delivered in a quite alarming eyeball-swivelling, beads-of-sweat close-up.

 There's some
(to my mind) unorthodox casting here, with a visiting General played by Jeffrey Segal (best remembered now as Arthur Perkins in Rentaghost). Good actor that he was, there must have been dozens of other performers who would have been more obvious choices to convey the authority and class background of such a high ranking officer. David Croft must have been pleased with the decision, anyway, as he went on to cast Segal as a Brigadier in Dad's Army.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? - No Hiding Place (20 February 1973)


 This one seems familiar... Thanks to Genome, we learn that it was repeated in 1975, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2000. I think that I'd have seen almost all of those on transmission! That's around five more repeats than most of the surrounding episodes in the series, many of which were unseen between 1975 and 1995.

 One reason why this particular episode became the one that always got shown was scheduling fortuitousness. Its a comedy about international football that the viewer needs no interest whatsoever in international football to fully understand and enjoy, making it a handy programme to fill in half an hour during disruptive football programming (a trick first tried when it was broadcast immediately before the opening ceremony of the 1986 World Cup). Another reason was its comforting familiarity after it had been repeated a few times. Perhaps the biggest reason is that it has a narrative hook that is easily grasped - needing to get through a day without discovering the result of a major event - and appeals to peoples' imaginations (although maybe its starting to come across as alien in a smartphone age).

 What's odd about its particular fame is that it’s not a very representative episode of Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? There's no Thelma for a start, and nothing of the major arc of that first series of Bob's engagement and marriage. There's also very little of class comedy of the gap between Bob and Terry's aspirations and approaches to life. Its there in the first scene with Terry's unease at the (gloriously period) hairdressers, but that's it. There's also little of the terrible creeping nostalgia that often shades the two old friends' conversations beyond their memories of the unhygienic barbers of old. Its rather closer to the caper storylines of the sixties Likely Lads than most of the sequel's episodes.

 What it does shares with the other episode is dialogue that absolutely sings, with every other line carrying a memorable, clear image, and a wonderful rhythm between the two leads, whose occasional fluff and stumble gives a naturalism to a highly-crafted script.

Monday, 18 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Bless This House - Blood Is Thicker Than Water (19 February 1973)


 Sometimes you get a sitcom episode where the premise is so weak that anything that gets done with it comes over as painfully laboured. When a distant American cousin of Sid's unexpectedly comes to stay and the family believes him to be a mafia boss on the run... this is one such episode. The funniest thing in it is Jean Abbott worrying that this intimidating master criminal has come to steal her books of Green Shield Stamps.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Liver Birds - The Guest-House (18 February 1971)


 The girls' hopes are raised when an eligible bachelor moves in downstairs. My interest perked up when this sophisticated older man turned out to be… Ronald Allen! Long before Five Go Mad In Dorset, the great man already knew something about the comic potential inherent within his dashing matinee idol appeal.

 The density of detail in set dressing and costume remains a heady thing to survey. Sandra and Beryl are characters who would spend much of their money on clothes, and trying to impress this new man means that they change outfits frequently throughout the episode... generally what Sandra wears works better than Beryl's flea-market hippy bright colours. If that set had been preserved it could now be a National Trust installation of twentieth century tenement living, with its bare kitchen, Victorian paneling, skew-whiff line of china ducks on the wall, etc.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: George & The Dragon - Big Deal (17 February 1968)


  Even somewhat lax plotting from Powell and Driver can't mar the cheerful glow of this always-enjoyable programme. If I were a chauffer and a scrapyard had accidentally collected my employer's Bentley rather than the old banger that they were meant to buy for £50, the first thing that I'd do would be to phone them up! Although then there wouldn't be any hilarious consequences...

 Peggy Mount really was something of a wonder as a performer - knowing how to be funny but always seeming true, even when given the weakest generic battle-axe material. There's a long (and rather dull on the page) scene of the three servants relating George's financial dire straits to the national economy (devaluation - a rare moment of topicality) which becomes actively pleasurable to watch simply by having Mrs Dragon mixing a cake and doing the washing up during it.

Friday, 15 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Marriage Lines - A Night Of Nostalgia (16 February 1965)


 "Do you suppose that the off-licence would have those thin mints with chocolate that people have in the commercials?"

 Sadly, series 4 and 5 of Marriage Lines are now lost, but the last episode of series 3 is an apt point for modern viewers to bid farewell, as it refers back to the first episode, giving what does survive a circular narrative. The Starlings have elected to stay in London and bring up baby in a shabby top floor flat while their friends have left to live in Scotland and can afford to live in a grander manner. Peter and Norah return to London on an unexpected flying visit and the Kate Starling feels that she has offer them suitable hospitality.

 I was surprised how funny this one was, with the Starlings' poor relation status, unease with returning friends and coping with a two-week old baby feeling quite sharp and recognisable - on top of offering some fascinating period details which reminded me of what I understood my parents' lives to have been like about 55 years ago. The Starlings' expensive impromptu dinner includes serving sherry, tins of mock caviar (lumpfish) and artichoke hearts, some hamburger-type arrangement called 'birds with their heads off' (?) and some rainbow sugar crystals for display.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Arthur Haynes Show (15 February 1964)


 The two long sketches inspire more laughter this week, even though both start to peter out before they finish. A respectable man buttonholed by a loquacious eccentric in a single railway carriage was an absolute staple of sketch comedy of this period, but the interesting surprise element this time around is that Haynes is impersonating Parsons. Two parallel seams of comic mileage are mined out of this scenario - why is this character behaving like this? - and, can Haynes sustain the performance and how will Nicholas Parsons respond to it? There are a couple of ambitious unexpected cutaway close-up shots of Haynes' face from the perspective of the luggage rack and carriage door as his character explores the space of the carriage. But also one of the blinds over the railway door falls off, with no back projection through the window... In the second sketch the Tramp and Irish cause havoc in a bank ("You'd give us an account if we were The Beatles!") starting a cockney brawl of a type that will become familiar in Till Death Us Do Part.

 This week's musical guests (that survive in the truncated ITC print) are Freddie & The Dreamers, whose songs are so short (and whose popularity was at the time so great) that they manage to fit both 'You Were Made For Me' and 'Over You' into their slot. Watching the familiar 'You Were Made' routine (best-known from their often-shown BluePeter appearance) is an object lesson is ill-considered LE direction. The band quite spaced-apart on the set, so when they perform their synchronised knee-kicking movements in a very wide shot they look like beat boom ants rather than distinct personalities (especially on a little 1960s TV set).

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Steptoe & Son - Is That Your Horse Outside? (14 February 1963)


 "All these rich birds is the same, son." Another episode that quickly boils down to the essence of Steptoe & Son, with Harold unable to break away. Most of the more pleasantly funny material is in the first third of the episode, when Patricia Haines' rich lady takes Harold in on his rounds. Her vampish seduction is very amusing, but Harold's clumsy responses - deferential, literal, anxiously moving his eyes from side to side - lay a lot of the ground for his inevitable eventual disappointment. And the dialectic of the story eventually turns out to be about class and opportunity, not sex.

 Albert doesn't come out of this episode quite as badly as usual. He's just telling his son that his campaign is doomed, and not gloating so much as we often see. The comedy between the pair this week comes mostly from the inherent humiliation of Harold being given life lessons from such a shabby father, rather than Albert actively blocking an opportunity. We even see Albert doing something constructive for once, mending a bicycle, although when he does it he's framed in some rather sinister shots, filmed from a low angle through the spokes of a wheel.

 The filmed inserts of Harold on the cart with Albert in pursuit on the bike provide ample evidence of just what a terrible winter 1962/3 was, as often remembered by older people. Heaps of dirty snow and terrible damp.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Arthur Haynes Show (13 February 1962)


 First episode of a new series without Nicholas Parsons, whose absence is felt. First long sketch is a domestic scene of the tramp "at home", rowing with his wife on a church bench. Speight has fun with presenting familiar marital niggles between a couple who have nothing, but after several minutes of this I started to find the combination of homelessness and unhappy marriage depressing to think about, rather than funny. The second sketch is a long vaudeville routine with Haynes as a pain-inflicting dentist. I was interested to see that dentists were still using cocaine in 1962.

 Musical guests are husband-and-wife duo Ken Morris & Joan Savage, who will be appearing throughout the series. The unassuming Morris is behind the piano, while Savage sings, a ball gown-and-peroxide Babycham vision in the 1950s style. She has an exceptionally expressive face, and looks a bit cross-eyed and fish-mouthed at times when miming 'As Long As I Have You' (which concludes with her producing a large photograph of a baby, to the audience's delight). Their second song, 'Rock-A-Bye Baby With A Dixie Melody' (sung by both) reveals the thinking behind this extreme performance style, when they extract considerable comedy from picking up the wrong cues and impersonating each other miming each other's voices, Savage moving behind the piano, and so forth. I found watching them work together in this routine actually made me laugh rather more than Haynes did, their cheerfulness working well as a corrective to the rather sour comedy that surrounds them.

Monday, 11 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Marion & Geoff - The Wife (12 February 2003)


 A programme that I'd never seen before. There's an interesting essay by Steven Peacock in which he describes Marion & Geoff as being a comedy of gaps and spaces - between hopeful Keith's understanding of the world and the way the world treats him, between his recollection and anticipation of events and the unseen events themselves. The writing seems artless and spontaneous, but is really very finely crafted, registering several different tenses and timescales. 

 Looking at this episode visually, I'm struck by its perpetual in-between locations - parked outside the buildings where the family the chauffer works for are doing tangible things in, or driving through London roads and streets (some of which I recognise as Dulwich - the landscape has that leafy feel of the more prosperous districts of South London). And the character of Keith fills in the gaps with his generous readings of his employers, and misplaced optimism and makes the story affecting.

 Only one thing mars the comedy - the recurrent use of some godawful indie-schmindie mopey-wopey singer-songwriter dirge. This type of musical editorialising is usually distracting even when it uses really good songs, but with music of this low a calibre it breaks a spell and kills a mood.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Big Train (11 February 2002)


 I didn't have a television in 2002, so this is the first that I've seen of the second series. Amelia Bullmore and Julia Davis have gone, replaced by Rebecca Front, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Catherine Tate. Of those three, Front appears to have been given the most interesting stuff to do, but she must have had more of an established TV sketch comedy pedigree at the time of production.

 I've always found an equation-type quality in appreciating this sort of comedy, in which a setting that carries one set of expectations is juxtaposed with an outlandishly wrong element within it, leading to a conclusion that encourages the viewer to consider the sketch from a new perspective. It's a type of humour that provokes a kind of critical engagement within me (how is this situation going to develop, they've got those details right) while rarely making me actually laugh. I didn't find any of this episode very memorable once it finished, apart for one sketch - the development of a relationship and marriage between a couple (Pegg and Front) where the woman has huge sponge hands, perhaps because its the only part that encourages viewer empathy and where it felt like something emotionally real was at stake.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Brittas Empire - Gavin Featherly R.I.P. (10 February 1997)


 Carrying on a series without its original writer-creators is always tricky, but especially one that had as original a tone and structure as The Brittas Empire. Terry Kyan's script (concerning the supposed death at sea of a regular) aims for outrageous black comedy, but feels a bit too messy to pull it off. A lot of it happens away from the leisure centre (at the seaside, at sea and at the cemetery), which doesn't really play to the series' abiding strengths of the peculiar manager of a bizarre workplace.

 The most interesting aspect of the episode is the two guest characters - Donald Pickering and Rowena Cooper as the bickering grieving parents - in whom the writer could create something new and follow his own interests.

Friday, 8 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Paul Merton In Galton & Simpson's... The Radio Ham (9 February 1996)


 Dear oh dearie me... Paul Merton isn't much of an actor, is he? From memory, I think that this one was as bad as this project got - mostly no other performers in the room for Merton to interact with, the memory of Tony Hancock's inflections on every joke, the particularly awkward fit of 1961 material into the world of 1996.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: French & Saunders (8 February 1996)


 This should be interesting. 1996 must have been about the height of their popularity, but a time after I'd stopped watching. Seeing it now is an ideal test of the instinctive prejudices that meant that I didn't see it at the time.

 I think that it was the combination of a perceived self-satisfied quality about them - combined with the amount of emotional investment that so much of the British public had in them, as much for what they represented as celebrities as their actual comedy - that put me off. I was largely right, though there are still enough funny bits that make it worth watching.

 By far the worst section is the v-e-r-y l-o-n-g parody, a mash-up of Judge Judy as populated by characters from Star Trek. The production values are right, but it’s a long stretch of them and their comedy friends doing funny business (like going "woosh" whenever the doors open) rather than a tight, pertinent, sketch.

 Another long sketch is the pair playing two soppy brides planning a double wedding. Here the details are funny and the initial effect of their characterisations is impressive, but something goes a bit wrong when the two women have to fall out and be reconciled. The emotions are rushed and the performers corpse a little, and I start to feel that it would benefit from more guidance from a third party.

 The best part of the show is the final sketch, a The Making of Pride & Prejudice-type feature with F & S as the two posh homeowners who unwittingly continually disrupt the filming on their estate. Rosemary Leach is fantastic in this, not only when playing herself but especially in the disrupted scenes from the fake serial, which she always manages to make wholly convincing but just pushed a little further to show how they can look absurd. It’s the best-judged comic performance in the show, and it’s from an actor rather than a comedian.

 I am curious to identify which bits of additional material were written by the young Mel & Sue. I'm fairly sure that I can tell, but who knows?

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Brittas Empire - Staff Pilfering (7 February 1991)


 Few things are more compelling (or entertaining) to watch than a terrible marriage, and the depiction of Helen Brittas (strung out on valium, depressed after the end of an affair to which her husband is completely oblivious) is surprisingly grim for an ostensibly family-friendly BBC1 comedy. Because her scenes are usually set away from the leisure centre, they work at a different, complimentary, tenor to the main storyline and give the viewer the chance to consider Gordon's Brittas's awfulness and insensitivity from another, domestic, perspective (this week, trying to persuade him to try marriage guidance counselling).

A Comedy On This Day: After Henry - Home Comforts (6 February 1990)


 This week's plot is exactly what you'd expect from an After Henry storyline, with Eleanor threatening to leave Sarah and go to live at The Sycamores home. Clare spends much of her time in this episode with a female friend, not something that I can remember seeing in any other one. Come to think of it, Sarah doesn't seem to have any woman friends, either, although Russell would fit most narrative purposes when they might otherwise feature.

  I am intrigued to see in the set dressing for Clare's flat that she still hasn't got rid of her 1982 Patches annual, which feels authentic. In a rare incidence of comparative time-and-place London 1989 specificity Eleanor wants to get to Sainsbury’s early on a Saturday morning, "before the yuppies wake up" and leave her queuing behind their trollies filled with "Perrier water, mange tout and garlic".

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Desmond's - Hold De Front Page Part II (5 February 1990, also Part 1, 29 January 1990)


 The second run of Desmond's is a series flying with confidence and optimism. You can hear it in the audience's enthusiastic responses - at seeing characters and places that they recognise who have rarely been shown on television before - and see their appreciation lift the performances of the large ensemble of inexperienced actors, experienced performers like Ram John Holder (Porkpie) who haven't had much TV exposure before, and major actors who have rarely been given TV leads before (Carmen Munro and Norman Beaton).

 Now given a 13-episode run by Channel 4 (series one had six) Desmond's had the space to try new things out and take some risks. Such as doing a two-part story with a cliffhanger, the tale of an armed siege at Desmond's barber shop. The first part works very well, because of the surprise and novelty of the situation, to which all the regulars respond in character.

 This second part is more problematic, with the situation escalating beyond the shop into exterior scenes of the police responding in the street and an attempt at a satirical portrait of the media reaction, which don't exactly play to the comedy's strengths. The problem created by the situation - combining a convincing siege drama with a funny comedy - becomes more and more problematic to deal with, and the acting holds the story together by the end, particularly Carmen Munro's innate ability to convey maternal authority.