Sunday, 31 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Seven Of One - Prisoner & Escort (1 April 1973)



 With pilots, you tend to be looking out for discrepancies from the eventual series - here, that there's no Godber, and the implausibly progressive institution which Barraclough promises to Fletcher doesn't bear much relation to the Slade Prison that we eventually see in Porridge. But this isn't how their original audience would have watched these programmes, and it’s instructive to try to respond to them as freestanding comedy playlets.
 The central relationship is between the prisoner and the kindlier warden, each needing something from the other, becoming ever more interdependent through adversity as - shackled together by handcuffs - they become abandoned in the freezing countryside overnight, eventually finding shelter by breaking into a deserted cottage. The dynamic of this is as tragic as it is funny, as Fletcher gets Barraclough drunk and the officer opens up ("I'm a failure. I'm only holding on to this job by the skin of my teeth"), and confides about being repeatedly cuckolded by his wife. The relationship is an uneasy thing to watch, with prisoner shown to be devious in his manipulation of the escort and Barrowclough the greater victim of the pair. The viewer is grateful that the cunning Fletcher is never consciously cruel to Barraclough, and manages to maintain our sympathies. Its a strong story in itself, sharing the qualities of balance and two lives being reflected in each other with the authors' contemporaneous Likely Lads, but one can understand why Ronnie Barker was reluctant to take it to a series.
 (I love the bleak moody atmosphere from the time they leave the railway station to when the van breaks down, you can almost feel the chill in the air and the sense of isolation as darkness approaches. There's some very convincing 'cold' acting (shivers, pulls face) from Ronnie Barker in the scene of the three of them outside the van in the middle of nowhere. From the look of it, it didn't take much acting to feel the cold, but he still does a good job of making the viewer know about of it.)

A Comedy On This Day: The Liver Birds - Birds On Horseback (31 March 1972)



 One of a handful of episodes not written by Carla Lane, but given to veteran screenwriters Jack Seddon and David Pursall. You can tell very quickly... The emphasis is all on setting up the situation, with a lack of accompanying character interest in reflecting the lives of young women. The plotting is confident, while at the same time feeling a bit wrong. So that when the episode begins with Beryl and Sandra discovering that someone has painted footprints all over their bedroom the previous night, this acts as a catalyst for the pair trying to get a decorator in cheaply, when I would have thought that the question of who painted them and why would have been of greater dramatic interest.

 'Which actors play their love interest this week?' is always a diverting question when I watch these, and this episode casts to type with Paul Angelis as the rough and ready decorator and Timothy Carlton as the supercilious Giles. Sandra's fanciful plan of impressing Giles by riding with him at a hunt meeting pushes the limits of credibility, but it does set up some filmed sequences of the girls at a riding school in the final third of the episode.

 As soon as we get out into the countryside on film the quality shoots up. However fiddly the narrative that got the story up to this point, watching two women riding in rural settings, getting lost and walking their horses into lakes has an elemental environmental interest in itself. It would be these scenes that you'd remember one the programme had finished, making you remember it with more pleasure than most of it perhaps deserved.

Friday, 29 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Jokers Wild (30 March 1970)


 This week with Ted Ray, Arthur Askey, Ray Martine, Les Dawson, Clive Dunn and Stubby Kaye. Always a compelling watch, if only ever tangentially an actively amusing one, no other programme in the archive that I've come across ever gives you quite the same insight into how comics live off their wits.

 Speculating as to how the panellists feel about each other is a source of fascination, the series' form exposing both professional sympathy and needling resentment (especially between Ray Martine and Les Dawson). You can sense a lot of fellow feeling between the two captains, both Liverpudlians in their sixties, with Ray admiring Askey's ability to generate communal good cheer and Askey respecting Ray's smoothness and patter. There's an interesting moment of deference in this one when Askey starts to sing and Dawson joins in to to accompany him.

 The jokes themselves are always an interesting text of oral social history. There are a spate of stories about commercial travellers and rep actors seeking digs this week, all of which I'd imagine were first told before the War. When did these stories eventually die out, or have they now mutated into something else?

A Comedy On This Day: Not In Front Of The Children - The George Washington Complex (29 March 1968)


  Sixties domestic light comedies could be very intelligent without excluding weary viewers in search of good-natured diversion. The child-raising situation of this comedy is used to set up a genuine philosophical enquiry: Is it ever right to tell a lie? When the son has broken a plate and not told them (in scene one) the parents set this down as a principle, which then gets tested to its limits by various unforeseen circumstances.

 The script isn't afraid to investigate and complicate this idea a bit. When the mother tells the children that its always worse to get caught out in a lie than it is to have told the truth that you've done something naughty, the eldest daughter asks, what happens if you never get caught out? Subsequent mishaps follow on from further distinctions: Is not telling somebody something the same as telling a lie? For how long can you put off not telling a loved one some awkward news before it becomes wrong to do so?

 This makes the comedy sound overtly dialectical. It really isn't but it does have the great virtue of making it feel as though something is genuinely at stake, and is therefore funnier and more involving.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Arthur Haynes Show (28 March 1964)



 Just two long sketches in this Easter-themed edition. Indeed, as both halves feature the unfortunate Reverend Parsons, you could almost watch this as a sitcom (with an interval performance from Kenny Ball & His Jazzmen). Original viewers would also have been able to watch Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson (cut from the retained ITC print), whom I would have preferred to the Jazzmen.

 Johnny Speight went on to use the problematic new technology of the telephone several times in Till Death Us Do Part. In an ambitious sequence here, we see Arthur at home with Patricia Hayes, the Reverend Parsons in bed and down the stairs to his telephone table and a Doctor at home linked by a sequence of telephone calls. As you might expect in this set-up, Haynes keeps on getting the Vicar out of bed, enraging him and maddening him by repeatedly hanging up just when he gets to the phone... Its impressive in a way, and interesting to follow how the situation escalates, but not having Haynes and Parsons face to face in the same room means that it never really generates that much laughter. The most interesting aspect is Patricia Hayes' period qualms about using the intrusive device ("I don't like to answer that thing"), a mistrust that - uniquely among my peers - I've always shared.

 The second half, in which the tramp and Irish cadging a medicinal drink of whiskey out of the Vicar at the 1964 St Stephens Easter Bazaar, is more straightforwardly enjoyable. Odd features include the combination of whiskey and Eastertime making Irish maudlin and start to sing 1916 rebel songs, and a climax of Rita Webb warbling 'The Sunshine of Your Smile'.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Father Ted - Speed 3 (27 March 1998)


 Father Ted chides the lecherous milkman responsible for a Craggy Island population boom of hairy babies that he should have been more careful, and Pat Mustard asks, "You wouldn't be advising the use of artificial contraceptives, would ya, father?" Ted squirms. I do like it when the occasional Church doctrinal joke gets dropped into the merriment of Father Ted, just momentarily placing the characters back into a professional context, reminding the viewer of the incongruity of the bizarre happenings.

Monday, 25 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: As Time Goes By: The Affair (26 March 1995)


 It might just be because this is a rather dull episode with far too little happening between the two leads, but it does leave me wondering just how well 1990s 'quality television' values operate when applied to sitcom. For all the well-heeled aspirational lifestyles on show, I can't help but think that the base metal of this storyline (woman jealous of her partner spending the day at home with glamorous young secretary, irritating and insensitive relative turning up and spoils everyone's plans) would actually be rather funnier if they were rendered as a cheap 'n' cheerful LWT 25 minute sitcom.

 The synthi-orchestral arrangement of the theme is remarkably ugly, especially when you consider that it’s setting out to convey a mood of sophistication.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: French & Saunders: The House Of Idiot (25 March 1993)


 With only three sketches (plus a tiny Gladiators skit as a coda), this feels meandering and overindulged to me. The big House Of Eliott parody initially scores some proper Acorn Antiques-style laughs (Saunders' troubles with opening doors and hanging her coat, the telegraphed plotlines, superfluous characters, the reused vintage car and incongruous penny-farthing), but then they all get repeated several times... The eventual appearance of the real House Of Eliott actresses, demonstrating what good sports they are, is the kind of 'celebrity chums' television that I find hard to tolerate. Comedy about the media reflecting itself rather than comedy drawn from life itself.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Brush Strokes - Breakdown Of Society (24 March 1991)



 The pre-penultimate episode and you can tell that things are winding down. There's a rather glum mood as this week's story is about having to move out of home, the decorating business being sold and having to find new work after redundancy. It’s all well done but - especially as this episode is all studio - it doesn't play to the core Brush Strokes virtues, i.e. watching Jacko try his luck with assorted women in various interesting suburban locations.

 Mind you, Karl Howman is starting to look noticeably older by 1991 and like he really ought to be settling down by now, giving his misfortunes this episode an air of muted tragedy. When Eric and Jacko's sister tell him that they're moving to Reigate and that he can't come with them, the studio audience audibly go "Ahhh!" in sympathy.

Friday, 22 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: A Bit Of Fry & Laurie (23 March 1990)


  In an introductory discussion about Trevor Griffiths' Comedians during a 1990 A-Level English lesson, I can remember the class being asked who our favourite comedians were. My best friend and my self’s choice of Fry & Laurie was not widely shared (Trevor & Simon were most highly approved of, although the teacher didn't know who they were).

 In part, my peers' dismissal was because they primarily associated Fry & Laurie with Alliance & Leicester commercials and Jeeves & Wooster, which is fair enough. But with hindsight it’s easier to see why people wouldn't have responded positively to their comedy and found it rather detached.

 The pair's refusal to do parodies was an admirable stance, but it also denied them a level of instant ("they're doing that") recognition. You can hear the studio audience always responding positively when they get closest to it, in the "Dammit!" Peter and John sketches, performed in the recognisable idiom of Howard's Way if not a specific imitation. (It's fun to finally see the famous Marjorie finally appear this week, played by Maria Aitken as a smouldering Kate O'Mara-type figure)

The consistent level of elaborate wordplay is dazzling at times. There's one sketch in particular here, with Fry as an eccentric and maddeningly circumlocutory jeweller: "Would you like an Opal Fruit? A nice strawberry Opal Fruit or, indeed, any flavour? I won't be long. Where am I going? There is a sweetshop not two miles away from here, and I happen to know that they sell Opal Fruits". Even though I haven't seen this for over ten years, I seem to have remembered almost every line of it... Odd original coinages and bits of phrasing occasionally find their way into my own conversation, even now (from this sketch, I've always found "I am chastened and bowed" a useful formulation to convey playful humility). But if you don't have an ear for the wordplay, then there isn't a lot else going on in the sketch - certainly not anything emotional to latch on to - and at almost five minutes long it does test even the patience of even the most appreciative viewer.

 These flaws are rather more apparent in the second series (which they only had a year to come up with) than in the initial one (their first series to themselves after almost a decade of working together), with high quality line-by-line dialogue papering over otherwise drifting sketches. The bit which now strikes me as most interesting in this episode is rather atypical, a filmed monologue from Laurie in a car as a man reminiscing about all of his old girlfriends. The imagined lovers are all absurdly implausible women, but the performance and the emotion behind it have a reflective melancholy that's very appealing, and not like much else in the programme.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: French & Saunders (22 March 1990)


 I think that the duo may have been at their peak with this third series. By this point they had a sure sense of what distinctively they could achieve with a sketch show, with less of the aimless drifting that mars the early episodes while not yet falling into the overindulged celebrity trap that increasingly irritated me later on. I was in the first year of sixth form when this went out, and I can't remember any other show being so universally popular, with both fellow pupils and teachers.

 I think that the part that resonated most with my peers was the Star Test Bros interview, probably because of the worthy target (the hapless briefly-popular Goss brothers being both teen-orientated culture and something that we would have all felt was beneath us). Watching it now, I'm mainly interested in the very tight-looking facial prosthetics that the performers have been squashed into. With much of this episode's comedy, I find the details much funnier than the ostensibly amusing scenarios - Saunders' Luke Goss dropping her drumsticks, or the (slightly disturbing) visual effect in Kirsty MacColl and Simon Brint's duet of 'Something Stupid' of both singers’ reflections being superimposed over each other's eyes.

 The extended Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? parody is one of the best they did, partly because of the pleasure of recognising their takes of Davis and Crawford, but mostly because the original piece had such a distinctly camp Grand Guignol style that it didn't need to be extended very much to become overly comic. The audience laughter over this filmed piece is a bit of a shame, as overt laughter at certain jokes detracts from the greater subtlety of the whole conception.

 The sketch that I (and my parents, who I watched this with in 1990) most enjoyed at the time still strikes me as being the best bit now. Its a scene of an editorial conference between the two refined ladies in charge of a popular mid-market women's magazine, and - Hurray! - for once French and Saunders aren't parodying something else or impersonating other celebrities or doing recurring characters. The skit both celebrates and skewers the vacuity of the magazine ("Sue Lawley on flans? "Too spiky"), bombarding the viewer with closely-observed fine detail of the all-too-convincing magazine, discussed by two well-drawn characters. 


Wednesday, 20 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Only Fools & Horses - Sleeping Dogs Lie (21 March 1985)


 These mid-eighties OFAH episodes seem to have left much less of a lasting impression upon me than what came before and after. I think this one is about as weak as the original series got, pivoting around a reversal of expectations which is a bit too similar other episodes that had more diverting situations and stronger supporting characters. My chief problem with it is that the initial appearance of Marlene's enormous Great Dane dog (whom the brothers have agreed to mind) set up a pleasurable anticipation of enjoyable canine larks which was then disappointed, but perhaps that's just me!

 It's a bit of a letdown after Strained Relations. Where that episode had the exciting sense of having to be written and produced from scratch almost overnight, here Uncle Albert is very clearly just Grandad's understudy, and it makes me feels a bit sad when I start to imagine how Lennard Pearce might have performed it. Its not really helped by the occasional additional line reminding us that the Uncle is an old sailor, as these never seem to arise naturally in the dialogue.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Two Ronnies (20 March 1985)


 This week, Ronnie Barker is wearing a contemporary-looking blazer in wide stripes of several pastel colours that puts me in mind of Neapolitan ice cream. Even more bang-on mid-eighties is Elaine Paige's performance of 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes'. The old standard has been arranged as a modern-sounding power ballad with emotive guitar lines and moody 'Careless Whisper'-style saxophone solos. The singer is dressed in a baggy blue satin jacket with black satin skirt, has a voluminous Princess Diana hairstyle and pendulous earrings and - for no good reason - sits down on a step to sing to us against a backdrop befogged with dry ice. The performance is topped and tailed by close-ups of the saxophone and the hands playing it in the foreground with Paige sat in the middle distance.



 There's a parody of the Private Lives balcony scene, played between two burglars rather than Elyot and Amanda, making Barker's usual puns much more interesting than usual by hearing how they fit into a Coward idiom. Also a funny scene with Barker as an impatient waiter silently clearing away Corbett's courses before he's eaten them, that I'm guessing is by David Renwick (it has the feel of One Foot In The Grave). The positive effect of these imaginative sketches is then rather offset by one unfortunate blackface gag when a passing Rasta hails Corbett, covered in soot after putting his head and hands in a fireplace. "Heey maaan!" the dreadlocked passer-by hails Corbett, slapping his outstretched hands. You feel embarrassed for the black actor.

Monday, 18 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Duty Free - Forty Love (19 March 1984)


 Duty Free is an odder series tonally than you might remember it being. There's an attempt to bring emotional depth to the farcical shenanigans in this episode, with David's redundancy being exposed and Keith Barron being given a dignified speech that plays to his strengths as an actor (before a fish falls out of his trousers) and a surprisingly large amount of 12 Certificate swearing in the arguments between husbands and wives... But it really could do with another draft to make it better structured, especially the convenient presence of a large trolley of cream cakes in the hotel bedroom for the wives to through at each other and their husbands in the rather arbitrary and desperate climax.

 It also has the weirdest bit of non-speaking extra choreography in a scene where impoverished David is trying to smuggle food out of the hotel dining room. A row of silent figures stand at the breakfast bar, each one implausibly rooted to a single bowl or dish, unable to communicate with anybody else or move on or away from their own little spot. They look more like a Greek chorus than anyone that I've ever seen at any buffet.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Spitting Image (18 March 1984)


 Only the third episode... Has any other programme of the significance and stature of Spitting Image ever had quite so poor a first series? In the 1980s, one used to often hear public figures and commentators diplomatically opine that they thought that the puppets were much better than the material. If they'd only seen the early ones, that was a understandable verdict.

 Something that's odd is how little of it is really topical. The only jokes that come out of that week's news are brief skits about Arthur Scargill (threatening response to pit closures announcement) and Mark Thatcher (dubious Oman deal). To my mind, these to-the-point one-liners and mini-sketches have dated rather better than long convoluted routines about Reagan being senile or Thatcher being authoritarian.

A Comedy On This Day: Robin's Nest - The Anniversary Waltz (17 March 1981)



 This series has a famous admirer. In the live Las Vegas edition of Knowing Me Knowing You With Alan Partridge the host interviews veteran New York Jewish comedian Bernie Rosen (David Schneider):
Alan Partridge: What's your favourite sitcom?
Bernie Rosen: The Golden Girls
Alan Partridge: Right. Right. Mine is Robin's Nest. It was brilliant actually. Richard O'Sullivan ran this restaurant and it really was chaos. Yeah, and the man who did the washing up only had one arm. When you think about it, it's ridiculous. Needless to say plenty of plates got broken and Robin got annoyed. It was very funny. Now, let's move on. Let's not beat about the bush - You are a Jew....
 
 This George Layton-scripted episode would probably be the one that Alan would show to Bernie Rosen to prove his case: "They didn't say they were a coach party - they said they were a kosher party!" The escalating comedy as Robin Tripp crashes his father-in-law's car dashing between Robin's Nest, a local Salt Beef Cafe and the top-of-the-range restaurant where he had planned to have an anniversary meal with his wife is no Fawlty Towers: Gourmet Night, but just about passes the time. The most interesting aspect is the chance to watch two dozen of 1981 Teddington's top Jewish non-speaking extras in action, some of whom look a bit familiar.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Yes Minister - The Greasy Pole (16 March 1981)



 I'm struck when I watch this now by how Paul Eddington acts in a very different register to the other two leads. Where the other two are smooth and cautious, Jim Hacker's every thought and feeling is signaled to the audience through some gesticulation or change of vocal tone from Eddington - when Hacker feels pleased with himself, when he's anxious, when he's being flattered, when he's trying to appear wise, etc.

 This isn't upstaging or mismatched casting at all, but always works to serve the script. In plots which requires the viewer to assimilate a lot more complicated information than most other sitcoms (in this case, how the findings of official reports can be manipulated), Paul Eddington always gives the viewer an emotional reaction to respond to, as well as an intellectual one. It also works to make a politician (a profession held in low esteem by many) a sympathetic character, even when he's acting out of personal considerations - we can see how we might react in the same way. Paul Eddington had done a lot of theatrical light comedy before Yes Minister, and the particular skills that he needed for that form went on to give this series a lot of its soul.

Friday, 15 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Hello Cheeky - Mark II (15 March 1976)



 In his exhaustive Goodies book, Andrew Pixley describes this programme as a "breakneck cavalcade of fun", the generosity of which made me laugh rather more than anything in this edition. As it stands it’s a textbook illustration of how not to adapt something from radio to television, where it's CSO backdrops and minimal costume aesthetic make it look threadbare and ramshackle. Perhaps one way that it might have worked would have been to make it less visual and concentrate on the artificiality of the format, by showing the trio quick-changing into their many wigs and hats and including the studio audience in the picture, giving the viewer a more inclusive sense of performance and involvement in the process.

 Whenever he appears as a comedy performer (as opposed to a raconteur) Barry Cryer has always struck me as being far too eager to laugh at his own jokes.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Are You Being Served? - The Clock (14 March 1974)



 Special commendation this week for Tony Oxley of the BBC Visual Effects Department, who has to design a malfunctioning mechanical cat, for an in-store promotion of 'Pussy Boots' furry slippers. With its glaring yellow headlamp eyes, rotating head and revolving tail, its an alarming prop, deserving of rather more than its minute in the limelight, which would give you hours of entertainment if you had it in front of you. When the thing explodes it obeys the laws of comedy rather than plausible mechanics, with the singed head rising one foot on a pole and a large spring dangling from its workings.

 Tony Oxley went on to design another great BBC prop in 1974, the Doctor Who Sontaran Experiment robot, although that machine was rather less the stuff of nightmares than this mechanical cat.
 

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads - The Old Magic (13 March 1973)



BOB: It’s amazing how character shows at such an early age. Even at five you were trouble, a hazard to other children. 'Don't talk to Terry Collier' - that was like our school motto.

TERRY: I was your first friend. I was the first person who stole your tricycle pump, the first person who split your head open with a brick. Frank Clarke can't claim things like that in his wedding speech. He can't recall colourful anecdotes from the past.

BOB: I don't think many colourful anecdotes from our past are fit to go into a wedding speech.

 For what very little its worth, Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? is my favourite comedy programme. There are several reasons why. It’s the milieu and very specific sense of time and place. Its the avoidance of sentimentality, while remaining a warm and friendly programme to watch - not knowing or cruel humour, but very acute about people letting you down. It has a wonderful credits sequence and theme, that tells its own story about then and now and time running out. Within a light and pleasurable context its quite profound about a number of anxieties - ageing, employment, masculinity, marriage, etc. - which feels true in a way that many serious dramas labour to achieve. It has two perfect leads (one of whom was a great actor and the other who is great in this) with a real depth of casting for supporting characters.

  Above all, it’s the dialogue that I keep on coming back to. This episode is virtually a two-hander for Terry and Bob (save for Gertan Klauber's waiter, there are no other characters for the first 25 minutes) but there's almost no overt plot in their dialogue together. The only thing that the viewer needs to register is that Thelma's sister has been living in Canada, but that's rather skillfully seeded into the friends' general conversation. The rest of the dialogue - reminiscences, plans for the future, reflections about changing social mores, irritation with each other - seems formless but is actually as intricately arranged as it feels organic and free-flowing. Both characters make observations which are funny at the time they are spoken, with memorable imagery and with cadenced rhythms, which are then get referred back to much later on in the episode paying off other jokes and reversing expectations. I've seen these episodes loads of times, but there are always little lines and nuances that I think I'm registering for the first time. The scenes' long, theatrical, continuous takes help the dialogue, with Bolam and Bewes' occasional fluffs and stumbles giving the more elaborate passages the idiom of actual speech.

 Two other things that strike me in this particular episode is the thoughtful direction that shows Bob and Terry reflected in the mirror together during the most sensitive part of their conversation (choosing the best man), so that we can see both men's reactions in a discussion where there might be little eye contact. And how very good the set of the high quality new restaurant is.

Monday, 11 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Bless This House - Watch The Birdie (12 March 1973)


 This episode has that "This will just about do, at a pinch" quality that you often find in series with a large turnover of episodes from multiple writers. It’s a broad farce, where the labouredness of the many plot contrivances heavily outweighs the intended hilarity of their eventual consequences. So this man happens to be a photographer and his fiancée happens to be a model and short-sighted and temporarily working behind the bar? So Sid happens to be in his son's photographic studio when his son has conveniently absented himself with the flu and the model is in her underwear and the curtain falls down and she stumbles into Sid's arms and the camera goes off? Hmmm...

 Probably the element that works best is the most distinctive part that has least to do with the main plot. There's a doleful taxidermist with a stuffed parrot. David Battley, who must have been the automatic first choice for lugubrious eccentric supporting roles for a generation, plays him.

A Comedy On This Day: On The Buses - The Ticket Machine (11 March 1973)


 The LWT studio audience are certainly up for enjoying themselves on this episode. Laughter is much louder than is customary in a sitcom, especially in one sequence of Stan and Jack attempting to hide a stolen ticket machine from Blakey and a Police Constable, when it reaches a pitch that rather drowns out the dialogue. In particular, there's one woman in the audience who finds the idea of somebody hiding something in their trousers, or sitting on something uncomfortable quite hysterically funny. So every thirty seconds the sight of Reg Varney (or occasionally Stephen Lewis) pulling a pained face is accompanied by the soundtrack of a crone-like call of "AAARH-HAAARGH!" It has a nightmarish quality.

 The plot initially revolves around Olive and Mum becoming (hopeless) catalogue saleswomen. The of-its-time social history aspect of this (in the same sort of way that Green Shield Stamps occasionally come into comedy plots at this period) is perhaps the greatest source of interest from this episode.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

A Comedy On This Day: The Liver Birds - Fella-A-Day Girl (10 March 1972)


 Sadly the girls have moved away from their Victorian tenement to a less visually interesting modern flat, but the series continues to offer a feast of diverting period costumes to look at. Beryl starts the episode in a pea green dressing gown with long ridged cuffs and moves on to a strange part-patchwork dress, but the most arresting outfit is the matching pink shirt with pendulous collars and magenta patterned tie worn by Colin Bell as her supposedly dishy boyfriend.

 Sandra has also been paired up with an equally eligible man, although he only appears inside a car in a nocturnal filmed insert, the unflattering lighting making John Nettles look uncharacteristically rough. Paula Wilcox also turns up as Beryl's heavily pregnant sister, handicapped by the most unconvincing 'stuff a couple of cushions up her and that'll do' padding.