'ALLO, 'ALLO! (1982)

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Allo, Allo

Created by TV comedy legends Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, who were responsible for some of the longest running sitcoms on British television, 'Allo 'Allo! was a wartime comedy created as a parody of Secret Army, an earlier BBC1 drama series which dealt with the activities of Belgian "escape line" workers who returned crashed allied pilots to Britain. For its part 'Allo, 'Allo! concerned itself with the German pursuit of escaping airmen, sexy waitresses and a priceless painting which was hidden in a knackwurst sausage!

Rene Artois (Gorden Kaye) is a café owner in the Nazi-occupied French town of Nouvion where he secretly and often reluctantly helps the French Resistance, led by Michelle (Kirsten Cooke) in her persistent attempts to return two bumbling British airmen to England. His life is further complicated by the fact that he is hiding a stolen priceless painting and a cuckoo clock for Colonel Von Strohm (Richard Marner) and his sidekick Hans (Sam Kelly) who want to secure it for their 'pension' after the war is over. As if things weren't complicated enough it seems that Hitler also wants the "Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies" by Van Klomp and has sent Gestapo agent Otto Flick (Richard Gibson) to find it. Flick, in turn, conspires to keep it for himself.

René is also trying to keep his affairs with his two waitresses (Yvette played by Vicki Michelle and Maria played by Francesca Gonshaw) secret from his wife Edith (Carmen Silvera). Furthermore, the seemingly gay German Lieutenant Gruber (Guy Siner) is also continually flirting with René. All the elements added up to a sitcom in the best tradition of British farce with French characters speaking English in a French accent whilst the 'English' had an upper-class twang. The poor French of Englishman Crabtree (Arthur Bostrom) disguised as a gendarme was depicted by his serial mispronunciations, especially his famous greeting "Good Moaning". The series also used a number of catchphrases such as René's moan at his wife "You stupid woman!" and Michelle’s "Listen very carefully, I shall say zis only once."

'Allo, 'Allo! was the third TV Show in David Croft's Second World War trilogy, which also included Dad's Army (1968-1977) and It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-1981). The Pilot aired in December 1982, a full-length first series of seven episodes was subsequently commissioned and aired from September 1984 onwards. Two Christmas specials were also made. On 25th January 1990, Gorden Kaye suffered serious head injuries when a piece of wooden advertising boarding smashed through his car windscreen in gale-force winds. The accident required emergency brain surgery to treat his injuries. This delayed the start of the seventh series, which consisted of ten episodes airing from January 1991 onwards. The series finally finished after 85 episodes.

In 1994 the BBC broadcast The Best of 'Allo 'Allo!, a compilation of clips from the series, linked by new scenes featuring Gorden Kaye and Carmen Silvera, in which René and Edith reminisce about the events of the war. On 28th April 2007 BBC2 broadcast The Return of 'Allo 'Allo!. The storyline involves René writing his memoirs after the war. The new scenes were interspersed with clips from the original series and new interviews. The actors who reprised their roles were: Gorden Kaye, Vicki Michelle, Sue Hodge, Kirsten Cooke, Arthur Bostrom, Guy Siner, Robin Parkinson, John D. Collins and Nicholas Frankau. Jeremy Lloyd wrote the new material. As well as the long running TV series, the show gave rise to a successful touring stage-show featuring most of the TV cast. The stage show ran from 1986 to 1992, including three London stage runs as well as international tours. In 2009, a new touring show, based on the 1992 tour written by Croft and Perry, opened at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

Review: Marc Saul. 2009