Reviews

THE ODD COUPLE (1970)

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Show Image Comedy genius Neil Simon's 1965 hit Broadway play starring Walter Matthau as Oscar and Art Carney as Felix, (with prophetically, Jack Klugman later taking over the Oscar role from Matthau), before becoming an Academy Award winning movie in 1968, with Matthau recreating his Broadway triumph as Oscar, and the incomparable Jack Lemmon as Felix, The Odd Couple came to television with a prestigious pedigree. It made the equally successful transition to television in 1970 on the ABC network and remained one of ABC's comedy mainstays for the next five years. Produced by Garry "Happy Days" Marshall, with no direct involvement from original creator Neil Simon, the basic concept of the series is neatly encapsulated by the following words from the voice over narration, which was run over the opening credits of each episode: "On November 13th, Felix Unger was asked to remove himself from his place of residence. That request came from his wife. Deep down, he knew she was right, but he also knew that someday he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his childhood friend, Oscar Madison. Sometime earlier, Madison's wife had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?" Luckily for the consistently faithful viewing audience which the series attracted almost from the outset, the answer to that question was...no.

The series wisely retained the catchy and memorable theme music originally composed for the 1968 movie version, by Neal Hefti, who also composed that all time classic theme of 60's cult TV, the theme for Batman. Although the all-important chemistry between stars Jack Klugman as the laid back, slobbish sportswriter Oscar Madison and Tony Randall's priggish, uptight, allergy prone photographer, Felix Unger was instantaneous and engaging, the show's opening season was markedly different from what was to follow. The producers opted to film it utilising a single camera, with a recorded laughter track taking the place of a studio live audience. Also, the season saw the inclusion of many of the characters from the original play, including the dizzy but good-hearted Pigeon Sisters (Monica Evans and Carol Shelly, reprising the roles they created for the movie version), and Oscar and Felix's mismatched group of regular poker playing buddies. The beginning of season two saw the show restructured and consolidated into its final, winning format, with the elimination from a regular basis of all of the preceding year's recurring characters except for Murray Greshner, Oscar's cop friend, (Al Molinaro, later to find fame in Happy Days), and the characters of Vinnie and Speed who were to feature occasionally in some of the later episodes. From a technical standpoint, the show was now filmed in front of a live studio audience, and employed the now standard three cameras for filming, along with a newly redesigned set from the couple's Manhattan apartment.

Another interesting oddity of the earlier episodes is the fact that ABC refused to allow the characters to have children as had been established in both the play and the movie. According to ABC practice standards at the time, it was perceived wisdom that divorced people weren't allowed to be seen to have children in any of their shows, as it was feared it would undermine traditional American family values. Although later, as social trends prevailed, ABC executives relented somewhat and allowed the show's writer's to acknowledge the fact that Felix did indeed, have children. Although the series never managed to secure a place within the top 25 shows in the Neilsen ratings, it nevertheless notched up an impressive 114 episodes by the end of its long run. While 1993, saw the winning partnership of Randall and Klugman once again reunited for a TV special called The Odd Couple: Together Again. A new version, The New Odd Couple starring black actors Ron Glass and Desmond Wilson was screened in the USA between 1982-83, and there was even an animated version featuring a tidy cat and a lazy dog, entitled The Oddball Couple. (Co-writer; Stephen R. Hulse)

THE ODD MAN/IT'S DARK OUTSIDE/MR. ROSE (1962)

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Show ImageEdward Boyd's offbeat suspense series that expertly mixed political intrigue, crime sleuthing and domestic disharmony, ran from 1962 to 1963, but spawned two other series; It's Dark Outside (1964 to 1965) and Mr. Rose (1967 to 1968). The Odd Man followed five main characters -theatrical agent and part time sleuth Steve Gardiner, his wife, Judy, the dour Chief Inspector Gordon, the amiable DS Swift and a mysterious villain named South, as they became enmeshed in a seedy world of crime and intrigue, which led to Judy's murder at the hands of South. Although each episode was written as a self-contained story the season had an overall thread as Steve Gardiner went in pursuit of his wife's killer. In season two CI Gordon made way for the rather unpleasant Chief Inspector Rose (William Mervyn) and actress Sarah Lawson who had played Judy returned, this time as Anne Braithwaite, the murdered girls twin sister. The series appeared regularly in the top twenty viewing list, much of its success due to the chemistry between Keith Baron and William Mervyn and makers Granada Television were very quick to cash in on their popularity. Within six months of The Odd Man disappearing from our screens officers Rose and Swift reappeared in It's Dark Outside. This series maintained the same character traits for the two leads, a sort of tough cop, soft cop relationship. Joining them were barrister Anthony Brand and his journalist wife Alice. But this ensemble only lasted for one season and at its conclusion both the Brands and DS Swift departed for pastures new.

Season two introduced DS Hunter (future Doctor Who villain Anthony Ainley), his girlfriend, Claire and her reporter friend, Fred Blaine. Playing the part of, Sebastian, a tearaway ringleader of a group of young juvenile delinquents, was a young Oliver Reed. The series theme song "Where Are You Now (My Love)" became a chart topping hit for Jackie Trent in 1965. Interviewed during season one, actor William Mervyn said of his character: "He's not such a bad old thing really, you know. Quite a jolly fellow at heart." There was indeed a noticeable mellowing of the hitherto supercilious character that Mervyn portrayed and by the time he had moved on to his third series, Mr Rose, in 1967, it was a more diplomatic and peaceful Charles Rose that the viewers encountered. Mr Rose's newfound composure might have had something to do with his early retirement from the Police Force to a quiet little cottage in Eastbourne, which he could afford after receiving an inheritance from two maiden aunts. In any event, he could now concentrate on writing his memoirs based on the many case papers that he had kept during his career on the Force. However, after a career of crime solving retirement became boring in comparison and Mr Rose was soon on the scent of villainy once more although this time as a sleuth in civilian clothing. Aiding and abetting him in his Holmesian-like pursuits were his manservant, John Halifax, secretary Druisilla Lamb and, in the last series Jessica Dalton and Robert Trent. Mr Rose was finally retired from our screens in 1968.

OH BOY! (1958)

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Groundbreaking British music show from the early days of rock n' roll. Click Here for review

OH, BROTHER! (1968)

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Show ImageAlthough not strictly speaking a direct spin-off from All Gas and Gaiters, the 1968 series, Oh, Brother! saw Derek Nimmo reprising virtually the same character in all but name and rank. This time let loose in a monastery, Nimmo starred as Brother Dominic a novice monk at Mountacres Priory, where he trod the thin line between acceptance and expulsion from his holy order. Like Rev Noote in the series before, Nimmo played a character whose clumsiness and ability to say a dozen words where one may have been necessary was frowned upon by some of his peers, most notably Father Matthew (Derek Francis), but supported by the more well meaning such as Father Anselm (Felix Aylmer). Nimmo was by this time considered fairly hot property on British TV and made 'Oh, Brother!' during the run of All Gas and Gaiters. Following the final series he was given his own chat show, If It's Saturday It Must Be Nimmo, before Brother Dominic was promoted to Father Dominic for one series of Oh, Father!, which was then followed by yet another chat show called Just A Nimmo. It seems as though television had quite definitely found Nimmo!

OH NO, IT'S SELWYN FROGGIT (1974)

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Show ImagePopular TV series starring Bill Maynard, one of the most prolific character actors on British television, who here played an inept handyman whose self-confidence is tragically misplaced as he stumbles from one disaster to the next with hopeless ineptitude, but always with a smile on his face and a trademark thumbs up accompanied by a cry of 'Magic!' Bill Maynard was born in 1928 in Farnham, Surrey, but his family moved to Leicester when he was a small boy. He made his first public appearance at the age of 8 in a local working men's club doing a sad monologue. He then tried female impersonating, guitar playing and tap dancing, earning money for lessons by delivering newspapers. At 15 he turned semi-professional footballer with Kettering Town and then Leicester City where a damaged knee put him out of the game for good. Eking out his funds by sleeping in station waiting-rooms, Bill hitch-hiked to more working men's clubs, then to a Butlin's holiday camp at Skegness in 1951 where he appeared as Billy Williams in support of upcoming star Terry Scott. Between holiday seasons he was a coalman, commercial traveller and salesman, then in 1952 he teamed up with Scott again at Butlin's in Filey. He was then given a chance to tour Germany in Piccadilly Hayride and then went to Korea before landing a spot at London's notoriously difficult Windmill Theatre before getting a number of TV appearances on the BBC where he was described as 'a natural for television.'

Successful appearances on Garrison Theatre, Variety Parade and Teleclub were rewarded with a TV series in which he was teamed up with his old pal, Terry Scott, in a series called Great Scott, It's Maynard. During the 1960s Bill gave up television to concentrate on the theatre and was off our screens for seven years before returning in 1967 as a character in the Armchair Theatre presentation, Never Mind The Quality, Feel the Width, which went on to become a successful sitcom (although Bill dikdn't stay on to star in it). Sporadic appearances followed on television (Sykes, Till Death Us Do Part) and in the movies Steptoe and Son Ride Again, as well as the Carry On and Confessions series') and in the early 1970s he came up with the idea of an uncouth character with delusions of culture. The single play (Oh No - It's Selwyn Froggitt) was written by esteemed television playwright, Alan Plater, and was broadcast as one of six single comedies by Yorkshire television in 1974 in the same run that also gave us Rising Damp. Selwyn Froggit (the second 'T' was dropped for the series) is a half-wit. Even to the exasperation of his own mother (Megs Jenkins) and brother (Robert Keegan). He works for the local council and keeps a copy of The Times Literary Supplement tucked up the sleeve of his donkey jacket in the hope that others will consider him an intellectual. But everything he touches turns to disaster and on a good day he might reach the dizzying heights of 'adequate.' He socialises down at the Scarsdale Working Men's Club And Institute where, as a result of a joke, he has been appointed secretary. Here he socialises with his drinking mates, Clive (Richard Davies), Jack (Bill Dean) and Harry (Harold Goodwin) where barman Ray (Ray Mort) serves up pints of Selwyn's favourite brew, 'cooking.'

After three very successful seasons of mayhem in Scarsdale (during which time the trademark thumbs-up accompanied by a cry of 'Magic' became a national catchphrase), Selwyn was uprooted for a spin-off series simply called Selwyn. The series was set in a holiday camp (virtually taking Maynard back to his professional roots), but without Alan Plater's scripts it fell very flat and only lasted one excruciatingly unfunny series (the title of the first episode proved very prophetic: 'A Man for One Season'). Bill Maynard continued to be seen in character parts until the end of the 1980s but then took another extended break from television before returning in 2000 as the hugely popular rogue Claude Greengrass in the nostalgic period drama series Heartbeat.

THE OLD GREY WHISTLE TEST (1971)

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Show Image Unlike BBC1's flagship pop show, Top of the Pops, which concerned itself with the latest chart entries and high risers, The Old Grey Whistle Test was the Corporation's showcase for 'serious' music and as such was presented on the much more cerebral BBC2. The series developed out of Disco 2 (1970-71 introduced by Tommy Vance), itself derived from the earlier Line-Up (1964-72), originally a ten-minute curtain raiser to the evening's programmes on what was at that time British television's newest channel. The 'Old Greys' of the title were the doormen who worked for record companies in the 1920's. The 'test' being that executives would play them the latest compositions, and the ones they heard them whistling later on were the ones that would be sure-fire hits. The series was presented from the start by the former assistant editor of Melody Maker; Richard Williams, but it was another 'paper' man who is most closely associated with the series in the consciousness of the British public; co-founder of Time Out magazine Bob Harris. His easy going and laid-back style of presenting earned him the nickname 'Whispering' Bob Harris and later presenters included Anne Nightingale, Andy Kershaw and Richard Skinner, amongst others. The Old Grey Whistle Test boasted a number of firsts, including the first British TV performance of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as the debut on our screens of The Stone Roses. The series was introduced most famously with an opening graphic of a star-kicking male while the theme music was Stone Fox Chase by Area Code 615 (who made a single appearance on the show in 1978). The series normally featured no more than two bands playing in a sparsely furnished studio and would often feature pre-filmed interviews, one of the most famous being John Lennon who, in 1975 chatted and performed songs from his latest album; Rock 'n' Roll. The series changed its name to simply Whistle Test in 1984 and in 1985 it was the Whistle Test team that presented the BBC's broadcast of the Live Aid concert. Three years later the series was deemed to have run its course and although it was dropped from the schedule its influence can still be seen today in shows such as Later with Jools Holland. In a list of the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, The Old Grey Whistle Test was placed 33rd.

THE OMEGA FACTOR (1979)

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Show ImageLong before The X-Files hit our screens British television explored the unkown with a pair of investigators who worked at a centre for psychic research, seeking out seemingly paranormal activity in an attempt to get a better understanding of the ultimate potential of the Human mind: The Omega Factor. Journalist Tom Crane (James Hazeldine) learns he has psychic powers that have been dormant since he was a child. After his wife dies in a car crash, seemingly engineered by an occultist called Edward Drexel (Cyril Luckham), Tom learns that he has unwittingly been used as a test subject by a secret government unit called Department 7. Their remit is to investigate paranormal phenomena as well as how the mind is effected by hypnosis, brainwashing, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, and spiritual possession. Crane joins the Department whose members include physicist Dr. Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson) and psychiatrist Dr Roy Martindale (John Carlisle). His own psychic gift leads Crane to think he may have stumbled on a conspiracy by a mysterious organisation called Omega to take over the world using mind control. The series very quickly came under attack by the National Viewers and Listeners Association, its Honourary General Secretary Mrs Mary Whitehouse citing one particular episode as "one of the most disturbing programmes I have ever seen on television." Produced by the BBC Scotland arm of the BBC, the series was shot on location in Edinburgh almost entirely on videotape. Although the final episode resolved several of the subplots it also ended ambiguously suggesting a second season was planned. However, although critically well received the ratings were particularly poor and series creator Jack Gerson had already moved on to his next project, The Assassination Run. There is nothing to suggest that the series would have carried on beyond the 10 episodes.

ON THE BUSES (1969)

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Show Image Commissioned by then Head of Comedy for LWT, Frank Muir, and written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe who had previously devised The Rag Trade, On The Buses, rejected by the BBC, was typical 1970's fare of vulgar innuendo and corny situations played to perfection by its colourful cast. Former music hall variety man Reg Varney (who had starred in the two Ronald's earlier series), played downtrodden but ever hopeful Stan Butler, a bus driver for the Luxton Bus Company working the Number 11 route to the cemetery gates. Together with his bus conductor partner Jack (Bob Grant), the plots usually revolved around the twosomes attempts to woo the mini skirted, big-busted female employees who worked as 'Clippies' (Bus Conductresses) for the same company. Bain of their life was the humourless Inspector Blake (Stephen Lewis), who tried in vain to catch the chirpy pair up to no good so he could dismiss them. Blakey's catchphrase "I 'ate you, Butler" was quickly adopted by the viewing public.

At home Stan's life was not much better, living with his mother (Cicely Courtneidge, who was later replaced by Doris Hare), his dowdy sister Olive (Anna Karen, who later starred in a revival of The Rag Trade playing the same character, and later still starred in EastEnders as Peg Mitchell's sister), and her layabout husband Arthur (Michael Robbins). When Olive became pregnant she told Arthur that the doctor had informed her that her husband would have to go without his 'little pleasures' for a while, to which Arthur replied, "Oh no, I'm not going without my football!" A bus garage owned by the Eastern National Bus Company in London's Wood Green area provided exterior shots after London Transport refused to cooperate, stating in a letter to the producers that they felt it (the series) might damage their image. The series became a smash hit for LWT and the letter was framed and hung in the production office by original director Stuart Allen. The series success spilled over to the big screen and no less than three feature films were given cinema releases, the first of which was the highest earning British film of 1971, even overtaking James Bond (Diamonds are Forever) in box office takings.

The format sold to the USA as Lotsa Luck, starring Dom DeLuise as Stan Belmont, a lost property clerk for the New York bus department. However, the show was not a success and has never been aired in the UK. A number of cast members left before the end of the seventh and final series. Michael Robbins quit at the end of series 6, his character was said to have finally walked out on Olive and even the main star, Reg Varney, bowed out half way through the final excursion as Stan found new employment in the Midlands. His place in the diminishing Butler household was taken by a lodger - Inspector Blake. By this time the two Ronald's had relinquished much of the writing and Bob Grant and Stephen Lewis were contributing scripts, as were George Layton and Jonathan Lynn. Lewis took his Blakey character to a spin-off series Don't Drink The Water, which saw him moving to a retirement home in Spain with his spinster sister (Pat Coombs) in 1974.

ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE (1990)

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Show Image Striking a vividly hilarious blow for the cast-aside and unwillingly disenfranchised elder section of British society for the first time on television screens in 1990, writer and creator David Renwick's BBC1 situation comedy, One Foot In The Grave, and especially it's outrageously intolerant central character of Victor Meldrew, quickly and effortlessly ranted and raved its way into the position of a genuine latter-day comedy classic. Memorably portrayed by the highly regarded Scottish character actor Richard Wilson, Victor Meldrew's at times almost insanely surreal battle against enforced retirement and the untold tiny daily inequalities of life for the members of the older generation, gave rise to a plethora of perfectly observed episodes of comedic quality, which nevertheless still managed to hit home a number of wryly observed perceptive points about everything from life, love, sex and death, played out against a middle class suburban backdrop which was instantly recognisable to the entire viewing nation. As important as the carefully crafted, polished professionalism of Renwick's scripts undoubtedly were, the series greatest strength was drawn from the perfectly pitched depth and believability of the central core relationship between the ever enraged Victor and his gentle, long suffering wife Margaret, as personified by Wilson and as his more than equally well matched foil, the ever reliable, talented and personable Annette Crosbie. Unceremoniously retired from his job as a security guard (he was replaced by an electronic black box), amateur ventriloquist Meldrew was faced with little prospect of finding another job, and therefore forced into early retirement. In 1992 the Meldrew's moved to a new housing estate in Bournemouth, where Victor wasted no time in alienating himself with next door neighbour Patrick (Angus Deayton), and his wife Pippa (Janine Duvitski). On the other side lived the cheerful, but terminally boring Nick Swainey (Owen Brenman) and his invalid mother. Another frequent visitor to the Meldrew household was Margaret's friend Jean Warboys (Doreen Mantle).

Over the course of the serie's decade long run, viewers were treated to an almost unending barrage of quick fire, perfectly executed sight gags, running jokes and sometimes almost painfully emotional moments, which elevated the series into the rarefied upper echelons of high class comedy. The character of Victor and his never-ending, but ultimately futile fight against being cast on to the barren scrap heap of retirement, made Richard Wilson a national comedy icon, who's place in the British consciousness will endure for generations to come. While his embattled, incredulous catch-phrase of "I don't believe it!!!" now holds a much-loved place in the everyday vocabulary of untold numbers of people across the nation. On the evening of Monday November 20th, 2000, writer Renwick finally called time on the on-going frustration which was his most enduring creation's everyday life, and invited the Grim Reaper to ease Victor's burden by relieving him of his life via a hit-and-run motor accident. Related entirely in flashback, the perfectly played and expertly written finale was an emotionally charged, sadness and regret filled comedy of blackness with a wonderfully dark and morally ambiguous ending. Although the series has reached the end of its original life span, the comedic memory of Victor Meldrew's acerbic hilarity will, thankfully, continue to be a shining beacon of wonderfully crafted comedy genius for as long as viewers continue to appreciate truly creative situation comedy. (Review: Stephen R. Hulse)

ONE SUMMER (1983)

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Show Image This is the story of two Liverpool youths (played by David Morrisey and Spencer Leigh) who go to the hills and valleys of Wales to enjoy a peaceful life. They come from the Liverpool of 1983, a tough gritty, uncompromising city a long way from the magical days of the Beatles. For the teenagers, Billy and Icky, things are getting a little too close for comfort. Like brushes with the police, the spectre of unemployment and the attentions of rival gangs. However they don't find the calm idyllic life they expect. They have people like Kidder to contend with - a strange man, a loner who could very well change their lives. Sharply observed and written with both sympathy and a sense of humour, this critical and commercial success was created and written by reknowned Liverpool playwright Willy Russell. A five part television serial written in 1980, produced by Yorkshire TV for Channel 4 and transmitted in August 1983. This proved a highly controversial production which lead to Willy Russell, unhappy with aspects of the production, to have his name removed from the credits. Despite plenty of press coverage at the time, it is still not completely clear what the exact disagreements were, but Russell's name did reappear in later rerun screenings, and was credited in ITV publicity from 1985. Originally Granada Media stated the programme would not be released on DVD due to restrictions placed on it by Willy Russell but whatever the differences these seemed to have been resolved and the series was released by Network in 2007. Produced by Keith Richardson of Yorkshire TV for Channel 4 and directed by Gordon Flemyng.

THE ONEDIN LINE (1971)

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Show Image Beginning life in 1970 as a one-off Drama Playhouse presentation, The Onedin Line was a typical piece of BBC period costume drama that the corporation have so often excelled in. Telling the story of James Onedin (Peter Gilmore), a 19th-century ship's master from Liverpool, whose burning ambition was to own a fleet of sailing vessels, the original production opened in 1860 as Onedin inherited the smallest part of his late fathers estate -just £25.00. With his windfall he purchased a three-mast schooner by the name of the Charlotte Rose, and set about building his business empire. However, as part of the purchase agreement Onedin agreed to marry Anne (Sheila Allen) the daughter of the ships former owner, Captain Webster (James Hayter). The series followed Onedin's career (accompanied by the his faithful Captain Baines -Howard Lang-) as he hopped from boardroom to bedroom to briny sea, along the way remarrying twice. Years after his first wife (Anne Stallybrass in the series), had died giving birth to his daughter, Charlotte (Laura Hartong), James married Letty Gaunt (Jill Gascoigne -later to star in the ITV crime drama The Gentle Touch), but she died too, and by the end of the series run James was married to a Spanish widow by the name of Margarita Juarez (Roberta Iger). The series ran for nine years (taking the Onedin saga up to 1886) and also gave early TV appearances to Jane Seymour and Kate Nelligan. Location filming was shot off Charlestown and Dartmouth in Devon and the series stirring theme tune was Aram Khachaturyan's 'Spartacus'.

ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES (1981)

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Show Image Rumour has it that creator John Sullivan was initially unhappy about the choice of actor to play his South London 'Wide Boy' Derek Trotter. David Jason had appeared in numerous comedy series since the mid-sixties including Do Not Adjust Your Set (a forerunner to Monty Python's Flying Circus), and Open All Hours. However, Sullivan didn't envisage the well-respected character actor as being able to carry off the role of the dodgy market trader, with an eye for flogging 'iffy' goods to the unsuspecting public. The Trotter family which consisted of naive younger brother Rodney and their Grandad very soon became the best known characters on British television and 'Del Boy' became something of a national institution. In later years the specials became as traditional Christmas fayre as roast turkey, taking over from The Morecambe and Wise Show as the nation's favourite festive programme. In common with the rest of the very finest classic situation comedies, especially those produced in Britain, the true core of the series' success lay in the well-drawn and understatedly developed dynamics of the Trotter family's complex emotional interdependence. In the finely observed and beautifully acted central surrogate father/mother/elder brother relationship of Del and Rodney, the creative triumvirate of Sullivan, Jason and Lyndhurst delivered to appreciative viewers a touchingly warm bond between the characters, which was almost the mirror image of the snide, ultimately pathetic one depicted in the earlier classic character-driven Steptoe and Son. (A series which perhaps surprisingly, in many respects shares much in common with the later Only Fools and Horses episodes).

The programme faced the first genuinely crucial test to its continued success however in 1985 when the death of Granddad actor Lennard Pearce threatened to seriously destabilise the core dynamic which was a significantly large part of the show's appeal. Faced with what was potentially a make-or-break decision, writer Sullivan opted to deal with the problem by carrying the real life loss of Pearce over into the Trotter's fictional universe by examining the emotional repercussions for Del and Rodney caused by the loss of the senior member of the Trotter clan. At the same time, Sullivan undertook the risky gamble of introducing the character of the slightly bumbling, slightly more soggy than salty, old seadog, Uncle Albert to fill the void left in the original triumvirate by Granddad's death. Such a move could have proven disastrous. But thanks to the combination of Sullivan's writing prowess investing the Albert character with his own distinctive personality, and former bank manager turned actor Buster Merryfield's natural comedy flair and subtle adoption of elements of body language from both Jason and Pearce's physical performances, from the outset Uncle Albert appears so obviously naturally a Trotter that his integration into the fabric of the show is impressively seamless. By the time Uncle Albert became solidly ensconced in his comfy old armchair in 368 Nelson Mandela House, through the sharply observational writing of Sullivan, the Trotters had built up a stable of close friends including the hysterically dim-witted road sweeper Trigger, used car dealer Boycie, barman Mike and Rodney's coarse friend Mickey Pearce.

Although the series proper ran for ten years from 1981 to 1991 it continued through the Christmas Specials until 1996 when a final three-part story saw Del, Rodney and Albert walk of into the sunset having become richer to the tune of £6 million. A record (for a sitcom) 23.45 million viewers tuned in for the final episode in the life of the Trotters, and although there was rumour of a 'Millennium Special' a one-off revival didn't transpire until 2001 for a Christmas edition which suffered from the absence of two of the series stalwarts, following the death's of both Buster Merryfield and Kenneth MacDonald. Further 'specials' appeared to suffer from a lack of sharpness in both script and (surpisingly) performances and many fans and critics alike felt that it was a mistake to revisit the Trotter homestead, where British sitcom arguably enjoyed some of it's finest hours.

Derek's pseudo French, his description of his younger brother as a 'Plonker', and his 'you know it makes sense' philosophy all found their way into everyday British life. Ultimately, the misadventures of the Trotter family seems to hold the considerable distinction of being, thus far, one of the last of the genuinely 'classic' comedies produced by British television-to find a warmly welcomed place within the collective hearts of the viewing public. By turns warm, witty, touching and hysterical, Only Fools and Horses is quite simply a prime example of world-class situation comedy at its absolute finest. Cushty! (Co-writer: Stephen R. Hulse)

ONLY WHEN I LAUGH (1979)

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Show Image Set in an NHS hospital where the same three seemingly permanent patients, all congenital hypochondriacs, are forever playing a game of one-upmanship with each other, much to the irritation of house surgeon Dr Gordon Thorpe, played by the excellent Richard Wilson. James Bolam, in his first comedy since Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads plays Roy Figgis, a lorry driver who has an opinion on most things be it politics, social issues or medicine, all of which he is a self confessed expert on. One gets the idea that he'd rather talk than work and in the confines of a small hopsital ward he is in his element. He delights mostly in winding up the staff and patients, in particular the hapless and effete Norman Binns (Christopher Strauli), upper-class snob Archie Glover (Peter Bowles) and the ward orderly Gupte (Derrick Branche). The series was written by Eric Chappell who was following on from the hugely popular Rising Damp. Once again Chappell benefitted form an excellent ensemble cast who relished every line of his witty, sparkling script and the series was a huge ratings success for ITV running for four series from 1979 to 1982. C4 repeated the series in 1994 to great viewer reception and it is now available, season by season or in its entirety, on DVD.

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