Reviews

OPEN ALL HOURS (1973)

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Show ImageOne of two tales from Seven of One, the collection of single comedies that was spun-off into a full series (the other was Porridge) starring Ronnie Barker, in this case playing the part of stuttering Yorkshire shop-keeper, Arkwright. The show only received modest ratings on its first showing on BBC2, but a subsequent repeat run on BBC1 took it straight to the top of the charts. Penned by former schoolteacher and corner-shop worker Roy Clarke, who had also utilised his experience as a policeman to write the comedy series Rosie, Open All Hours was another of Barker's finest comedy half hours as the mean, penny-pinching corner shopkeeper who, in between hoodwinking his customers and bullying his nephew/assistant, Granville, lusted after the buxom nurse Gladys Emmanuel. Had Barker relied solely on Arkwright's stutter for laughs the BBC would no doubt had been deluged by complaints. But this was only one facet of a well-rounded comedy character that employed physical as well as verbal humour, not least of all in his attempts to place money in the shop's till, which, when closed would snap shut with all the ferocity and speed of a hungry killer shark's jaw, symbolically reflecting the character of its user, who would stoop to whatever level necessary in order to save money, whilst divesting others of their own hard earned cash. Equally adept at both verbal and physical comedy was Barker's co-star, the talented David Jason, as Granville-the nephew of questionable parentage (at least on his father's side), who was resigned to a life devoid of the excitement, foreign travel and romantic relationships that he so longed for (although there was a brief romance with the milkwoman (Barbara Flynn). Making up the quartet of regulars was Lynda Baron (Sheila Brennan in the pilot), as the district nurse who lived opposite and tended after her sick mother (who was oft mentioned but never seen), whilst fighting off the (not always unwanted) attentions of Arkwright. Although their relationship was never consummated, there was always the suggestion that given the right circumstances... External shots for the series were filmed outside a corner shop in Lister Avenue, Doncaster and the premises was actually a hairdressing salon given a make-over by BBC designers.

In 2013 Arkwright's corner store was found still to be open for business in a one-off special called Still Open All Hours. Following the death of Albert Arkwright the business had been inherited by Granville who had also inherited many of his uncle's traits, especially frugality. Now in charge but still very much in Arkwright's image, Granville is helped by his son, Leroy. Many of the regular customers are still around including the 'Black Widow,' Mrs Featherstone (Stephanie Cole) and Nurse Gladys who laments that the old man had died "rather than pay for a wedding." Critics were divided on this revisit perhaps unfairly harking to Barker and his absence. Who hasn't often wondered what happened to their favourite TV characters after a series has ended? As a nostalgic one-off visit to characters and (generally) situation comedy of the past Still Open All Hours more than stood on its own merit.

THE ORGANISATION (1972)

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Show ImageAmusingly odd allegory about a multi-million pound, multi-interest corporation (Greatrick Co.) - dedicated to making more millions. Working at its headquarters are people who hate its power, love it, suffer it. The series stars Donald Sinden, Anton Rodgers, Peter Egan, Jill Melford, Elaine Taylor, Bernard Hepton and Norman Bird and explores how The Organisation uses the men and women it employs. Interviewed in the TV Times (15th April 1972) for a series preview article, writer Philip Mackie (best known for his adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant) explained that his inspiration for the series came about by having worked in five large organisations and observing the management games each played. "Seventy five British bosses were interviewed and asked what they saw as desirable qualities in a young man who aimed at getting to the top. Their replies showed that the future boss was expected to be honest rather than witty, hard-working rather than brilliant-and not too ambitious." Mackie's series isn't really about the bosses. "It's about the people one or two steps down the ladder-the middle and junior executives: the people who have to do what the boss decides, whether they like it or not." The series begins with wannabe young executive Richard Pershore (Egan) looking for a job in The Organisation and follows him each week as he moves up the corporate ladder. Along the way he encounters the corporate stereotypes; the downtrodden PR man, the female exec who has been sleeping with the Chairman and the guy who, to the annoyance of everyone else simply won't retire as well as the secretary who knows where all the skeletons are hidden. Pershore is soon a rising star and thinks that where his future is concerned, he knows best. But when his boss (Sinden) starts to take an interest in his career his colleagues in The Organisation think they know even better. Witty, insightful and sharply written with a sting in its tail, The Organisation is long overdue for a DVD release.

ORLANDO (1965)

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Show ImageOrlando O'Connor (Sam Kydd) originally appeared in the Moroccan based adventure series Crane, as the beachcomber friend to Patrick Allen's lead character. In 1965 he was returned to England for this children's teatime series, which ran for three years. Filmed mostly around London's (as yet) undeveloped Docklands area, the stories centred round a detective agency that had been inherited by two youngsters, Steve (David Munro) and Jenny Morgan (Judy Robinson). In their first adventure they teamed up with Orlando, who was trying to find the murderer of an ex-Navy friend, whom Orlando had hoped would help him establish a boat-building enterprise. From then on the trio stayed together solving all manner of cases with the aid of a supposedly magic Arabic charm called a 'Gizzmo'.

OSS (1958)

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Show Image Ron Randell and Robert Gallico starred as agents Frank Hawthorne and Sgt O'Brien working for the Office of Strategic Services during World War ll. Both men received their orders from Lionel Murton as 'The Chief' and the series was allegedly based on a real organisation of the same name, which was disbanded after the war and was in fact the precursor to the CIA. Co-producer William Eliscu had himself served in the agency, adding some semblance of authenticity to the stories, which usually involved rescue and sabotage missions behind enemy lines.

OUR HOUSE (1960)

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Show ImageThe first, but definitely not the last conversion to television of the 'Carry On...' series of films, Our House was created and principally written by Norman Huddis, who had penned the first five Carry On movies, which began with Carry On Sergeant in 1958. In the opening episode ('Moving Into Our House') two couples and five individuals meet at an estate agent's and realise that if they pool their resources they can buy a house big enough to accommodate them all. Hattie Jacques as librarian Georgina Ruddy, who was forced to keep quiet at work and so made up for it by being extremely noisy at home, was arguably the star of the series. Charles Hawtrey was council official Simon Willow and Joan Sims starred as the unemployable Daisy Burke. The artistic newly-wed Hatton's were played by Trader Faulkner and Leigh Madison, retired Yorkshire sea dog Captain Iliffe and his French violinist wife were played by Frank Pettingell and Ina de la Haye, respectively. Herbert Keene was shy and persecuted bank clerk, Frederick Peisley, and the final resident was Norman Rossington as law student, Gordon Brent. The series initially ran for 13 episodes of 55-minute duration and were seen at 3.25pm on a Sunday afternoon from September to December 1960. It was then off the screen for exactly one year before returning with a host of new stars replacing those missing from the first series (Faulkner, Sims, Rossington, Pettingell and de la Haye). Adding to the Carry On connection was Bernard Bresslaw (even though he would not join the movie series until Carry On Cowboy in 1965), and Hylda Baker as Henrietta. Euginie Cavanagh starred as Marina. Johnny Vyvyan and Harry Korris also appeared. As in the first series not all the characters appeared every week. Although series two of Our House was comprised of 26 episodes of 45-minute duration, after just seven fortnightly airings ITV decided to stop showing them in the London area, and the remaining 19 were seen on a weekly basis elsewhere in the country. Of the 39 episodes in total (produced by Ernest Maxin) only four survive today, and although not aired since series two finished in 1962, they have recently been released on DVD.

OUR MAN AT ST. MARK'S (1960)

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Show Image Light hearted but superior comedy series originally starring 1960's 'super smoothie' and womanising cad, Leslie Phillips, as the somewhat eccentric Reverand Andrew Parker. The show was similar to a US series that had premiered a year before called Going My Way, which starred Gene Kelly and was itself based on a 1944 Bing Crosby movie. St Mark's was situated in a rural parish at the centre of the village of Felgate (in reality Denham Village, Buckinghamshire), and focused on Andrew Parker's day-to-day exploits as he wove his way in and out of the lives of his parishioners. Unusually for this period, Parker had a girlfriend, Anne Gibson (Anne Lawson), and a housekeeper; Mrs Pace (Joan Hickson) also assisted him. However, after the first series (which made its way to number three in the ratings), Parker moved on to pastures new and another vicar, Stephen Young (Donald Sinden -pictured above), moved in. For the third series the tone was set a bit darker when more serious social issues were addressed, although for light relief another character was added in the form of reformed crook Harry the Yo-Yo (Harry Fowler), who was so called because he was always in and out of prison. For the fourth series yet another change took place. Stephen Young moved from Felgate to Lynchester where he was promoted to Archdeacon. The series title was subtly changed to Our Man From St Mark's.

OUT OF THE UNKNOWN (1965)

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Show Image Adapting stories from some of the finest writers in the literary science fiction field, including such greats as Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham, Ray Bradbury and Frederick Pohl, Out of the Unknown premiered on BBC 2 in December 1965 and ran for four seasons, the first two being broadcast in black and white with the latter two in colour. The series became a focus for some of the most creative talent working in the industry at the time, due in no small part to the inspirational driving force of gifted original producer Irene Shubik, who had joined ABC television in 1960 working on the anthology series Armchair Theatre' under prolific TV producer Sydney Newman. In 1961 Shubik approached Newman with an idea to do a science fiction version of Armchair Theatre. Newman, a big science fiction fan himself, agreed and the result was Out of this World (see review below), a sixty minute anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff. When Newman joined the BBC in 1962 he took a number of individuals with him. Shubik was among the first of these talents, and was quickly put to work as story editor of another anthology series Story Parade. One particular episode, broadcast in 1964, was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's novel 'The Caves of Steel,' starring Peter Cushing. Shubik then turned to Newman once more with an idea to do yet another science fiction anthology series. Once again he agreed and Shubik set about developing the series that would become Out of the Unknown.

"I had to read hundreds of stories to pick a dozen." She later recalled. "You have no idea how difficult some of these authors are to deal with, and it seems a special thing among SF writers to hedge themselves behind almost impossible copyright barriers, even when they have got a story that is possible to do on television. So many you can't. Either the conception is so way out you would need a fantastic budget to produce it, or the story is too short, too tight to be padded out to make an hour's television." Nontheless, she overcame these barriers and a number of top flight dramatists contributed to the first season including the likes of Dalek co-creator, Terry Nation, Leon Griffiths and Bruce Stewart (later to go on to script the first Timeslip stories for ATV), all of whom had worked with Shubik on Out of This World. Directors included Philip Saville (Boys from the Blackstuff), and Peter Sasdy, and as one of the production series designers, future major motion picture director/producer, Ridley Scott. The acting talent attracted to the series was equally as impressive, attracting such high-calibre performers as David Hemmings, Milo O'Shea, Warren Mitchell, Donald Houston, Rachel Roberts, George Cole, Ed Begley and Marius Goring to name but a few.

As an anthology series, one of Out of the Unknown's greatest strengths was the sheer diversity of styles it could offer up to the audience. Wisely opting to bypass the 'bug-eyed monster' aspect of genre, it instead opted to highlight the more sophisticated, adult areas of the source literature. During the course of the first two seasons, the eclectic range and consistent quality of the single plays presented up to the viewing audience offered an enviably high standard of intellectually thought provoking drama. However, the final two seasons under the stewardship of newly appointed replacement producer, Alan Bromly, saw an unexpected shift in style away from the more overtly science fictional and more towards what Bromly termed at the time, 'plays of psychological suspense'. Gradually at first, season three began the inexorable shift towards all out supernatural thrills, a transition which became total in the fourth and final season. In an interview for the Radio Times Bromly explained his decision to ease the series away from pure science fiction thus: 'To do these things really successfully must involve you in spending an enormous amount of money on special effects . . . which is beyond the reach of television.' He continued: 'When everybody has seen men walking on the moon and sat through a cliff-hanger about getting them back alive, then just setting a story somewhere in space is not, you can see, the automatic thrill it was.' Although Bromly's tenure did see some notable contributions by the likes of Michael J. Bird and the prolifically talented creator of the legendary Quatermass, Nigel Kneale, Out of the Unknown had effectively ceased to be the series that had once drawn such popular acclaim. It's passing at the end of the fourth season, sadly, effectively heralded the end of the classic, home-produced, science fiction anthology series. At its peak, Out of the Unknown was a quality high water mark series, artfully produced, skillfully scripted and acted, it consistently treated both viewer and source material with an implicit intelligence and respect that few drama strands in any genre could equal, much less hope to match. (Review: A Humar)

OUT OF THIS WORLD (1962)

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Show Image British TV's first attempt at a science fiction anthology, Out of This World ran for thirteen episodes on ATV in 1962. Sadly, only one episode survives. The introductory episode, John Wyndham's Dumb Martian (produced by Sydney Newman), was actually shown as part of ATV's popular Armchair Theatre series (24/06/1962), in order to retain a captive audience for this untried genre, which started the following week. Out of This World was an hour-long series that featured dramatisations of short stories by popular fantasy writers such as Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Clifford Simak. Terry Nation adapted two scripts as well as writing 'Botony Bay,' in which a psychiatry student (William Gaunt) discovers that his patients are possessed by aliens. He kills one of them, and in a bitter twist, is committed to the same institution. The series also featured many familiar TV names such as Nigel Stock, Peter Wyngarde, Patrick Allen, Milo O'Shea and Paul Eddington. The series producer was Irene Shubik, who went on to mastermind BBC 2's Out of the Unknown series in 1965. Horror master Boris Karloff introduced each episode and the series proved a great success paving the way for future science fiction series such as Doctor Who. The only episode that has survived is 'Little Lost Robot,' an adaptation of an Asimov story, the rest (including 'The Dumb Martian') were wiped.

OUT OF TOWN (1963)

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A series of delightful expeditions through the English countryside. Click Here for review

THE OUTLAWS (1960)

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Show Image The Outlaws ran from 1960 to 1962 during which time its perspective shifted from the Wild West as seen through the eyes of the outlaws themselves, to the views of the US Marshal's that pursued them. Series one featured Marshal Frank Caine (Barton MacLane) and his two deputies, Will Foreman (Don Collier) and Heck Martin (Jock Gaynor) and the setting was the Oklahoma Territory in the 1880's. However, when it returned in 1961 both Caine and Martin had gone whilst Foreman received a promotion and the action switched to the small town of Stillwater. The new regulars consisted of Deputy Chalk Beeson (Bruce Yarnell), a handyman drifter named Slim (Slim Pickens), and restaurant proprietress Connie Masters (Judy Lewis). Blond 6ft tall Don Collier had appeared in touring shows and repertory before landing the part of Will Foreman, whilst accomplished recording artist Yarnell already had two Broadway successes behind him, including the US Theatre World's "most promising performance" award for the romantic lead in the New York production of The Happiest Girl in the World. Veteran character actor Slim Pickens, who had begun performing in Western Rodeo's at the age of twelve, had appeared in scores of Western movies as well as almost every major Hollywood TV series. Judy Lewis was the daughter of famed screen actress Loretta Young and had previously been seen in another TV series, 77 Sunset Strip.

OUTSIDE EDGE (1994)

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Show Image Comedienne and actress Josie Lawrence teamed up with Timothy Spall as Kevin and Maggie Costello in this award-winning series. She's larger than life, wears big red glasses, get-'em-off clothes and a bright gash of lipstick, he's short, chunky and a whiz at whipping up a gourmet meal. Their bohemian lovenest is in need of repair and so is their battered Renault 4, but it doesn't matter as they are crazy about each other and make love wherever the mood takes them! As different as chalk and cheese are Mim and Roger Dervish (Brenda Blethyn and Robert Daws). Once a leading light in the operatic society, Mim's got a good face and figure but dresses in an ordinary way. Husband Roger drives a Volvo, reads the Daily Telegraph and is captain of the local cricket club. He eats, drinks and sleeps the game...and even dreams about it too! The village cricket team is the catalyst that brings these two odd couples together in a bitter-sweet comedy that's as sharp on the pitch as it is off. Against the backdrop of a never-ending summer, a close friendship blossoms between the two women. Under Maggie's outgoing influence, prim and proper Mim discovers an independent streak that's been stifled too long by Roger and the shock waves are set to reverberate around cosy suburbia as the two couples are thrust together in a chain of events guaranteed to set the net curtains twitching. For Mim and Roger things will never be the same again. The series won the British Comedy Award for best drama in 1995 and 1996 and won it's creator/writer Richard Harris a Writer's Guild of Great Britain award for best situaiton comedy in 1994. Brenda Blethyn won a British Comedy award for Best Actress in 1994 and both Josie Lawrence and Robert Daws were nominated for Best Actress and Actor (respectively) in 1995. Outside Edge started life as a play by Richard Harris which opened at the Hampstead Theatre in London on 24 July 1979. The original cast featured Julia McKenzie and Maureen Lipman and a 1982 one-off TV production starred Lipman and Prunella Scales with Paul Eddington and Jonathan Lynn playing the male characters.

THE OWL SERVICE (1969)

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Strange goings on at a country farmhouse. Click Here for review