The great British sitcom

Discussion in 'TV Central' started by Mel O’Drama, Sep 17, 2016.

  1. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Addict

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    Here in Oz Are You Being Served? is being screened late in the afternoon. Since most of the NEWS is rather depressing these days I find myself watching the gang on AYBS, if time permits. For a show that began in 1972 I still find myself laughing out loud, especially at Mrs. Slocombe. Her rant the other day, "Weak as water" had me in hysterics. The scenes which occurred in Mr Rumbold's office between Captain Peacock and Mr Rumbold is typical of middle management and still reflects how incompetent they still can be. This show has always been a firm favourite of mine. Good British humour.
     
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  2. Walford Boy

    Walford Boy Soap Chat Fan

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    Yes one of favourites also. Any thing that has David Crofts name on is gold.
     
  3. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It seems The Young Ones really was a series of two halves. I didn't care for the first at all, but the second continued to be very enjoyable and even rather blooming brilliant. The quirkiness and adventurous themes such as time travel reminded me of some great animated shows like Futurama that would come years later.

    This is not a show that can be watched while eating. Not unless you have a stronger stomach than mine for all things snotty. Thankfully, the episode title of Sick was a bit of a red flag that it would lean towards the gross out. I'm so glad I delayed eating my Rachel's Gooseberry yogurt as I don't think I would have enjoyed it at all during the show.

    For a twelve episode show this has really made a lasting impression on the sitcom landscape. I'm glad they opted for Fawlty Towers type restraint in the output. I'd just watched enough to find the series endearing and to get it and it's ended. So I'm wanting more which leaves me open to rewatching at some point. As it is there's a whole disc of bonus material which I'm now feeling the urge to have a peek at.
     
  4. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Star

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    That is one of the shows I aim to get (boxset) by way of completing my DVD collection, I recently got 'Allo 'Allo and somehow it seems to have been very much underrated, there really is some truly hilarious stuff in it.

    Swami
     
  5. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My Are You Being Served Complete Package box set is currently sitting next to my Blu-ray player. I got it out as a potential rewatch but opted for The Young Ones as I hadn't seen the latter series in full.

    Now I've finished The Young Ones, I'm trying to decide whether to put both it and AYBS away and watch something else or whether to put just TYO away and dive into AYBS. In fact it's not very long since I last watched it. Maybe only two or three years. But the same was true for Keeping Up Appearances, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching that for the umpteenth time. So watch this space.
     
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  6. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Star

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    Keeping Up Appearances is definitely an essential purchase, lots of quality writing and great acting performances.

    Swami
     
  7. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I went with the former. My next pick is something completely new to me.

    Despite reading that it was nominated for numerous BAFTAs and aired in a peak slot I don't remember it being aired - even in repeats. Nor do I recall hearing anyone mention it. Ever. It only came onto my radar through the ever-reliable Network On Air and was an impulse buy during one of their sales.

    With one of the two leading actors being one of Broadway's leading ladies I did wonder if it counts as a Britcom, but just a few minutes in there's no mistaking that this is a vintage ITV sitcom.

    So on I press with Two's Company:


    [​IMG]


    Familiar as her name is to me (and I'm not 100% sure why), Elaine Stritch is not an actor I'm hugely familiar with. A brief look at her screen CV suggests there may be some things I've seen her in. I dare say I've happened across Cocoon: The Return at least once. Perhaps I've viewed one of her Tales Of The Unexpected appearances. Seeing that she performed in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory on Jackanory has a very familiar ring to it. I feel pretty confident I saw that. Indeed, the prospect of Stritch appearing on the show, no doubt sandwiched between stories read by the very proper and very British Kenneth Williams and Bernard Cribbins*, seems so unlikely I imagine that must surely be my lingering memory of her, unclear as it is.

    * Having just looked on IMDb, it seems Charlie was actually shown after The Unsuitable Suits, narrated by none other than Kenneth Williams. Following on from Charlie was The Hobbit. Included in its cast was Bernard Cribbins. The chances of me being at least half right were probably quite good. All the same I'm quite amused.

    A little more reading tells me that Stritch was in the running to play Dorothy on The Golden Girls, and I'm sure I would have read her name in that context. So that may also explain the familiarity of the name. Before being reminded of this I had thought when watching last night that she has some of that wonderful Bea Arthur attitude. The person she reminds me of most so far is Sharon Gless. There's something about her sparky East Coast delivery; the way the most innocuous line can be read as sounding a little angry, confrontational and accusatory - like she's trying to start an argument.

    All of which, of course, makes her the perfect foil for tireless British gentleman Donald Sinden, with a polite but cutting comeback for each of Dorothy's quips. The sparks are really flying between these two. I love how stagey the whole setup is. All three episodes so far have been set entirely in Dorothy's home. It's all set based with no location work whatsoever so far. And the cast is minimal. The second and third episodes had three additional actors between them. The first episode was a proper two-hander with no other characters at all (just a few extras playing removal men as the end credits rolled). It feels like a very bold move for a sitcom to have an entire half hour with just two people onscreen in dialogue heavy scenes. No wacky neighbours or interfering mothers. Just two great stage actors holding the audience's attention and not letting it go for a moment. And what better way to get to know the characters' idiosyncrasies and see the chemistry at work?

    Sinden was the draw for me here. I most associate him with Eighties sitcom Never The Twain where his elongated vowels paired with his character's seemingly permanent indignation and self righteousness made him a hit with me. It was essentially a caricature performance, but an effective one - certainly to my young eyes (it's many, many years since I last watched it).

    Recently I watched Sinden in a 1981 production of Present Laughter, part of a Coward box set of mine. Unlike the other features in the set, which were made in TV studios, Present Laughter was filmed live in a theatre with an audience and I saw him in a completely new light. I'm glad to have had the opportunity to see a full theatre performance of his - even if it was only on DVD. The energy throughout was very impressive indeed.

    The theatrical pedigree of the two performers starring in this LWT sitcom made me think of the Knotsian Jacobs/Filerman philosophy of combining art and trash to make television. Perhaps that applies here. It certainly feels like good television so far.
     
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  8. Richard Channing

    Richard Channing Soap Chat Addict

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    If you are enjoying Elaine Stritch I highly recommend the recent documentary Elaine Stritch : Shoot me. I knew little about her before watching it but was totally enthralled by her. A very funny lady with a very gutsy, no nonsense approach to everything. An excellent doc. It's on netflix.
     
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  9. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The show you describe, where there's basically two actors and a lot of dialogue without location work and such, sounds similar to a "filmed play", which would be much more attractive to theater-based actors like Stritch than the three-camera/laugh-track/multiple-takes sitcoms we typically see. TV/film actors have to have a lot different skills than stage actors (and vice versa) to be successful. Stage actors have to project their voice and movements a lot more (in service to the attendees in the back row) but that sort of behavior would look silly in a TV show, where the microphones and cameras are right in your face. Films don't forgive ad-libbing or mistakes in lines--they simply stop and start over, which is obviously not done in a stage play. There are many theater actors (in the mold of Stritch) who won't do a lot of television or film because of the conceits that have to be made for cameras and filming, though I have seen her in a few TV projects over the years. My guess is that this show appealed to her because it had a "theater" feel to it.

    I saw a clip on youtube where Stritch (as part of her stage show) told the audience about her "brush with Dorothy Zbornak". Nobody (certainly not her) appeared to know the show would become what it did, and she told the story as if it were "the one that got away"...but in her typical style, she just shrugged it off. I also recall her saying "the folks at CBS" were developing the show. I always wondered if she was just recalling the circumstances wrong (it aired on NBC) or if CBS really did want to produce the show and NBC somehow swooped in and grabbed it.
     
  10. Swami

    Swami Soap Chat Star

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    Having acquired 'Allo 'Allo, the remaining essential sitcoms on my bucket list are Are You Being Served? and Reginald Perrin, both classics in their own right.

    Swami
     
  11. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Absolutely. This is a project that without doubt is designed for actors with a primarily theatre background. Perhaps even specifically for Sinden and Stritch (whose joint surnames are reminiscent of a firm of solicitors).

    Even the guest stars and small roles have stage credentials. For example, Series One included Penelope Keith (here, between the first two series of The Good Life playing an officious triage nurse), Tony Selby, Joyce Carey and Saeed Jaffrey. Incidentally, the exchange between Jaffrey, Sinden and Stritch was great fun. Jaffrey and Stritch's characters couldn't understand each other's accents so Sinden was translating. It's such a simple thing, but Stritch (after a huge pause) asking Sinden "What'd he say?" each time Jaffrey finished a sentence actually got funnier each time, as the viewer became conditioned to anticipate it.

    It's interesting to note that some of the guest-stars would probably have had Anglo-American appeal having worked in both. Jaffrey is an example of this. The first guests were Peter Carlisle and Helen Horton - both American born actors who resided in the UK in later life.

    The first episode of Series Two had the series' first location filming. Appropriately enough on the steps of the American Embassy in London. Truthfully, though, I'm enjoying what they do with the set. They've even had real cars parked "outside" when the situation has called for it, which is great for continuity as they can be seen from the front door, the drawing room window and even filmed on the fake street looking back at the front of the house.


    Thanks for that RC. I'm very much enjoying her, so that will serve as the perfect bonus material when I wrap up the series. :yep:
     
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  12. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've been very lax with updates, but long story short I thoroughly enjoyed Two's Company beginning to end. Twenty nine episodes is a good number. Enough to have fun with different scenarios but short enough not to outstay its welcome.

    While there wasn't a major denouement in the final episode, I got the impression they knew that final scene would be it for the series. Certainly it's the only time the episode title was used within the script to sum up the relationship between the two leads.

    Anyway - it's been a joy to watch.
     
  13. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    As I write, I'm already seven or eight episodes into my next Britcom...

    Pardon The Expression

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    I wasn't sure whether to post here or in the Coronation Street forum, this being a spin-off for Corrie character Leonard Swindley, played by Arthur Lowe.

    Some years ago I started to watch this series but didn't get very far and gave up several episodes in. This time around it's a very different experience. I'm finding it quite an absorbing watch.


    I recognise a number of behind-the-scenes names from Corrie in the credits. Harry Driver not least. A pre-Turpin Betty Driver is in the cast as Mrs Edgeley. Whenever I watch their scenes together I can't shake this memory of watching a documentary on Arthur Lowe where Driver complained about his not wanting to socialise, saying she couldn't get on with people like that. Thankfully no resentment comes across on screen, with both being very enjoyable in their trademark styles - Lowe all fumbling and formal, Driver with her Charles Hawtrey-esqe tuts and smiles.

    The rest of the cast are enjoyable. Joy Stewart is a delight as Miss Sinclair - it's fun to see the oneupmanship between Miss Sinclair and Mrs Edgeley. Paul Dawkins as Parbold brings his bumbling authority figure nicely to life.

    Being set in a department store, it could be viewed as a precursor to Are You Being Served? Translated to Are You Being Served? terms, Swindley would be Captain Peacock; Parbold would be Mr Rumbold; Sinclair's a match for Mrs Slocombe and Mrs Edgeley's grass roots cook gets involved in shop business in the same way as Mr Mash would (though being less tightly wound, she's probably closer to Mr Harman). In reality though I'd say it reminds me more of something like Open All Hours, being very gentle and character driven. The girls on the shop floor are also reminiscent of Corrie's own factory girls.

    There have been some familiar soap faces. A year before her Corrie debut, Julie Goodyear had a non-speaking, big grinning role as model Charity. Meanwhile, Gretchen Franklin appeared as someone's gran - looking as old as she ever did (was she ever young, I wonder?).

    A couple of the stories have been a bit random. Like the episode featuring Franklin, which focussed on the wedding of a random shop girl we'd never met and was set almost entirely in her home. The store-based episodes work best. It's good to see the characters sparking off each other and they're missed when that doesn't happen. Thankfully it usually does, and I never tire of watching Arthur Lowe who turns idiosyncratic into an art form.
     
  14. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    What long series Pardon The Expression had. Twelve episodes for Series One and a whopping twenty four for Series Two. Thirty six episodes is the equivalent of five or six series of something like Are You Being Served? Still, considering only two series were produced it's all to the good.

    I've started the second series now and it's thoroughly enjoyable. Swindley seems to have become more incompetent, bumbling and accident prone with each passing episode, but in the best possible way. Lowe is entering Captain Mainwaring territory here.

    Series Two has gained a jazzed-up title sequence and a new character, with Swindley's superior Parbold being replaced by Mr. Hunt.

    In Self Defence episode which I watched last night, The Mikado was mentioned and he briefly recalled a performance in the Glad Tidings Mission Hall with great warmth. It was a rare - and very welcome - reference to the character's time on Coronation Street.

    I look forward to my 25-50 minute fix of an evening. It's been a grower for me, but well worth the effort.
     
  15. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Approaching as I am the end of Pardon The Expression it's turned into quite an enjoyable ride. The best episodes are the ones that revolve around the classic sitcom themes of crossed wires and misunderstanding, such as the episode where a thrilled young employee misunderstood a conversation and believed that Swindley wanted to marry her where in reality he just wanted a dog. Which led to a really funny, equally confused, conversation with the girl's father (whom Swindley believed had found him a dog) in which Swindley explained that he would keep his companion in line with a smack on the nose every once in a while, but was undecided about whether his companion should sleep at the foot of his bed or in the garden.

    The show's also delved into some enjoyable drawing room farce featuring a trigamist, staying with Swindley in his new company show apartment whose wives descend individually, blissfully unaware of each other. The set was full of glorious Sixties furniture and presumably specially built to accommodate the action of having different wives behind different doors appearing just as the other left. Arthur Lowe does increasing befuddlement brilliantly.

    The last episode I watched was a special two-parter called Thunderfinger which as you will have guessed served as a James Bond satire. It's perhaps the most Sixties feeling episode, what with miniskirted, go-go booted Pauline Collins and her Lulu hairdo. A couple of nice twists, but it was ultimately a bit far from the mothership to be much more than a novelty.

    Future soap stars have included Amanda Barrie, Shirley Stelfox, Marji Campi, Wendy Richard and further appearances from Julie Goodyear (she's played at least three very different characters now. Perhaps four).

    I have just three more episodes left and an unaired Christmas special. Then there'll be a Swindley shaped hole in my viewing schedule.
     
  16. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The image of Ben Kingsley getting groovy with Pauline Collins in a Swinging Sixties nightclub as Arthur Lowe watches on has blown my mind.

    [​IMG]

    In an inspired little nod to the parent series, the club was called... the Ravers Return.

    In an even bolder move, Pauline Collins's returned as Val Wilkins, a different character to Miss Wainwright whom she'd played in the previous two episodes - even though both characters looked, spoke, dressed and behaved identically. This wouldn't be unusual in itself - as I've commented, Julie Goodyear has played a number of different characters. The difference with Collins is that it was written into the script.

    You see, at the end of Thunderfinger it was revealed that
    Register or to view Spoiler content!

    They didn't have to do it and could easily have sidestepped it. Viewers were arguably expected to be less observant back then and secondary characters took on a number of different roles. But the series faced it head on and got the audience involved on a whole new level. It was an unexpected little moment that proved very rewarding. Indeed, Pardon The Expression has been full of little moments that prove rewarding. Nothing earth shattering, but there's a real eye for detail that add a touch of quality.

    Ironically, Judith Furse returned to the series in the same episode, having appeared as another character in two previously. Yet this was completely ignored. It's almost as though the writers are reminding any viewer observant to remember her that these are the rules a TV show usually obeys. Which adds yet another layer to the one they just broke.

    The idea of different fads being wheeled onto the shop floor for a story of the week feels very much like what Are You Being Served? would do years later. I'm sure AYBS had a number of episodes where the fusty store attempted to get "with it", just as happened in Pardon The Expression. The more I've watched, the more I see little similarities with how both series made use of their setting. Speaking of BBC sitcoms of the Seventies - and since I've watched Happy Ever After recently - Mr Hunt being kept awake all night by his malfunctioning teasmade (albeit offscreen) foreshadowed a very similar series of events that would cause Terry and June to lose sleep in their series.
     
  17. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The series ending to Pardon The Expression was spoilt for me a short while ago, so I knew what was coming. Nevertheless, it was both satisfying and tantalising. And certainly a bold move. Were sitcom execs braver in the mid-Sixties than in the decades following? Going by this series it seems so.

    The final episode I watched was the unaired Christmas special. It was originally intended to be aired between the first and second series, so I watched it out of sequence. It included another treat for those familiar with Corrie. The sacked Santa had a stash of Newton & Ridley bitter bottles around the place, which a brattish child found and enjoyed. This episode also explained why Hunt's appearance as the new manager wasn't referenced in the opening episode of series two. The Christmas episode would have been his debut and it's mentioned in it that he's the relief manager. I can't help being intrigued about the reason the episode never aired.

    Pardon The Expression
    - itself a spinoff from Corrie - had its own follow-up series: Turn Out The Lights. Sadly, this short series (just six episodes) doesn't appear to have been made available in any format. Shame it wasn't included in this set, but maybe the good folks at Network will dust it off one of these years.

    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
  18. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    My next Britcom has a lot in common with Pardon The Expression. Both made by Granada with contributions from a number of people involved with Corrie.

    [​IMG]

    Nearest And Dearest is a series I've never seen before, nor had I really heard of it or its lead actors. Three episodes in and it's already clicked with me.

    Hylda Baker is enjoyable as Nellie, with typical feisty Northern attitude and malapropisms left, right and centre. Jimmy Jewel seems fine as Eli, too.

    The novelty with Madge Hindle comes from knowing her as Renee in Corrie. I found her likeable and wry in that, so I'm sure she'll be great here. Julie Goodyear was in Jimmy Jewel's very first scene and it's easy to see why she kept getting these parts. She has something very special about her. In between her numerous Pardon The Expression roles and this, she'd actually made her initial debut as Bet, though a full-time Corrie role would still be a little way off. There are more familiar Corrie names such as writer Harry Driver. And I'm sure I'll spot more as the episodes go on.

    The setting is interesting and I thought it a brave move to open a comedy series with a character on their deathbed. I've laughed a few times at these first few black and white episodes, so that's a good sign. It should be a fun ride.
     
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  19. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    With Series Three of Nearest And Dearest, we've entered the realm of colour. This was quite a surprise to me, having read that eighteen episodes were made in black and white. Having looked a bit closer, it seems there most of the Series Five episodes were affected by the Colour Strike of 1970.

    A few more Corrie faces have appeared. John Savident recurred as a bartender while Maggie Jones played a typically formidable nurse. Jessie Evans who played Corrie's Granny Hopkins has been on, too (she was also in Pardon The Expression). Bill Podmore is on Carry On-ers Peter Butterworth and Margaret Nolan have shown up.

    I'm enjoying the familiar Granada style of writing with the earthy, wry wit. There have been a few scenes where Hylda Baker has appeared to corpse, which have been very endearing. There are a couple of little catchphrases which are enjoyable, my favourite being a reference to the lack of an hour hand on Nellie's watch ("That'll be 'im now. 'Ey, they're soon aren't they? It's only quarter to... ooh, I must get a little hand put on this watch.") There's even been a variation when it became apparent the wall clock had the same issue.

    I've not long finished watching Super Gran, in which one of the henchmen had a lot of screen time without saying a word. Nearest and Dearest's Walter is similarly mute, which I find a fascinating choice. It adds to the humour that there are frequent references to Walter's talkative nature and inability to shut up. The episode in which he remarried Lily was a little exciting as it looked like we were going to have to see him say "I do". After a bit of teasing we cut away before he spoke, which felt like a bit of a cheat, but at least the illusion wasn't shattered.
     
  20. Mel O’Drama

    Mel O’Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Series Seven of Nearest And Dearest is underway. It's been a pleasant enough watch. The final series feels a little sharper and funnier than the previous ones. I've found myself laughing out loud at them.

    The roll call of familiar names in small roles continues to give another layer of viewing pleasure. Maggie Jones and Julie Goodyear have recurred. Fred Feast, Roy Barraclough, Kathy Staff and Shirley Stelfox (twice) have also appeared.

    Baker and Jewel are fine as the feuding siblings. Jewel has a kind of Sid James rough and ready quality to him, while Baker is your Mollie Sugden type. Madge Hindle has been wonderful as cousin Lily. She has a gift for deadpan and holds things together nicely when Jewel and Baker are corpsing (which they frequently do). Word is that she was prompting Hylda Baker with her lines as her dementia crept in. If that's the case then I'm hugely impressed because I haven't spotted it. Edward Malin frequently steals the show as the silent Walter, sitting there with a glazed look as Nellie forcefully points at him and asks Lily "has he been?". He has such an expressive face that my eyes are on him whenever he's on screen to see what he's going to do next. I had wondered if he was just an extra who got lucky, but Malin has quite a CV on IMDb, which explains why he knows how to get the best out of this dialogue-free role.

    The extras so far have been quite random, which is not necessarily a bad thing. We had a behind-the-scenes interview of Jewel doing panto in the late sixties - including all the outtakes. There's been Hylda Baker's interview with Russell Harty, her tour of a pickle factory and curious music video of Hylda singing You're The One That I Want with Arthur Mullard, which I'm sure @Ome has posted in the Top Tens before now.
     

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