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Not at all disappointing
on 16 December 2008
Network's latest plundering of the comedy archives is this seven-part anthology series made by Yorkshire Television in 1977. Let me drop a few names; Arthur Lowe, Richard Briers, Frances De La Tour, Roy Kinnear, Freddie Jones, Warren Mitchell, John Bird, Henry McGee, and Leonard Rossiter. Top quality actors, with material to match.
In 'Car Along The Pass', dear old Arthur Lowe plays a xenophobic British tourist trapped with holidaymakers in a cable car over the Austrian Alps, 'Big Deal At York City' has Warren Mitchell as a lucky gambler preyed on by card sharps while travelling home by train, in 'Swap You One Of These For One Of Those' Richard Briers is cast against type as a would-be swinger wanting a piece of the so-called 'permissive society', but the cherry on the cake is 'I Tell You, Its Burt Reynolds'. Leonard Rossiter plays an idiot who becomes convinced he has spotted the movie star in a repeat of 'MacMillan & Wife', and despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, refuses to let the issue go. You cannot help but laugh as this man falls apart before your eyes. It was later remade as a vehicle for Paul Merton. Take it from me, the original is best.
You cannot have enough Galton and Simpson D.V.D. releases in my view, and this is long overdue. Shame that none of the episodes became a series ( Alan Simpson retired soon afterwards ). The Arthur Lowe one had the most potential for further development. With 'Dad's Army' still in production at the time it was made, the role of 'Henry Duckworth' was a natural for him. He did however play a not-too dissimilar character in Roy Clarke's 'Potter' two years later.
Some have grumbled about the so-called 'outdated' humour. While not up to the standard of say 'Steptoe' or 'Hancock', it manages nevertheless to outshine anything currently on the box. All I can say is that if you like your comedy full of swearing and body function jokes, do not buy. You will hate it. Fry and Laurie once did a wonderful sketch in which the former played an idiot who took a Jane Austen book back to the shop he'd bought it from and complained it was 'dated'. 'Playhouse' is no masterwork, but not rubbish either. I fail to see how it could have been made funnier if Arthur Lowe had been seen chatting into a mobile phone!