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Good first series, excellent second, with one or two stumbles.,
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This review is from: Pardon the Expression - The Complete Series [DVD] (DVD)
A largely forgotten spin off from Coronation Street, this series sets Leonard Swindley, former Gamma Garments manager played by Arthur Lowe, into his own sit-com. Newly appointed deputy to department store manager Mr Parbold, Paul Dawkins, Swindley gets into various scrapes but just manages to muddle through. The comedy and characters are very appealing, apart from Mr Parbold, who never seems comfortable in the role and really only comes into his own in an episode where he plays truant. This episode is the stand out in the first series.
There are some duff episodes, mainly it seems involving Vince Powell as writer, though he was also involved in some good ones. The absolute worst is "The Pensioner", an ill-judged attempt at being heart-warming.
Ably supported by the magnificent Betty Driver and Joy Stewart, whose character swiftly becomes far more likeable than first appearances, the first series is amiable, gentle comedy with a few laugh out loud moments.
Then comes the second series and the installation of Robert Dorning (father of Black Beauty's Stacey) as Mr Hunt. With his arrival the comedy seems to step up a gear or two, becoming frequently hilarious. Robert Dorning is absolutely brilliant, and the dynamic becomes much more of a double act. Swindley's character becomes more bumbling and "well meaning duffer"-ish. Some of the funniest moments in series two are in Hunt's spoken and unspoken reactions to situations. He also has a choice of two brilliant wives, due no doubt to the assumtion at teh time that the series would be seen, enjoyed and never seen again. The first time we see Mrs Hunt she is played by the imposing Avis Bunnage, who intrudes on Hunt and Swindley's London excursion; the second time she is the delightfully fey Clare Kelly, whose hostessing skills at a dinner party are a joy to behold. For viewers of a certain age, the pause button will be invaluable as a raft of familiar faces make cameos. It's very interesting to see John Le Mesurier's turn as one of the top brass of the department chain as it gives a glimpse of the intended dynamic of "Dad's Army" before the two lead actor's were swapped over to give us small, pompous Mainwaring and lofty, vague Wilson.
As the series progresses more episodes take place outside the limited comedic opportunities of the store and involve such diversions as a ghost story (with surprisingly good effects), a fantastic James Bond spoof (apart from the final cliché), and a trip to a health farm (a rather rushed and unsatisfactory end to the series). There are still a handful of duff episodes, and it is obvious why the Christmas special went unscreened, but on the whole it's a worthwhile addition to a comedy collection.