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Not so much a playhouse, more of a playmansion
on 16 December 2008
Network's latest plundering of the comedy archives is this seven-part anthology series from 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.
'Car Along The Pass' has dear old Arthur Lowe as a xenophobic British tourist trapped with foreign holidaymakers in a cable car over the Austrian Alps, in 'Big Deal At York City', Warren Mitchell plays 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', the lovable Roy Kinnear is an airline pilot whose wife walks out on him in 'Naught For Thy Comfort', 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.
You cannot have enough Galton and Simpson in my view, and this D.V.D. is long overdue. Shame that none of the episodes evolved into 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.
Ignore the meaningless complaints about 'outdated' humour. I fail to see how this series could have been made funnier if Arthur Lowe had been using a mobile phone! Network will shortly be releasing 'The Galton And Simpson Comedy' from 1969, and I wholeheartedly recommend that too.