Porridge – The Desperate Hours

porridge 76

Originally Transmitted – 24th December 1976

The second and final Porridge Christmas special splits rather neatly into two sections.  The first fifteen minutes or so follow Fletch and Godber’s illegal booze making activities and their attempts to interest their fellow prisoners in purchasing the fruits of their labour.  Two selections were on offer – the two-star and the five-star.  Upon sampling the five-star, Fletcher had very specific instructions.

Now, I must warn you, this should be sipped delicately like a fine liqueur.  It should not be smashed down the throat by the mugful.

Judging by their expressions, Warren, McLaren and Tulip found it powerful stuff – although quite what was in it was something of a mystery.  Next up was the two-star and Fletcher warned them that this wasn’t quite so smooth.

So go carefully, otherwise not only will you lose the flavour and the bouquet but you’ll also lose your powers of speech.

Sadly, their activities were discovered by Mackay who promptly marched them off to the Governor’s office.  The second part of the episode runs for about thirty minutes and it’s possible to believe that this was a normal episode which was expanded with the home-brew opening to produce this Christmas special.

Things take an unexpected turn when the new trusty, Urwin (Dudley Sutton), takes Barrowclough, Fletcher, Godber and the Governor’s secretary (Mrs Jameson) hostage.   He has two demands for Barrowclough (“shut that blind and get me a helicopter”).  The first is easy enough, but the second is going to be more of a problem.

During the course of the siege we learn that Mr Barrowclough and Mrs Jameson are more than friends (something which Fletcher will no doubt make use of in the future) and we also discover a great deal about Urwin.  It’s a lovely performance from Sutton who really is the focus of the episode.

Urwin is a somewhat pathetic character.  Passed over for psychiatric treatment, it looks as if the system has driven him to this desperate course of action.  Eventually, Fletch is able to take his home-made gun off him (a tense and well-acted seen between Barker and Sutton).  Just prior to this, Fletch spells out to him exactly why he’s never going to make it.

There ‘aint no way.  The worst thing that could happen to you is if they say OK.  ‘Cos you know as well as I do that you’d never make it to that helicopter.  They got marksmen out there that can shoot a fly’s eyebrows off at 400 yards.  And if flies had other things they could shoot them off ‘an all.

Fletch shrugs off the admiration of Godber.  It was nothing, he says, since he knew that Unwin’s gun was a fake (it wasn’t, of course, which Fletch inadvertently demonstrates by shooting a hole in the ceiling!).

Less Christmas orientated than No Way Out, The Desperate Hours is a cracking episode, full of the usual witty banter and a fine guest turn by Dudley Sutton.

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