Back to Christmas 1982 (6th January 1983)

It’s time for the first TOTP of the new year. Tonight’s show offers a pretty decent line-up with Joe Jackson (Stepping Out), Ultravox (Hymn), Wah! (The Story of the Blues) and The Stranglers (European Female) all standing out.

There’s not a great deal more on BBC1 or BBC2 that’s appealing (or accessible) but I might put The Land That Time Forgot on my virtual VHS for later.

Like BBC1, ITV is filling out their early evening schedule with a movie (but Superman is a slightly higher budget effort than The Land That Time Forgot …).

C4 offers Treasure Hunt (stop the clock!) and the first episode of The Irish R.M, starring Peter Bowles.

 

Back to Christmas 1982 (5th January 1983)

Dr Who continues his exciting adventure with the Arc of Infinity on BBC1 at 6.45 pm. That’s followed by John Wayne in Brannigan, which finds the Duke transported to mid seventies London.

Curiosity value alone (where else can you see John Wayne running into the likes of Lesley-Anne Down, Del Henney, Stewart Bevan, Brian Glover and James Booth?) makes this worth a watch.

Later on BBC2 there’s a slightly better film – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Richard Burton and Claire Bloom head an impressive cast in what’s still one of the best John Le Carre film adaptations.

I might have to put The Spy on the virtual VHS, as ITV’s evening schedule looks pretty strong. There’s some more Mike/Deirdre antics in Coronation Street, Benny Hill continues to ply his usual trade at 8.00 pm and at 9.00 pm there’s the first episode of Unknown Chaplin (narrated by James Mason).

Back to Christmas 1982 (4th January 1983)

A new series of Grange Hill begins today. This run – the sixth – remains one of my favourites (Gripper continues to dominate the series, although he’ll eventually receive his comeuppance). My previous thoughts on the episode (I see I was too pessimistic about a DVD release!) can be found here.

Later also on BBC1 there’s Beatlemania! (which can be found here), a fascinating fan’s eye view of the Beatles’ extraordinary rise and rise during 1963/1964. It’s interesting that back in 1982 the early years of the Beatles already seemed like ancient history (possibly because most of the available footage was shot in black and white). Kenny Everett and Bob Wooler (Cavern disc jockey) are also on hand with their opinions.

Over on ITV I’ll take The Return of the Pink Panther. Having already enjoyed several Peter Sellers films on BBC2 during the last few weeks, this’ll fit in nicely. Like Sellers’ other 1970’s Panther films, it’s broader than the two he made in the sixties, but it offers plenty of intermittent delights.

Back To Christmas 1982 (3rd January 1983)

There’s a definite post-Christmas feel to the BBC schedules today – with only the new series of Doctor Who catching my eye.

DW is in 20th anniversary mode – and the show begins as it means to go on with a story featuring the return of an old adversary. Since this baddie (Omega) made his sole appearance some ten years earlier, you could argue that the majority of the audience might be somewhat perplexed when the ‘great’ reveal is done.

But this, I guess, is the conflict between general audience/fan appreciation which continues to dog the series today. How far should you go in pandering to the fans? (who are never satisfied, whatever you  do).

After all this preamble, do I enjoy Arc of Infinity?  Well, not much. The location filming in Amsterdam is nice and it’s good to see Michael Gough guest star but it’s a bit of a dull run around. However, bonus points have to be issued in Nyssa’s direction – she’s finally grown up and become a more assertive character.

Which is a bit ironic, since her time with the series is now very limited ….

I’ll take another Laurel and Hardy film (Our Relations) on ITV and I’ll follow that up with Zulu, the ideal sort of film made for a quiet holiday afternoon. It launched Michael Caine’s career, after a lengthy series of false starts, but there’s plenty of value lower down the bill (Paul Daneman, Glynn Edwards, Neil McCarthy, Gary Bond).

Adele Rose is on scripting duty for Coronation Street and I’ll round off the evening with a late night Thriller repeat (Look Back in Darkness). Bradford Dillman and Catherine Schell star in a script by Terence Feely.

Back to Christmas 1982 (2nd January 1983)

633 Squadron is an ideal Sunday afternoon film. Although it’s not perfect (you have to suspend your disbelief with some of the modelwork used for the climatic attack sequences) it’s still a stirring watch (Ron Goodwin’s score helps enormously). Although money (the film mirroring WW2) meant than an American – Cliff Robertson – had to take centre stage, there’s enough plucky Brits (Harry Andrews, Donald Houston, Angus Lennie, Michael Goodliffe) in supporting roles to cushion this blow.

A repeat run of The Good Life begins with the first episode, Plough Your Own Furrow (which I’ve previously written about here).

The Society Entertainer (S04E04) is today’s episode of Hi-De-Hi! Spike falls in love whilst Gladys clashes with her nemesis, Sylvia, who temporarily wrests control of Radio Maplin. Another quality episode, with all the original key cast members present and correct.

Switching over to ITV, if I’ve time for a second film I’ll go with The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Later there’s Tales of the Unexpected, a series that’s often more miss than hit (but today’s cast – John Duttine, Peter Jeffrey – makes it an appealing pick).

Back to Christmas 1982 (1st January 1983)

Happy New Year!

BBC1 and BBC2 are offering two hardy Christmas perennial films – The Magnificent Seven and It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m going to plump for Jimmy Stewart on BBC2 ….

I’ll stay on BBC2 for some comic strip (ahem) action with Jane. An omnibus edition assembled from the first series broadcast in 1982, it’s all good clean politically incorrect fun. I’ve always had a soft spot for programmes which overdose on CSO and another soft spot for Glynis Barber, so this is win/win for me.

Then it’ll be over to ITV for Whicker’s World Aboard the Orient Express. Alan does his thing, although I don’t think there’s any murders to look forward to.

Back to Christmas 1982 (31st December 1982)

First up today will be Ghost in the Water. It comes from the producing/directing team of Paul Stone and Renny Rye (who were later responsible for that hardy Christmas perennial The Box of Delights). Although broadcast during children’s hour it’s not childish in tone – which means that, as I stated in my review a few years back, it could have easily slotted into the evening schedule. Something of a forgotten spooky classic.

The feature film version of Porridge receives its television premiere tonight. Once upon a time, a gaggle of television sitcoms (and the odd drama as well) made their way to the big screen. Some were better than others (to put it mildly) but it can’t be coincidence that two of the best (The Likely Lads, Porridge) came from the pens of Clement and La Frenais.

Before the New Year dawns, there will just be time to catch your own, your very own, Leonard Sachs introducing some familiar faces (Doddy’s topping the bill) in tonight’s The Good Old Days.

It’s another quiet day on ITV and C4, but I’ll make time for Kim Wilde – First Time Out (available here on Youtube).

Back to Christmas 1982 (30th December 1982)

It’s time to almost see out the old year with TOTP and a gaggle of R1 presenters (one of whom we’ll say no more about). Today’s show offers another look back at some of the hits of the year – beginning with ABC and The Look of Love (Martin Fry eschewing the gold lamé suit in favour of something more sober). Other highlights include the Fun Boy Three (R.I.P. Terry Hall) and Bananarama with T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It) and The Stranglers (Golden Brown).

We’re back in the period when an Only Fools and Horses Christmas special was a post-Xmas treat. That would all change next year, when Thicker Than Water would become the series’ first episode to debut on Christmas day (and two years later, the series would hit the big-time with the first of many feature length episodes – To Hull and Back). Back in 1982 though, things were more modest with just a half-hour slot available, although the episode (Diamonds are for Heather) is still a good one.

Ramping up the pathos (something which the series would also do in the future again and again) it’s a Christmas gift for David Jason, as Del’s relationship with single parent Heather (Rosalind Lloyd) and her young son Darren (Daniel Jones) deepens and he gets the chance to play both drama and comedy. It might get somewhat overlooked in favour of the later, longer specials – but if you’re able, then it’s worth digging this one out again for another watch.

‘Allo! ‘Allo! makes its debut immediately after Only Fools. The series proper wouldn’t begin until 1984 but all the building blocks of the show are already present and correct. Time for a complete rewatch? Maybe …

To round the evening off, I’ll take Force 10 From Navarone and A Voyage Round My Father on ITV.

Back to Christmas 1982 (29th December 1982)

There’s another chance to see Arena‘s typically idiosyncratic celebration of Desert Island Discs on BBC1 this afternoon. Roy Plomley gets to dress up, whilst the likes of Frankie Howerd, Russell Harty, Trevor Brooking and Paul McCartney all make appearances. If you’re able to access it, then you can watch the programme via the iPlayer.

There’s an episode of Sink or Swim at 9:15 pm on BBC1. It’s a repeat of S01E04 (original tx ,1st January 1981) which will serve as a curtain raiser for the new series of Doctor Who, that kicks off next Monday.

ITV offers Coronation Street (where,  according to the TV Times, there’s not a lot of sweetness and light at the Rovers). In addition to the bickering at the Rovers, the relationship between Mike and Deirdre has just begun to simmer (although it won’t come to the boil until the new year).

And that’s about it for today. I’ll have to dig out a book I think ….

Back to December 1982 (28th December 1982)

There’s a silver Christmas tree behind Mike Read, so it must be the Pop Quiz festive special. Team captain David Essex is joined by Mari Wilson and Leo Sayer who face down opposing team captain Hank Marvin as well as Captain Sensible and Duran Duran’s John Taylor (cue deafening screams from the female audience when he’s introduced and any time he gets a question right).

After this febrile Pop Quiz atmosphere, it’s good to relax with something a little more sedate – namely highlights of the 1982 Snooker World Championship. Although Alex Higgins (no stranger to bad behaviour) was involved, for once he kept his emotions in check until after the final ball was potted to claim an improbable second world title (ten years after his first). Rather delightfully, today’s programme is available in full on YouTube.

Next up it’ll be The Kenny Everett Television Show. Geoffrey Palmer, Janet Street Porter, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Terry Wogan, Lulu, Billy Connolly, Barry Cryer, Russell Harty and Pamela Stephenson all pop up – which is good going for a 30 minute show.

From ITV, I’ll take Way out West (I always tend to associate Laurel & Hardy from this era with the BBC, so it’s a slight surprise to see them on ITV).  The other ITV pick today will be John Wells’ Anyone for Denis? at 8:45 pm.

Treasure Hunt debuts on C4. They didn’t take the easy way out with this first episode – deciding on an O.B. from Bali. But (unless they were all cut out) technical glitches were minimal. Stop the clock!

Back To Christmas 1982 (27th December 1982)

It’s a quiet day for me on BBC1 and BBC2, but The Funny Side of Christmas will be a must watch. Had it aired on the 25th then they could have revived the Christmas Night With The Stars name (indeed, given the talent involved it’s slightly remarkable that it didn’t take pole position on the big day).

Hosted by the incredibly avuncular Frank Muir, it features newly recorded bite-sized treats from many of the BBC’s comedy favourites. Most were still in production at the time, the one major exception being The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin which had finished in 1979. That the whole cast were happy to reassemble for this five minute skit says a great deal about their positive feelings for the show.

Some (Yes Minister) are short but sweet, lasting for less than two minutes whilst Smith & Jones are given a generous eight minutes (in their first post NTNOCN sketch appearance). All this plus the likes of Butterflies, Last of the Summer Wine, Open All Hours, Only Fools and Horses, Cissie and Ada ….

Luckily it doesn’t clash with The Morecambe & Wise Show on ITV. It’s slightly sad that, post BBC, the show’s no longer a Christmas night fixture but the formula remains the same. Tonight, amongst other treats, Robert Hardy will demonstrate his dancing skills. Given how familiar some of the BBC festive specials are, these days I do enjoy sampling the less well known treats of the Thames era – some of the rehashes don’t work as well as they did first time round, but overall the series deserves a little more love than it receives.

Earlier on ITV, there’s the big Bond movie premiere – Moonraker. Some people dislike Moonraker, but we don’t need to worry about them. Yes, it’s got very little to do with Ian Fleming but if I want to enjoy Ian Fleming’s James Bond then I’ll pick up one of his books. This is just the sort of entertainment you want at this time of year – plenty of action, bad jokes and Roger Moore being Roger Moore. Perfect.

Back to Christmas 1982 (26th December 1982)

Post Christmas over-indulgence, what does today has to offer? Well, there’s Two-Way Stretch on BBC2 for starters. Another entry in the Sellers over Christmas season, this brisk early sixties film saw Peter Sellers joined by Bernard Cribbins, Lionel Jeffries, Wilfrid Hyde White and David Lodge (not to mention a supporting cast full of familiar faces). Good stuff, and just the sort of thing to while away a quiet afternoon.

He-De-Hi!‘s Christmas special (Eruptions) didn’t quite make the grade for Christmas Day, but it’s been given a plum spot on the 26th. Highlight of the episode has to be Jeff and Gladys’ enforced night spent in the Three Bears’ Cottage. As I’ve said before, nobody could squirm quite like Simon Cadell and both he and the recently departed Ruth Madoc are on fine form here.

Over on ITV there’s Pop Goes Christmas to enjoy (rather oddly given an early timeslot of 4:45 pm).  It has a mixture of oh-so 1982 acts (Mari Wilson, Toto Coelo, Musical Youth) and others (Dexys Midnight Runners, David Essex) who’ve managed to last slightly younger. Some tackle Christmas classics (Dexys’ version of Merry Christmas Everyone and Toyah’s I Believe In Father Christmas are two standouts) whilst others perform their hits from earlier in the the year (although Mari Wilson indulges in a spot of lyric re-writing to give her hit a more festive tinge).

David Essex, with A Winter’s Tale, has a current Christmas song, of course, and it gets another airing today (having already enjoyed a prime slot yesterday with The Two Ronnies).

Back to Christmas 1982 (25th December 1982)

Merry Christmas!

First stop today will be the festive Top of the Pops. A gaggle of R1 jocks are on hand to introduce some of this year’s top tunes. Highlights include a pantomimic Land of Make Believe by Bucks Fizz that has to be seen to be believed, Dexys Midnight Runners with Come on Eileen (although they didn’t dress up, alas) and Soft Cell with Torch.

BBC1 continues to offer solid entertainment later with The Paul Daniels Magic Show, Last of the Summer Wine and The Two Ronnies Christmas Show. Paul Daniels welcomes a gaggle of stars onto his show, most of whom (apart from Rolf Harris) would still be welcome guests today. Kenneth Williams is given the opportunity to shine with a very dramatic monologue (he seems to have enjoyed himself, although his diaries might tell a different story) and Patrick Moore (plus Barry Took) are on hand to assist the final illusion which sees a rather wobbly space rocket, containing the lovely Debbie McGee, venturing a few feet off the ground.

Today’s Last of the Summer Wine (All Mod Conned) is only a half hour effort, but on the plus side that means it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Foggy attempts to organise a holiday trip which (as you might expect) doesn’t run that smoothly ….

The Two Ronnies are on traditional form, although the show lacks the customary opening and closing links, which is a little jarring. Elsewhere it’s business as usual though, with an entertaining Chas & Dave skit (mind you, some of the extras seem more enthused than others).  The Sid & George sketch always delivers, thanks to John Sullivan’s writing, and the final film sketch has a festive tinge (and a guest appearance from Brigit Forsyth). All this, plus David Essex singing A Winter’s Tale.

There might be time to squeeze in the Agatha Christie film Death on the Nile, although as it’s a pretty busy day it might have to be taped on the VCR for later viewing.

BBC1’s offering so many delights today, that there won’t be much time for ITV or C4, but Chas & Dave’s Christmas Knees-up will go on the list as will Olivier’s Richard III (although like Death on the Nile I might defer the viewing for another, quieter, day).

Back to Christmas 1982 (24th December 1982)

There’s a short season of Peter Sellers films to enjoy this Christmas, beginning today with I’m Alright Jack on BBC2. That’ll certainly go on the list as it’s an evergreen favourite that still has a satirical bite today (and the cast – including Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Dennis Price, Margaret Rutherford, Irene Handl, Liz Fraser and John Le Mesurier – aren’t too shabby either).

I’ll stick with BBC2 for a repeat of K9 & Company. I don’t really approve of ‘guilty pleasures’ – something’s either a pleasure or not – but I have to admit that I’ve rewatched this many more times than is really sensible. Ignoring (or indeed cherishing) its many faults is all part of the fun.

At 8:40 on BBC1 there’s Christmas With Terry & June, which will be my last pick today on the BBC.

ITV’s offering a repeat of The GoodiesSnow White 2. By this point, The Goodies’ brief association with Thames had already come to an end – a shame as the run of episodes had been pretty strong. Next up is The Stanley Baxter Hour. Like The Goodies, Baxter would eventually fall foul of ITV (also for cost reasons – his shows simply became too expensive for them) but for now he’s one of the jewels in their crown. Never as high profile as Morecambe & Wise or Benny Hill, Baxter always delivered though – and if the scripts weren’t always that sharp, his performances were.

I’ll round off today with a real oddity on C4 – The Curious Case of Santa Claus. Starring James Coco and Jon Pertwee and written by Bob Larbey it’s well worth a look.

Christmas is coming ….

Christmas, as tends to always happen around this time of the year, is fast approaching. I’ve already begun to rummage around in my archive for some suitably festive programming to enjoy. The three surviving Christmas Night With The Stars from its original run (1958, 1964, 1972) have all received an airing earlier in the week. Surely it’s about time BBC4 rebroadcast 1958? An upgrade from my timecoded copy would be very welcome ….

YouTube is currently offering a selection of festive treats – such as Basil Brush’s Christmas Fantasy Pop Goes Christmas and this quite unforgettable mid 1970’s Crackerjack-esque version of Robinson Crusoe. It’s not for the faint hearted (Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart as Man Friday, for example) but it’s nice to see the likes of Windsor Davies, Don Estelle and John Inman.

Later this month, I’ll be spending the Christmas fortnight back in 1982. By a fortunate coincidence, the 1982 double issues of the Radio and TV Times run from 24/12 – 7/1, just like 2022, so I’ll be in some sort of sync with real life. Already I’ve begun to peruse the mags and started to tick off what I want to see (there looks to be plenty to keep me amused).

Back to November 1982 (27th November 1982)

There’s only a few options available to me today, but luckily they’re all more than decent.

First there’s Juliet Bravo on BBC1.  JB is an interesting series. Its countryside setting and early Saturday evening timeslot has tended to see it retrospectively labelled as a cosy type of show (similar to the later Heartbeat) but that’s not really the case at all. And although it was created by Ian Kennedy Martin, the show couldn’t be further removed from the frenetic swagger of The Sweeney.

Instead, JB tended to tell bleak and unsettling character stories which are far removed from what we think of today as typical Saturday evening programming. Misunderstandings by Valerie George (her sole script for the series) is an excellent example of this, featuring strong guest performances (especially from Valerie Georgeson).

Repeats will have to suffice for the rest of today’s viewing. They’re both on C4 – first Upstairs Downstairs and then The Avengers. If you’re feeling a little down after Juliet Bravo, then I Dies From Love isn’t going to cheer you up. But it’s a powerful script by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham, featuring a heartbreaking performance from Evin Crowley as the doomed scullery maid Emily.

Happily, we’ll be rounding off the evening on a lighter note. The Hidden Tiger is this week’s Avengers repeat. I find that the colour Diana Rigg series can get a little monotonous if watched too quickly, but dipping in and out you’ll almost always find something of interest. Today, Ronnie Barker and Gabrielle Drake are amongst the guest artists, so that bodes well.

Back To November 1982 (26th November 1982)

We’re back in the days when Children In Need didn’t dominate the entire BBC1 evening schedule. Indeed, it’s surprising just how little coverage there is (less is more, maybe?). From the available programmes, I’ll be taking Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? 

Whenever I tweet something about the series, you can guarantee that someone will pop up to tell me that nasty old James Bolam blocked any repeats. But there’s no evidence of this (indeed, the fact that the Daily Mirror’s Stan bemoans the fact that WHTTLL? is often dug out as a schedule filler rather proves the opposite).

There’s another old sitcom repeat on BBC2 (Dad’s Army). The series wasn’t quite as obliquitous in re-runs during the early eighties, which meant that this was probably when I saw a lot of these episodes for the first time. Today’s offering is Man Hunt from 1969, not a stellar episode, but it’ll still pass thirty minutes very agreeably.

Finally there’s a new programme to enjoy. ITV at 9.00 pm is Gentle Touch time. P.J. Hammond is scripting, which is the guarantee for an odd and unsettling fifty minutes (today’s ep features a very effective guest turn from Sheila Gish as Adela Baker).

Network’s Greatest Hits

I was very sorry to hear that Network’s founder, Tim Beddows, recently passed away at the very early age of 59 (click here for more info). The fact that I have multiple shelves groaning with Network’s DVDs is testament to just how much this one company has been responsible for developing my appreciation for archive television over the past few decades.

Network have always been a company that’s delighted in championing the obscure, which is one of the main reasons why I love them.  Their archive television releases may have slowed down in recent years, but you can never guess what might pop up next. Give Us A Clue, for example. I wasn’t expecting that, but I’ll certainly take it.

What follows is a quick list of just a few of my favourites from their back catalogue – some were titles new to me, others were ones where I was happy to upgrade from VHS to DVD (or BD). Let’s dive in ….

Charley Says

This might very well have been the first Network DVD I bought, certainly it was one of the earliest. I do remember that the original pressing had a rather eccentric menu selection page, meaning that selecting a specific PIF was something of a challenge. Thankfully, some years later the disc was repressed with a bonus second volume, and this is the one that I keep returning to on a regular basis.

Public Eye

I loved the early years of Network, which saw a regular stream of releases that I had no prior knowledge of (but was more than happy to take a chance on). More often than not, as with Public Eye, I came up trumps. For some reason the repeats back in the day totally passed me by, but from the first episode I saw (Welcome to Brighton?) I was hooked.

Sergeant Cork

This was another, equally obscure series to me (and I guess to most of the target audience). Series one was another blind buy, but again it was money well spent and Cork now ranks as one of my favourite 1960’s drama series. A production line series, with episodes churned out regularly over several lengthy periods, it’s slightly astounding that the quality always remained so high. And the fact that every episode was eventually located is another miracle for a drama series of this era. If you haven’t seen it, then I’d heartily recommend it.

Gideon’s Way

Thanks to Network, I’ve a large chunk of ITC’s film series output. I remain very fond of the big hitters (like The Saint) but equally I’ve a lot of time for shows like Gideon’s Way. More kitchen-sink than ITC’s usual crime shows (although the series lacked the dark edge found in John Creasey’s novels) it’s another series which has withstood multiple rewatches.

Crown Court

When I bought volume one of Crown Court, I didn’t really imagine I’d be that interested in picking up any further releases. Like many, I had dim memories of the series from times spent at home as a child (either from being sick or at half term) and assumed that this first release would be enough to quench my thirst. Wrong! The quality of the scripting and acting came as a real surprise and I hungrily snapped up the subsequent seven releases. I still pine today for further DVDs. Maybe one day.

There are so many others bubbling under this top five list – Sunday Night at the London Palladium, The Beiderbecke Trilogy, The Plane Makers, The Power Game, The Main Chance, Callan, Special Branch, Redcap, Star Cops, The Feathered Serpent, Sykes, Sez Les, etc, etc.

If there’s any I’ve missed (and I’m sure there’s plenty) please feel free to leave a comment below.

Back to November 1982 (25th November 1982)

I’ll be kicking off the evening with TOTP. Not a classic edition but studio performances by Talk Talk (Talk Talk) and A Flock of Seagulls (Wishing If I Had a Photograph of You) ensure that it’s not a total write-off.

From then on, it’s sitcoms all the way. There’s an embarrassment of riches tonight, beginning with Only When I Laugh and Shelley on ITV. Then it’ll be over to BBC1 for Only Fools and Horses before the highlight of the evening (both mine and Stan’s) which is Yes Minister on BBC2.

Tonight’s episode is The Skeleton in the Cupboard and offers Jim the satisfaction of gaining the upper hand over Sir Humphrey. The episode has two plotlines which are only tenuously connected (either could have worked just as well in another episode without the other) but when there’s so many quotable lines flying about, I’m not too concerned about plotting. To give just two examples ….

Sir Humphrey Appleby: If local authorities don’t send us the statistics that we ask for, then government figures will be a nonsense.
Jim Hacker: Why?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: They will be incomplete.
Jim Hacker: But government figures are a nonsense anyway.
Bernard Woolley: I think Sir Humphrey want to ensure they are a complete nonsense.

Jim Hacker: Bernard, how did Sir Humphrey know I was with Dr. Cartwright?
Bernard Woolley: God moves in a mysterious way.
Jim Hacker: Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Humphrey is not God, OK?
Bernard Woolley: Will you tell him or shall I?

The first storyline concerns a local council which has attracted Sir Humphrey’s ire (because they never send their paperwork back to the DAA). This hasn’t stopped them from becoming the most efficient council in the country though, but that’s something which cuts no ice with a bureaucratic mandarin like Sir Humphrey.

Jim is reluctant to censure the council simply because they can’t fill in forms, but he’s pressured by Sir Humphrey to do so. Jim seems to have no choice, but then a gift (evidence of Sir Humphrey’s incompetence from thirty years ago) is dropped into his lap. This is the cue for some exquisite squirming from Nigel Hawthorne as he reluctantly confesses all (equally good as ever, of course, is Paul Eddington as we see Jim delight in twisting the knife).

It’s difficult to say that Hawthorne didn’t deserve the four BAFTAs he won for Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, but it’s a bitter irony that Paul Eddington had to lose out to his colleague on each occasion (in the years that Hawthorne won, Eddington was always also nominated). If Jim and Sir Humphrey were a double act, then you could say that Eddington tended to play the feed at times (but though he had the less showy role, he was always excellent value). Indeed, one of the pleasures of rewatching the series is simply to appreciate just how good they both were.

Back to November 1982 (24th November 1982)

Tonight I’ll be catching To The Manor Born and Dallas on BBC1. To The Manor Born was incredibly popular at the time (the final episode in 1981 pulled in a staggering 27 million viewers) but it hasn’t retained the same profile today. The fact it doesn’t get re-run has something to do with this, of course. The performances are the thing which still engage the interest – especially Penelope Keith as the horrendous and self-centered Audrey fforbes-Hamilton. It’s Keith’s skill (not to mention the more sympathetic characters played by Peter Bowles and Angela Thorne) which ensures that Audrey is more than a one-dimensional snob. Although there are times when I have to confess I find her very irritating ….

I’ve been meaning to make a real dent in my Dallas boxset for some time, so maybe dipping into this episode will provide the spark to get me going. Possibly yet another programme to add to the 2023 pending rewatch pile.

I’ll set the VHS to record M*A*S*H on BBC2 whilst I switch over to ITV for The Morecambe & Wise Show and Minder. It’s noticeable how peak time repeats (today it’s To The Manor Born and Minder) are quite common in this era. Patricia Brake and Ruth Madoc are Eric and Ernie’s guests today. As I’ve said before, I think the Thames era deserves a little more love than it generally receives – yes, the rehashes of old scripts do become very noticeable at times (as in this episode) but the BBC series also did this from time to time (hello, Greig’s piano concerto).

All Mod Cons (S02E08, original tx 30th October 1980) is today’s Minder repeat. Toyah Wilcox guests as Kate, with Michael Robbins, Simon Cadell, Tony Osoba and Harry Towb also featuring. My thoughts on this one can be found here.