Following the death of Enoch Merton, his family meet for the reading of his will. Paul is astonished to discover that the man he believed to be his uncle was actually his father, and is further shocked – and delighted – to learn he’s been left Enoch’s fortune (some five hundred thousand pounds). There’s one caveat though – Paul is currently single, but the will demands that he gets married within seven days. If he doesn’t then Enoch’s fortune will go to a cat’s home ….
Being of Sound Mind was originally broadcast as part of Dawson’s Weekly in 1975, where it was titled Where There’s A Will. Les Dawson took the main role whilst Roy Barraclough played Evelyn.
Before Paul arrives, we observe the rest of his family – two warring sisters and their husbands. Freida (Toni Palmer) and Arthur (Brian Murphy) run a motorway café famed for its terrible hygienic reputation. An example is provided by Freida’s sister, Fanny (Pamela Cundell), who recalls the time that a lorry driver found a mouse inside one of Freida’s pies, but asked for it not to be taken away as it was the first bit of decent meat he’d seen in her establishment! Fanny’s husband, George (Reginald Marsh) agrees with her wholeheartedly.
It’s nice to see Brian Murphy again and Reginald Marsh (a familiar sitcom performer but someone who could also turn his hand to drama – The Plane Makers, for example) is another welcome addition to the cast. It’s just a pity that they’re overshadowed by their respective spouses – Freida and Fanny are clearly the dominant hands in both their marriages. Palmer and Cundell deliver rather broad and unsubtle performances, but thankfully Merton, Murphy and Marsh are on hand to deliver the odd decent putdown to them.
Being of Sound Mind is an episode of two halves. Part one features Paul, his relatives and the solicitor (Geoffrey Whitehead) whilst the second half sees Paul set out in his quest to find a partner – and quick.
He rolls up to a computer dating agency where he gets into a conversation with Evelyn (Sam Kelly) who’s also waiting patiently to be fixed up. Evelyn flatters Paul by telling him that he should have no trouble finding a partner. This is an excuse for Merton to throw in a few digs at his Have I Got News For You co-stars, replying that whilst he’s not as handsome as Angus Deaton at least he’s taller than Ian Hislop (“but then again who isn’t? A pigeon’s taller than Ian Hislop”).
There’s an odd tone from then on. Given the slightly overpowering interest that Evelyn pays to Paul it seems possible that Evelyn will turn out to be gay. And when Evelyn turns up at Paul’s door – as his date – this seems to be the way the story will develop. But no, it’s just a glitch in the computer system – Evelyn had been incorrectly logged in the system as a woman.
Paul is just preparing to turn him away when it’s revealed that Evelyn runs the cats home where Enoch’s money will end up if Paul doesn’t marry. So Paul decides that romancing Evelyn is now his best option …..
Not only is it an incredible coincidence that Paul would run into the possible recipient of Enoch’s fortune, there’s also something a little off about the way he suddenly decides to seduce Evelyn, especially since Evelyn’s looking for female company. Although Kelly is less camp than Roy Barraclough in the original, it’s still rather jarring. You could be generous and say that it might have worked in the seventies, but two decades later it doesn’t play well.
As I said, this is very much a tale of two halves. The first has some decent byplay, but the second really doesn’t work. It wasn’t effective back in 1975 and without a major rewrite it suffered the same fate in 1997. Something of a damp squib, even with all the comic talent onboard.