The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Lost And Found

Off to the BFI for Missing Believed Wiped. After a thing about Bob Monkhouse’s extraordinary and unrivalled collection of Bob Monkhouse’s television appearances, a presentation on programmes shown on BSB which are now lost. Odd thing to watch, as I was one of the lucky (spoiled?) few to get BSB, via the squarial, and I’d seen all the ‘lost’ programmes before when I was about 16. If only I’d known then... that Noel Gay Television would dump almost their entire video archive in the nearest skip, I might have video-ed more things. As it is, I recorded William Hartnell episodes of Doctor Who, rather than now-missing editions of La Triviata (a rather jolly magazine show with Nick Hancock, like Mel and Sue’s Light Lunch), Laugh Lines with Nicholas Parsons (with guests including the ubiquitous Tony Slattery) and goodness knows how many editions of Up Yer News with Steve Punt (Up Yer News was an abysmal topical comedy show, like the Eleven O’Clock Show but even worse, if you can imagine such a thing). Instead I just taped pop videos, doing my very best to cut out the bits with the presenters in-between, and I ignored Keith Allen’s tedious, homophobic and right-wing sketch show and Rob Brydon’s delightfully laid-back movie review show and all sorts of other marvels now lost to posterity. Although they seem to have kept every episode of Jupiter Moon, such was their lunacy. I remember Spike Milligan doing a few editions of Up Yer News from the Edinburgh Festival which were quite funny. Anyway, I must have thrown away all the tapes, so call me Pamela Nash.

We did see the first episode of Ronnie Barker's long-thought-lost sitcom His Lordship Entertains which was, surprisingly, very funny. Surprisingly because it died a death at the time and was quickly wiped, despite being written by a pseudonymous Ronnie Barker, with David Jason in a supporting role as a grotesque elderly hotel porter. The characters were stereotypes and the plot was wafer thin, but it was all seaside postcard jokes – including some very obvious, un-pc stuff about a busty waitress’s dumplings – all played extremely broadly, like an end-of-the-pier farce, but great fun all the same; much better than the impression given from the published scripts. It’s not a Fawlty Towers Mark I, as Ronnie like to claim; it’s closer to Up Pompeii or On The Buses.

This was followed by a recently-discovered episode of Till Death Us Do Part, State Visit, in which Alf rails against bloody Wilson who has invited the Soviet Premier, Alexei Kosygin, to meet the Queen. To be honest, it wasn’t the best episode – the first twenty-five minutes was a repetitive first-draft (albeit one certainly written in a mad dash to be topical by a half-cut Johnny Speight) with Alf endlessly throwing away a copy of the Daily Mirror in disgust and Mike constantly pointing out to him that the UK was no longer a first-rate power, with Dandy Nichols pretty much stealing the episode with a ramble about the next-door neighbour’s new fence. After about five minutes argument about West Ham, the episode then has Alf and Else going to visit Downing Street and Buckingham Palace before a tag scene where a bit of contrived slapstick indicates the episode has completely run out of steam. It’s lovely it exists, and to be treasured, but it wasn’t nearly so much fun as His Lordship Entertains.

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