Sykes and a Following

I have a few comedy shows I've been thinking of posting about and this episode of Sykes And A... is the first. Actually Eric Sykes is a fascinating person and if you want to know about his tragic and talented life you can't do much better than his obituary in The Independent. His work can only be described as prolific and he frequently partnered, as here, with the legendary Hattie Jacques, who also led a fascinating life.

I am usually put off when a show is described as a sitcom, because I feel it prepares you to expect monotonous scripts, scenarios built on conflict between friends, and exactly the sort of ennui I watch TV to avoid. Sykes and a... is, however, a sitcom which is a dream and ran from 1960 to 1965. Its quality can be gauged by the writers who in addition to Sykes himself, include Johnny Speight, John Antrobus and Spike Milligan. According to Wikipedia its preservation status is patchy - I believe there have previously been commercial releases on VHS but if you want to see this show your best option is the internet.

The premise of this one is very simple - Sykes and his sister work a bus (as driver and conductor respectively) as they think best and to the consternation of their employers. They run their bus route with an eye to providing the best service and of course in no time the public don't want to travel by any other bus. The bus company dearly want to get rid of them and chaos ensues.

At one point they are promoted to stop them running the bus, and end up driving their bus route without a bus, so popular is it. The great strength is that the scenario is exactly the sort of thing you might think up and assume it's too ridiculous to happen in reality! The show is also a dream in that there is no unkindness. Sykes's character has been described as child-like but I don't think that's the right word - perhaps guileless is more the word.

This show feels much of an era with Hancock's Half Hour, both in humour and production values. I don't have any criticism at all. Besides you can't criticise Sykes and Jacques, it would be like thumbing your nose at the queen.

If you want a series featuring the team of Jacques and Sykes in a professional release quality I would recommend the series Sykes, which reused many of the scripts from this earlier series.


  1. Chicago Calling (Memory Time Plus!):

    Some while back, I was bestirred by your account of Theater Of Blood to recall the great Eric Sykes and his supporting performance in that classic thriller - and how, years before that, how he and Jimmy Edwards had brought their stage farce Big Bad Mouse (I finally remembered the name!) to Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, with unexpected results.

    Because I was a sort-of British comedy aficionado back then, I kind-of knew who Sykes and Edwards were (thanks to late-night movies on TV), which put me slightly ahead of the Chicago theatergoers who came sight unseen to the show - but funny is funny, and a great time was had by all that Saturday afternoon (winter weather notwithstanding).

    Years afterward, I was able to get a copy of Eric Sykes's memoir, which had the best title I ever saw on such a volume: If I Don't Write It, Nobody Else Will.
    Imagine my delight to see that Eric wrote, mostly favorably, about his experiences in my old home town (weather and local politics aside).

    So anyway, when I saw your post here, I happened to be in the grip of a classic coincidence:
    From my Olde DVD Wall, I had just watched Halloween Party, the David Suchet TV version of the Poirot mystery - which, as it happened, was Eric Sykes's final acting role in the medium.
    The role was supporting, small but significant; knowing that Sykes was working against health problems made it all the more impressive to me (I'd bet that most American viewers would have been unaware of that fact when this was screened here).

    Not much else to say here, really; I haven't seen the show you're writing about here (lack of access), and aren't likely to in the foreseeable future.

    But I did want to mention that all these years on, I still warmly remember Eric Sykes and his Chicago adventure - and I thought you might like to know the story too ...

    Thanks for the use of the hall - and remember, if you ever come to Chicago in wintertime - DON'T!!!
    (Unless you bring at least ten shirts ...)
    (We have two seasons in Chicago - Winter and the Fourth of July.)
    All the best!

  2. Thank you so much for commenting again, Mike. I love those TV coincidences!
    It probably would have helped if I'd mentioned it in the actual post but if you want to watch this show you do have access to it:


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