Eighties TV Season: End of Part One, Series 1 Episode 4

Regular readers will recollect that at the beginning of last year I started a series of posts on programmes which, borrowing a phrase from the world of Doctor Who, I christened orphaned episodes. By that I meant that they were not commercially available and had lost some of their episodes. It was a very interesting experience because I rather found that this took over my life: I had no idea how many random episodes of old shows are knocking about the internet, discovered many shows that I had no idea existed, and even following my rule that I only post about things which take my fancy, it became an engrossing project over a period of months. 

A similar thing is happening with this series of posts about 1980s shows. One of the reasons my posts are a bit sparse is that I'm going through an initial shortlist of shows on my hard drive and in my DVD collection, which is taking some time in itself. Take away all the shows that I think are great but either aren't actually from the eighties and I was wrong, or that I just can't write about, and it's becoming a bit gruelling. That said I am delighted that I have discovered two 1980s TV shows which I didn't even know existed, so once again this blog is expanding my televisual horizons in a way I wasn't expecting when I started it.

In the case of this post, End of Part One was a series I had read about but never seen and have discovered that I like it very much. It scrapes into the time frame because its last episode was broadcast in 1980 - but when have I ever stuck to the rules I make? We are in great company here, because End of Part One was intended to transfer the humour of the radio series The Burkiss Way to the television, and I think it does it admirably. In fact if you haven't listened to it I think you should definitely listen to The Burkiss Way anyway, because it's great. The humour in question has been variously described as Pythonesque, surreal, and heavily based on puns. If you like Monty Python, basically you'll love both The Burkiss Way and this show. While it draws on an earlier tradition, I personally would think of this show as more eighties than sixties or seventies, as it is placed just before the alternative comedy of the eighties, and presages things like A Kick Up the Eighties and Not the Nine O'Clock News.

This episode is largely a parody of Sherlock Holmes and is from series 1 of the show, where the episodes are centred on Vera and Norman Straightman, whose lives are constantly interrupted by intrusions from the world of television. It begins, magnificently, with a shot of rooftops and a variation of the Coronation Street theme. The first sketch shows the Straightmans interrupted by a man man calling asking for donations of spare heads. He himself has his own head under his arm. The mystery that Holmes and Watson have to investigate is that Mr Straightman's head is subsequently stolen in the night.

We then move to Holmes and Watson in bed together. Mrs Watson walks in and demands that he chooses between her and Holmes, and then stamps out when Watson asks Holmes what he thinks about it.

The surrealism is marvellously encapsulated by the way the characters keep swapping over to be Holmes and Watson. The initial Holmes and Watson characters start this by swapping over character mid scene to give the other one a go, however this progresses to scenes where there are two Watsons but no Holmes, and scenes where Mrs Straightman has a go at being Holmes. Holmes and Watson swap over by swapping clothes in the middle of a scene, which is bizarre in itself. They all have to hold still at one point for Sidney Paget to paint an illustration for the Strand Magazine. Seriously, this show is brilliant.

It isn't a criticism as such, but as you know I'm very very woke indeed, and so I should stress that there is a sketch in this episode which is set in a pet shop in a Chinese takeaway which reflects the attitudes of the time and wouldn't be made today.

I'm not going to give away the ending, but it is of course, twice round the hatstand.

I have no criticisms and this show is very highly recommended.

Proud to be a member of the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati and the anti-growth coalition. wesayenough.co.uk - tactical.vote 

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