Friday, 8 February 2013

Friday 8 February 1963

Radio Minus 50 - The TV Lark: Z Ambulances

As the title appended to this episode by TV/radio historian Andrew Pixley suggests, this week's TV Lark sends up the BBC's gritty police show Z Cars, though various other shows get caught in the crossfire - there's even a scene set in the Rovers' Return.  

A new advertiser, Winstanley Washing Machines Ltd (as I've pointed out before, pop culture in early 60s Britain was obsessed with washing machines) offers to put their business Troutbridge TV's way if the station makes a gripping new weekly serial they can advertise during.  Phillips, Murray and Pertwee decide what they need is a cross between Z Cars, Emergency Ward 10 and Compact (I feel rather sorry for poor Compact - not only do very, very few episodes of it still exist but in comedy series of the time its very name was enough to provoke gales of laughter from an audience).  Tenniel Evans camps it up ludicrously as the show's star Alistair Scott-Harman, who rides a penny farthing in order to seem interesting.  Michael Bates plays the plummy Mr Bates, another former Navy Lark alumnus who turns up as Z Ambulances' designer: his habit of building sets with four walls that prove impossible to escape from makes for the episode's most entertaining moments.

A few general observations: Jon Pertwee's character (clearly the audience's favourite) is really quite sinister, especially in his habit of referring to himself in the third person ("I get the feeling that Pertwee is not too popular around here").  There's the second joke referring to Hanna Barbera cartoons in three weeks - any more would suggest writer Lawrie Wyman's peculiarly obsessed (as an aside, it's strange to think that viewers in the UK would have been watching the adventures of Yogi Bear, "Boss Cat" etc. in black and white at this time).  And once again Leslie Phillips manages to steal the show through the simple expedient of underplaying his lines while everyone around him delivers theirs so frantically - as the man himself says, "Shrewd, that's what you are Leslie, shrewd".

Magnificently terrible joke of the week:

Cameraman Goldstein: I want an evening off in lieu.
Murray: What a funny way to spend an evening.

Yes, exactly.

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