Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tuesday 18 June 1963

It seems like ages since I last covered either a comedy series (intentional, at least) or a BBC show.  So I'm especially pleased to be taking a look at one of the few remaining episodes of one of the early 60s' most popular sitcoms.

Now there's a 60s font for you
John Chapman's Hugh and I  features Terry Scott and Hugh Lloyd in a Laurel and Hardy-esque double act of lazy, bigmouthed know-it-all (Scott) and childlike innocent (Lloyd).  Hugh lodges with Terry and his absent-minded mother (Vi Stevens), and when we first see him tonight he's blissfully happy playing with his spaniel Patricia and highly glamorous next door neighbour Norma (Jill Curzon, best known as Dr Who's niece in the spin-off film Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD).

The watching Terry is disgusted by this apparently harmless spectacle, insistent that rather than spending all his time chomping on dog biscuits Hugh should be out taking notice of what's happening in the world around him, and doing something to help remedy the ills of society.  Poor Hugh's defence is strangely touching: "I don't have to live in a make believe world any more, I'm real, Patricia's real and our love for each other is real."  Terry's not impressed: "You just waffle through life doing as little as you can, waiting for someone to shove food in front of you three times a day - well it's not good enough!"

Terry decides he needs to set an example by becoming a prison visitor: "I shall attempt to redeem the fallen" - though as his plan for doing this mainly involves telling them what layabouts they are it doesn't bode terribly well.

Terry's first visit (and the only one we get to see) is to armed robber Kenneth J Warren, who's not exactly overjoyed to see him, and doesn't respond quite how Terry would wish to his attempts to reach out to him.

"Come on now, give us a tiny smile..."
Terry invites the convict round to tea once he's done with pleasuring Her Majesty, painting a golden scene of domesticity: "The kettle singing merrily on the hearth, the the tea's made, the buttered toast on the table, the crumpets by the fire".

"I should keep an eye on the lodger then," snaps the convict (crumpet, lodger, get it? Oh, never mind).

Terry's friend seems hostile to the idea of paying him a visit, so it's a bit of a surprise when he later turns up at the Scott residence, five years sooner than expected.

When Hugh gets home from work, Terry's bizarre attempts to alert him that there's something wrong and he needs to get the police strangely fail to work...

...and the lodger ends up held at gunpoint with the others.  Their captor demands Terry's clothes, and as the  criminal's back's turned Hugh attempts to call the police.  A plan which is scuppered in charmingly corny fashion, by Mrs Scott's question: "Who are you phoning, Hugh?" Things get complicated even further with the arrival of neighbour Mrs Wormold (Patricia Hayes, in much the same role she'd later play in Till Death Us Do Part) and her half-senile brother-in-law (Jack Haig, who'd do the same schtick 20-odd years later in 'Allo, 'Allo! plus French accent and crap disguises) - their telly's on the blink and they need to find out what's happening in Z Cars.  Mrs Wormold's tickled no end by Terry's semi-undressed state.

The jokes and situations of Hugh and I are familiar to us now from hundreds of sitcoms over the years, but nonetheless it's fascinating to see them in an early form.  The highlight of the episode's a ridiculous exchange of sub-Carry On innuendo as Hugh leans out the bathroom window to alert Norma's mother Mrs Crispin (Mollie Sugden) to what's going on:

Hugh: I'm in the bathroom!
Mrs Crispin: I don't wish to know that.
Hugh: You see, I'm in a bit of a spot.
Mrs Crispin: Will you please close the window?
Hugh: Well I haven't got much time, and I think you could help me.
Mrs Crispin: Does Mr Scott know what you're up to?
Hugh: Yes.  Oh yes, it was his idea.
Mrs Crispin: Was it?!
Hugh: Yes, he sent me up here.
Mrs Crispin: Then why didn't he come himself?
Hugh: He can't - he's got his trousers off!
Mrs Crispin: I beg your pardon?
Hugh: Well, there's a strange man downstairs and he's escaped.
Mrs Crispin: Escaped?
Hugh: Yes, you'll do what you can for us, won't you? It's the police we want.
Mrs Crispin: You certainly do!

The result of this colourful conversation is the arrival of an outraged Mr Crispin (Wallas Eaton), and the swift departure of the convict as he learns the police are on the way to investigate a charge of sexual harassment.  Now our heroes have just got a bit of explaining to do...

Hugh and I is produced by David Croft, who'd eventually have a long string of sitcoms of varying success and quality to his name, as well as giving Sugden and Haig their best-known roles.  The end credits (in an early version of the "You Have Been Watching" style we immediately associate with Croft's oeuvre) are wonderful.  Here's what they look like:

Oh, and another Dalek connection for those interested in such things:

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