Friday, 6 September 2013
Friday 6 September 1963
Kate Starling's off to the outer reaches of Luton to look after her poorly gran. She's far from convinced that husband George will be able to cope in her absence, and before she departs gives detailed instructions on how to heat up the contents of tins and packets. George is unimpressed: "I'm not an idiot," he bristles. "Yes you are darling, that's why I love you" is Kate's unanswerably condescending reply.
Prunella Scales and Richard Briers' sheepish performances brilliantly capture the awkward silence when you've said your goodbyes, but it's not time for the other person to leave yet after all.
It's the first time they've been apart since they married. The series' resident Mephistophelean tempter, George's workmate Miles, seizes the opportunity to try and set George up with another colleague, Cherry (Lyn Pinkney), whose hobby is married men. George agrees to accompany Miles on a boys' night out, but intends to do nothing more transgressive than bring fish and chips home (Kate won't allow them in the house, as she erroneously believes she can cook just as well as the local chippy). "The slave has been given his freedom and the acme of his desire is sixpennyworth of fried potatoes," Miles mocks.
George's visit to that establishment is made particularly stressful by being stuck behind a soul-destroyingly morose and indecisive old woman (Nora Gordon), who ends up taking the last of the chips.
The interior ofthechip shop is fascinating, with the proprietor serving at the counter and a prim cashier sat at a desk safely removed from the frying to take the customers' money.
Returning home to consume his chipless fish, George finds that while Kate may be physically absent, her admonitions to him live on in a seeming endless series of notes placed around the house, all stating the bleedin' obvious.
To make things worse, George's plans for the evening are somewhat scuppered when neighbour Nora informs him that Kate intends to call him at 8. Dashing to the pub for a quick one, he finds that his friends have all brought their wives out (future Hammer horror starlet Suzan Farmer among them).
George goes back home to take Kate's call, telling his friends to meet him there in a short while. An hour later, he's still awaiting the call, and his supply of sweet sherry has nearly been cleaned out by his thirsty guests. Once they've abandoned him the phone rings - but it's the persistent Cherry, intent on paying him a visit. Midway through the call Kate returns, Granny now much better and not needing her care.
All's well for a few minutes, then Cherry arrives on the doorstep...
The Parting is another fairly disappointing episode, the characters that seemed to have so much potential at the start of the series degenerating further into one-dimensional stereotypes: George a gormless man-child, Kate a hysterical nag. The episode's ending's especially frustrating, with Kate running to the bedroom in tears and slamming the door after answering the front door to Cherry (it's the first episode that doesn't end with the Starlings making up). The show's not terrible by any means, but The Marriage Lines is shaping up to be a bog-standard sitcom when it initially promised more. Still, there are another six episodes of this series yet to go, plenty of time for it to get back on track (I hope).