Friday, 4 October 2013
Friday 4 October 1963
An almost Galton & Simpson-esque two-hander for most of its length, Party Mood is the most successful episode of The Marriage Lines yet, following Kate and George Starling on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as they react to the news that all their friends are going to a party to which they haven't been invited. It's brilliantly simple, and gives Prunella Scales and, especially, Richard Briers, a superb opportunity to show off their comedy chops.
Kate and George's life's been a social whirlwind of late, a seemingly endless round of parties. So they're looking forward to a nice evening in by themselves for a change. George has bought a record of Kate's favourite song, a slushy ballad called "People in Love" (written especially for the episode by The Marriage Lines' writer Richard Waring and composer Dennis Wilson, and sung by crooner Gary Miller). It's an amazing coincidence as Kate was just thinking of it that day, and how it makes her feel about her relationship with George. The breathless excitement in the way she describes her banal life is strangely lovable: "It was in Mr Harrison's, I went in to see him about the new wastepipe and I suddenly thought, it's just the two of us tonight, how wonderful. And I went straight in the butcher's and bought a chicken."
This domestic idyll comes crashing down around their ears when George calls their hosts of the previous night to thank them - and learns they're off to Tom and Joan's party. Which Kate and George haven't received an invite to. Kate's immediately appalled about this, but George laughs it off. "If you had any sense of gallantry at all, George, you'd do something about it," Kate insists, though she's unimpressed with his offer to challenge Tom to a duel.
The romantic evening in forgotten, Kate insists the Starlings hold a party of their own - she can string her chicken out into a big risotto if she uses plenty of rice. She heads next door to invite Peter and Norah, and George rings up Miles. But they're all going to Tom and Joan's. As are all of their other friends, even the ones who don't even know Tom and Joan. Even Stephen and Jenny, who nobody's asked out anywhere in their lives.
Kate and George never liked Tom and Joan anyway. He's a pimply, toffee-nosed communist who pours "the smallest Scotches this side of the border". And she never cleans the bathroom. Not that George has ever noticed: "We men just hop in and out, you know." And you know, there's nothing like a gruesome character assassination of your friends to cheer you up. They even start to speculate on Tom and Joan's future children: "With his lips." "And her bosom. Joan's bosom would just about pass on a boy." "I've often passed it on Joan."
Next thing, of course, Kate and George are having a huge row, with Kate convinced George wants to go to the party. After all, the only thing left to drink at the Starlings' is sweet vermouth - and not even any soda. And the B-side of the record is Gary Miller enthusing about non-stop partying in "Let's Go Gay". George is driven to call up Tom, and is incensed when he makes no reference to the party despite the deafening crowd in the background.
One minute George has decided that people see the Starlings as so loved-up they're crashing bores, the next he's convinced it's their constant rowing that put people off. Either way, they're clearly considered poison.
Then Peter turns up, having argued with Norah - the fight kicked off with them disagreeing about whether or not George and Kate were invited to the party. George, of course, makes out they were but didn't want to go. Inconveniently, Tom then rings back to invite them - insisting he did send an invite. When George pops out to the off licence Kate discovers it was in George's dressing gown pocket all along!
There's a callback here to the first Marriage Lines episode, with Peter reminding Kate of the embarrassment she felt on finding she had the key to the flat after they'd been locked out all night, and insisting she not tell George about the invite.
But she doesn't need to - on returning he swiftly finds it himself, and is accordingly gobsmacked.
But fortunately it all ends well, with all the partygoers on their way to Kate and George after escaping Tom and Joan's deathly dull soirée. Marriage Lines has had more than its share of dud episodes, but the warm, witty Party Mood shows how good it can potentially be.