With a script by Vince Powell and Harry Driver, who would dominate ITV's comedy output in the late 60s and early 70s with a raft of series including Nearest and Dearest, Bless This House and Love Thy Neighbour, tonight's episode is Coronation Street as pure sitcom. And utterly wonderful sitcom at that.
At the Viaduct Sporting Club, preparations are being made for that evening's programme of wrestling.
But there's a last minute substitution, as Prince Umpala, King of the Zulus, is unable to fight. The following dialogue, between Charlie Moffit and Norman Phillips, explains the situation:
Norman: Its a pity we couldn't get that Zulu chief, he would've been a big draw.
Charlie: Yeah, what happened to him?
Charlie: Fat? You mean he was overweight?
Norman: No, hot fat. He got burnt.
Charlie: Oh, he wasn't injured in the ring, then?
Norman: No, at his chip shop. He's got one of those supper bars outside Accrington. His real name's Fred Schofield.
Standing in at short notice is Ogden the Terrible, otherwise known as Stan Ogden.
Under the supervision of Irish spiv Tickler Murphy (Patrick McAlinney), Stan's been training as a wrestler for the past few weeks, but wasn't expecting to be in a headline bout quite this soon. Over at the Rovers he's swiftly downing the Dutch courage. "I feel all churned up here," he complains. "Happen it's a touch of wind, eh?" asks Jack Walker, earning a basilisk stare from his wife. According to Len Fairclough, Ian Campbell (a famous real life wrestler playing himself here) has put three fellers in hospital so far this year, and one of those was a referee. Jack tries to be encouraging: "Happen you'll get your name in 't' papers!" "Aye," agrees Stan, "But which column? 'Loving thoughts of you remain, but some day we may meet again'?"
When Hilda Ogden appears to let her husband know his dinner's ready, she's interrogated by Annie Walker: "Doesn't it worry you that your husband is shortly to be torn limb from limb just for the entertainment of a few bloodthirsty morons?" At Hilda's indifference she insists that "He could be disfigured for life!" Hilda's still not bothered: "I wouldn't worry about that. I mean, look at him. Whatever happens it's bound to be be an improvement."
Enter Florrie Lindley, who seems to be quite over that nervous breakdown now she's stepping out with Tickler (presumably she can vouch for how he got his name). Still, she's a tad disappointed to learn that the romantic night out he promised her is going to be at the wrestling, and the swanky dinner is going to be over at the Ogdens' eating the meat and potato pie Stan's not allowed to have before the bout.
Minnie Caldwell's bought two ringside seats for the fight, but Ena Sharples refuses to accompany her, feeling that pitting hapless beginner Stan against a champion wrestler is grotesquely unfair.
Over at the Rovers, Stan serves Ian Campbell with a tomato juice and boggles at the size of the man.
With the pub likely to be quiet when the wrestling's on, Jack's planning to go and see it, but Annie's on to him before he can even ask: "I think we shall be quite busy, Jack, even though our customers are satisfying their moronic bloodlust."
Dennis Tanner's popped into the sporting club to get a pair of tickets, and regales a clearly uninterested Norman with tales of his boxing prowess at school: "I were champion of the form, you know. Mind you, I were two years older than everybody else."
Ian Campbell happens to arrive at this point, Norman desperately trying to warn Dennis as he spouts off to the burly stranger about how wrestling matches are all fixed.
In the end, Dennis ends up with nothing more than a crushed hand when he and Campbell shake.
Back at the Rovers, Albert Tatlock reminisces over the great wrestling matches of the past: "And if things got dull in 't' ring, you could always gamble on half a dozen fights outside that were worth watching." He's going to the fight with Minnie, in Ena's place. Jack warns him to be careful - after all, it is a leap year. Annie's appalled when she learns that Dennis's other ticket is for Jack - but for once her beleaguered husband manages to get his way.
Stan dashes over to Minnie's house to beg Charlie not to make him fight. He's seen Campbell, and he's terrified: "He's about seven foot!" "Well, so are you," Charlie reassures him. "Aye, but not across!" Minnie gives Stan a lucky pixie made of Cornish clay (look at that picture above her mantelpiece!)
At the sporting club, the evening's entertainment commences. The spectators are baying for blood, with the exception of Minnie, who can't bear to see anyone hurt - she's only there to support Stan.
Backstage, Stan gets a rubdown and a pep talk from Tickler, who warns him to submit once Campbell's got him in his Indian death grip. By this time the butterflies in Stan's stomach "feel like giant spanners". Campbell pops in for an agonising pre-match handshake.
The Rovers is, as predicted, deserted. Ena and Annie are on their own, and the landlady asks her guest to join her in a glass of cherry brandy (Ena hasn't had a cherry brandy since before her marriage, when she was stepping out with Sid Appleby). Ena suggests that all the screaming at the wrestling match will be cathartic for Jack, but Annie's insistent: "If I know my Jack, they won't get a peep out of him."
Cut to Jack being restrained by Dennis as he goes berserk in the audience.
It's time for the big fight, and as Stan is tied into his cape ("Ooh, it does suit him, that cape," observes Minnie) and ushered toward the stage, I can't help wishing I had a T-shirt like Len Fairclough's.
The fight begins ("He's more than that!" cries a scandalised Hilda when Stan's weight is given as 15 stone three ounces), and it looks like Stan faces a good pulverising. Hilda's more worried about Stan's pot belly than his impending hospitalisation: "If he's gonna start stripping off in public he'll have to slim!"
Over at the Rovers, Ena and Annie have moved on to the Benedictine, and are now so squiffy that they're on first name terms. When Ena mentions she's unable to afford a proper Sunday lunch on her pension, Annie makes the sure-to-be-regretted move of inviting her round any time she wants.
Ena tells Annie she thinks she should've won the talent contest at the sporting club with her beautiful voice. Annie reciprocates with an appreciation of Ena's: "I've heard your Rock of Ages echoing across the street on a Sunday morning!"
At the sporting club, the wrestling match concludes with Stan thrown out of the ring onto the lap of the startled gent sitting next to Hilda.
The episode ends with Ena and Annie singing us out. Sheer bliss.