19 March 2013 | enochsneed
A lovable rogue trying to stay ahead
Although it is undeniably a sitcom, 'The Gaffer' has a kernel of truth which is worth remembering while you laugh.
Fred Moffat runs his own small engineering company somewhere in West Yorkshire. He lives in an ordinary terraced house, and drives a clapped-out car full of unpaid parking tickets. His overdrafts have overdrafts and he is usually just one step ahead of the tax man, the factory inspector, or the bank manager, or all three at once. His workforce is work shy and usually wondering if they will be paid this week. Fortunately, Fred has quick wits and an unending reserve of low cunning to get out of scrapes, much to the amazement and reluctant admiration of his buxom secretary, Betty.
Bill Maynard plays Fred to perfection. He may be a rogue and a bit of a conman but he will do anything to keep his little world afloat, even getting his hands dirty on the factory floor. He may the gaffer (i.e., the boss) but he does actually know about engineering. This is what gives the show its heart. We know what a struggle it is to keep a small business going when you're faced with bureaucracy, banks and Bolshie workers (and a shaky economy - has there been a time since about 1973 when the UK economy wasn't shaky?). You laugh at Fred's scheming while recognising he is really just trying to survive as well as he can.
This was a good series, if not quite a classic. There were some upsets during production, and eventually the series came to an end, because the writer increasingly resented Bill Maynard's tendency to ad-lib around his scripts (resulting in some slightly flubbed lines and quite a bit of 'corpsing' by Pat Ashton's Betty). As Bill Maynard is one of the UK's best-loved and most experienced comedy actors, he might have been more grateful for the input.