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  • "The Bounder", produced by Yorkshire Television, lasted only 14 episodes ... but every episode was hilarious. Howard Booth (deftly played by Peter Bowles) is suave, sophisticated and a complete crook. In the opening credits, he is just getting released from Her Majesty's pleasure (prison) after doing two years for fraud. His doting sister Mary won't hear a word against him, so Howard moves in with Mary and her oh-so-respectable husband Trevor Mountjoy (brilliantly played by veteran actor George Cole). Of course, as soon as Howard moves in with the Mountjoys, he uses their house as the base camp for his next crime wave. When he finds out that Laura (the neighbour next door over) is a wealthy widow, Howard straight away makes plans for her bank balance.

    Peter Bowles was already appearing on television each week in the ensemble cast of a popular Yorkshire sitcom, "Only When I Laugh". He refused to carry on his work in that series unless he was given his own starring series as well. "The Bounder" was the happy result. Amazingly, Bowles managed to keep up the workload of performing in two different sitcoms in production at the same time. (Perhaps it helped that his characters in both programmes were similar.)

    "The Bounder" has run on U.S. television, but I doubt that most Americans would get all the references. I fondly remember one screamingly funny episode in which Howard was trying to help one of his old prison mates to go straight. The ex-lag had gone to prison for counterfeiting, but now he was attempting an honest career as a portrait painter. To help the artist get started, Howard persuaded Trevor to commission a portrait of himself. The counterfeiter produced an oil painting depicting Trevor in a pose exactly matching the image of the Duke of Wellington on the five-pound note! Every adult in Britain has seen this image thousands of times, and the similarity was hilarious. When Trevor saw the painting, he noticed that it looked "familiar", but he couldn't suss out where he'd seen it before. I watched this episode with my American wife. While I was falling about laughing hysterically, she kept asking me "What's so funny?" I had to show her a fiver, at which point she "got" the joke but she still didn't laugh. "The Bounder" is a very English show, and it doesn't translate well ... but, oh yes, it is funny.

    UPDATE: The five-pound note now has a new design, so Brits who watch this episode in repeats may miss the joke. Ah, well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Peter Bowles first worked with writer Eric Chappell on his amusing hospital based sitcom 'Only When I Laugh' in which he played wealthy hypochondriac Archie Glover. By the time 'Only When I Laugh' had reached its third series, Bowles told Chappell that he would only agree to appear in further episodes if he was given a show of his own. Chappell complied with his request and so constructed 'The Bounder', screened by Yorkshire Television ( home of both 'Only When I Laugh' and Chappell's previous sitcom - the marvellous 'Rising Damp' ) between 1982 and 1983 over a course of two series. Here Peter played Howard Booth, a confidence trickster of the first order who has recently been released from prison after serving a two-year sentence for embezzlement and following his release takes up residence in the house of his sister Mary Mountjoy and her husband Trevor. Mary accepts Howard with open arms however Trevor is less than happy to have his lying, scheming brother-in-law as a live-in lodger.

    Howard also is smitten by the Mountjoy's attractive next door neighbour Laura Miles, a wealthy widow who ironically was the very woman he conned out of a fortune after she unwisely invested money in the phoney insurance company he ran. Howard's lies and constant attempts to make easy cash by ways of dishonest means land himself and those around him in serious trouble. This pattern would serve throughout the 14 episodes as the core of the show's comedy.

    'The Bounder' is not what I would call a classic but it was good fun and in my opinion was far superior to the BBC sitcom 'To The Manor Born', which Bowles starred in alongside Penelope Keith. As the smooth-talking cad Booth, Bowles was simply brilliant. He is rather like Adam Faith's 'Budgie' only with more charm and style. George Cole ( best known for 'Minder' ) gells perfectly with Peter as the constantly flustered Trevor. Rosalind Ayres made the most of what she had in the first series as Mary whilst Isla Blair mesmerised viewers as the sexy ( if rather posh ) Laura.

    Two series were made after which 'The Bounder' came to a stop, probably for the best considering the comedic ideas had pretty much been exhausted by then. Chappell's next project for Yorkshire Television was 'Duty Free' - a sitcom starring Keith Barron and Gwen Taylor as a warring married couple who go on a package holiday to Spain, which was then followed by 'Home To Roost' - a dreadful sitcom starring John Thaw as a middle aged man whose quiet life is shattered when his estranged son moves in with him.

    Both series of 'The Bounder' have been made available by Network DVD and make enjoyable viewing.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This show typifies the lackluster writing style of the early 80's in GB. While his acting was marvelous in To The manor Born, made just a few years before this one, his packed schedule of shows and his ego-driven compulsion to 'STAR' in his own show no doubt affected the production of this one.....with all too predictable results. George Cole manages to provide us with most of the genuine laughs in the episodes but nearly all the humour is of the mail-in or off-the-shelf variety. Predictably Bowles manages to get the best of Cole at every turn despite George's knowledge of what is going on and after a few episodes it all becomes far too predictable. Perhaps 35 years ago comedy audiences were less demanding about what they would accept...in the interest of a good laugh but I think really....any year...any audience......good writing like that of The Good Life or Fawlty Towers HAS to be enjoyable....this is comedy of a far different and less creative variety. If simple comedy like Sid James' Bless This House or Butterflies is all you need then this will do but I prefer the BEST that G.B. has to offer.....and this is DEFINITELY not it.