17 December 2005 | nicholas.rhodes
Excellent, under-rated but seemingly little sought after !
I possess about 96% of this series, or should I say these series on VHS and am awaiting the day they will be available on DVD. This was an excellent comedy series which seems to have fallen into oblivion. Some of the actors starred in "It Ain't Half Hot Mum ", another excellent series set in British India ! This series examines the relationships between the servant staff and the occupying family of an upper class British Household during the 1920's. What is good about it is that each character is extremely well analyzed and developed and when you follow the series from one episode to the next, their is a rigid consistency in the way each of the characters behaves. What is good is that the satire concerns everyone, it is not an anti-upper-class satire, the humbler characters are portrayed to be just as scheming and below-the-belt as the aristocratic ones. Of course I sympathize with poor old Mabel who is treated like dirt by the other servants who for some reason consider her below their level to partake of the same food as themselves ! Also I found extremely annoying the policeman who turns up every time in the kitchen to scrounge tea and cake - in fact the servants probably come out of this with a worse image than the aristocrats - sure Poppy is a spoiled brat and is always leading James on, but he himself has a kind of inverted snobbery or obsequiousness. Paul Shane's character (head butler) is also extremely dislike-able ( for me ) as he represents typical working-class-with-a-chip-on-their-shoulder but I found the character of his daughter Ivy absolutely adorable and found Henry incredibly funny with his off the cuff remarks as I did Teddy with his cravings for servant girls. Sir Ralph's character can also get annoying at times and it's a bit of a shame that Lord Meldrum has a soft spot for his wife as she seems to be more of a slut than anything else; Each episode is very well crafted and provides many moments of laughter, quiproquo, an insight into relations between "upstairs and downstairs" plus the inclusion of a number of external influences ( Barbara Windsor, for example, as Shane's false wife ). I am very fond of Donald Hewlett as an actor and his character is that I prefer in this series.
The series is typically English humour, I am not sure whether it could be appreciated by foreign audiences as some prior knowledge of the English class system is necessary - but once you get into it and become familiar with each of the characters - you cannot do without it ! I am hopeful that one day this will get round to being issued on DVD, such is the scarcity of good comedy in the UK nowadays, we need to re-edit these oldies on DVD to provide ourselves with some hours of pleasure.