December 20th, 2015


They Were Funny Once, Some Of Them Still Are

The Dad's Army movie- the original one not the re-make, which hasn't been released yet- was followed by a Morecambe and Wise compilation which was followed by a Porridge Christmas Special. The cream of late 20th century TV comedy is now as much a part of the Christmas experience as Dickens and Santa and pudding.

The Dad's Army movie is better than you might suppose. Like the series that spawned it it has problems with tone- sometimes aiming for Ealing and sometimes for the end of the pier. Croft and Perry were pie in the flies men who saddled themselves on this one show with a cast who transcended the material. I could watch Lowe and Le Mesurier till the cows come home. On the small screen the physical comedy is often clumsily done- without grace or timing- but on the big screen there was time to get it right- and the sequence involving a steam roller and lines of tents and equipment is a joyful experience.

Morecambe and Wise are ready for retirement. One laughs from memory. Why- in 2015- are we still sitting down in prime time to watch sketches that rely on the audience knowing about such demi-celebs of yesteryear as Des O'Connor, Angela Rippon and Andre Previn?

Porridge may be the best sit-com ever made. Ronnie Barker straddles the comedy generations. He did rumpy-pumpy, lets-please the grannies material (rather too much of it- I'm not a fan of the Two Ronnies) and he also created Fletch- an ingratiating, not-very-nice little criminal low-life with his back against the wall- jesting and japing in the face of despair.

Gilded Butterflies

Once in a while I come across an argument for monarchy that impresses me. Peter Hitchens has one this morning. He says the monarch has no power but- like the king on the chessboard- occupies a space that would otherwise be occupied by others less worthy- and hungrier- meaning the likes of Thatcher and Blair and Cameron. I suppose it's not so much a new argument as a telling phrase. King on a chessboard- I like that.

What I really hate about monarchy is not so much the institution itself as all the crawling that goes on around it- all the buttering up and flattery. What other tiny, boot-faced, old lady keeps on getting told she looks stunning in her unfashionable flower-pot hats? But I suppose that vile business- that worship of power and wealth and position- would carry on no matter who occupied the palace. There will always be courtiers.

Christmas Visitor

I dreamed my father came to the door. He was younger than me and- which he wasn't in life- considerably taller. When I pointed this out to him he very courteously lowered himself to my level. His face had a kind of angelic inner shine to it, but he was still recognisably himself.

I was so glad to see him.