Still Open All Hours

Still Open All Hours (BBC One)

It may still be Arkwright’s name over the shop, but David Jason has now been behind the counter of this sitcom spin-off longer than Ronnie Barker served in the original.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the man behind the typewriter. In a way, you have to admire the 89-year-old Roy Clarke’s stubborn refusal to get with the times. Because, make no mistake, this is a script that would have slotted seamlessly into the original run of OAH 40 years ago – or, indeed, into any of Clarke’s 295 episodes of Last of the Summer Wine.

For one thing, the story hinged upon the comic potential of a mangle (that’s right, a mangle – in 2019!) in which Jason’s penny-pinching Granville saw several opportunities for his latest business hustle. Hence a gag in which he put some kippers through the mangle, followed by a gag in which he put a pizza through the mangle. Then, lest we think there was only one type of joke to be extracted from said mangle, there was a bit where someone dropped it on Johnny Vegas’ foot.

Clarke’s is also a world in which the comedy battleaxe is alive and well, with Stephanie Cole taking up the Nurse Gladys / Nora Batty reigns as Mrs Featherstone, here seen smothering Granville’s face in her significant bosom. (Cue joke about muffins.)

Our miserly hero eventually hit on the idea of turning his mangle into a steam-powered trouser press, leading to absolute scenes in which three men were forced to protect their modesty behind the shop counter. That’s an actual dropped trouser gag in – I say again – 2019.

With its mix of crackpot inventions and strangely timeless northern milieu of cobbled streets and back-to-back terraces, Still Open All Hours often resembles a live action version of Wallace & Gromit, minus the dazzling wit. Really, though, it’s hard to knock a man who’s been bringing pleasure to millions for almost half a century. And you can’t say he doesn’t know his audience: this week’s episode climaxed with Tim Healy careering down a hill on that steam-powered mangle-cum-trouser-press, which might just be the most Roy Clarke thing ever.

 

Living with Yourself (Netflix)

Paul Rudd, the most relatable Avenger, puts his regular Joe shtick to good use twice over in this high-concept black comedy about a depressed wage slave forced to share his life – and wife (Kildare’s own Aisling Bea) – with a more confident, alpha clone of himself. Short on knockabout gags and long on existential angst, it’s a surprisingly downbeat affair, and none the worse for that.

 

Charlotte Church: My Family & Me (Channel 4)

Forget The Island with Bear Grylls – try surviving a holiday in rainy Devon with your mum and dad. But Charlotte Church had a good reason for doing just that: her dad James has a rare terminal illness, while relations with her mum Maria have been strained since the pressures of her childhood superstardom drove a wedge between them. The result was a raw, honest and touching study of what Charlotte called the “messy and human” business of family relationships.

 

Published in Waitrose Weekend, 24 October, 2019

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