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On the death of their father Joshua, siblings Eli and Nellie Pledge inherit the family business, Pledge's Purer Pickles, at Colne, Lancashire, in the north of England. Their faithful workers include the myopic Stan Hardman, Bert Taylor and Grenville. Transport is provided by Storm the cart horse. Never far away are second cousin Lily and her husband Walter. While Nellie works hard to keep the business going, Eli prefers to indulge in the delights of beer, cigarettes and young women. Written by
Vince Powell and Harry Driver's 'Nearest & Dearest' is rather similar to Ray Galton and Alan Simpson's 'Steptoe & Son' in that it features two family members and business partners ( in this case a brother and sister who run a pickle factory ) who cannot abide each other. Whilst nowhere near as good as Galton and Simpson's show, it was popular and funny enough to run to a more than respectable seven series.
The first episode starts off with Nellie and Eli Pledge being reunited after their father Joshua dies and leaves them in his will the family pickle factory ( 'Pledge's Purer Pickles' ). Their reunion is not a happy one. On the day of the funeral, Nellie is mortified when her brother Eli throws an extra scoop of earth onto their father's coffin. Eli justifies his actions by claiming that it is tradition to do that at a funeral, to which Nellie responds: ''That was no need for you to shout 'one for the pot!'''.
Regular visitors to the Pledge household are second cousin Lily ( Madge Hindle ) and her octogenarian husband Walter ( Edward Malin ) who never speaks and spends most of his time shuffling to and from the toilet, hence Nellie's ''Have you been?'' catchphrase.
It was unassuming Northern fun, brought to life excellently by both Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewel. Rumour has it that, like Harry H. Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell from 'Steptoe & Son', both Baker and Jewel did not get along in real life. Sad though it was, it added greatly to the realism of the pair's portrayal of the warring siblings. The main source of laughs came from Nellie's use of malapropisms ( such as ''What are you incinerating?'' ). Madge Hindle specialised in playing dowdy middle aged women. Edward Malin frequently got big laughs as Walter despite never saying a word. Joe Gladwin often appeared as Stan Hardman who in terms of hygiene gave Albert Steptoe a run for his money. In 1972 there was the inevitable film spin-off which met with a mixed reception from the public.
After Granada Television cancelled the show in 1973, Jimmy Jewel moved over to Thames Television for 'Spring & Autumn' while Hylda Baker went to London Weekend Television to take on the leading role in 'Not On Your Nellie'.
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