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Weekly situation comedy about a hapless but caring teacher and his class of unruly kids. The teacher sees much good and potential in his pupils much to the dismay of his fellow teachers who have lost hope in these kids. Written by
Simon Bodger <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Normally the words "ITV sit-com" are enough to strike fear into viewers.
However in the past ITV did produce some good comedies and this is one of
them. It is not a great one but it was very entertaining and deserves more
It is one of very few sit-coms to have been set in a school. Like all
sit-coms though, the situation isn't that important - the humour comes from
the characters and their relationships, although the school setting
a nice variation from the usual domestic comedies. It follows the travails
of a group of extremely mature-looking fifth-formers and their hard-pressed
The pupils are a motley bunch: the dominant Eric Duffy; tarty Sharon;
slow-witted but endearing Dennis; cocky Peter Craven; god-fearing Maureen
who has a crush on the teacher; and fantasist Frankie Abbott. They are the
nucleus of the "class from Hell" 5C - most of whom silently sit in the
background. However they all have hearts of gold and their behaviour is
surprisingly good - certainly comparing well to what many real students and
teachers experience. They are lovable rogues. All work well from a comic
viewpoint with the exception, I feel, of Dennis where the humour seems to
rest almost entirely on his stupidity. All the actors are clearly well
beyond school age, and could easily have been playing teachers!
Much of the success of the series lies with the staff characters. John
Alderton played the central character of Bernard Hedges, teacher of 5C.
While apparently mild-mannered, he actually has few problems managing his
class and has a good relationship with them. However his indecisiveness and
determination to stick up for his pupils often leads him into humorous
He has often fractious relationships with the Head Mr. Cromwell (Noel
Howlett) and Deputy Doris Ewell (Joan Sanderson). These are tremendous
characters and splendidly played. The Head is quite out-of-touch, a
misguided liberal, pretentious but capable of engaging in quite juvenile
behaviour. Miss Yuell is a haughty disciplinarian whose harsh exterior only
relents in the presence of the Head, with whom she is infatuated. Joan
Sanderson often played such roles, and always to perfection.
Price (Richard Davies) is another superb figure - a cynical, sarcastic
professional Welshman with little affection for teaching but great
for beer. Again a great acting performance. Finally there is the doddering,
ancient Mr. Smith, devoted to his wife and again capable of some very
juvenile behaviour, usually in his conflicts with the Head. The interplay
between all these is very funny.
However for many viewers the favourite staff member was Mr. Potter, the
caretaker (Deryck Guyler). Potter was an ex-soldier, obsessed with the war,
with ideas above his station. He as constantly at odds with everyone in the
school except the Head. He received his deserved come-uppance regularly in
Obviously the show is of its time, and not just in the fashions such as
the remarkably short skirts. Some of the humour might be seen as very
innocent in today's more cynical age. The language used was quite strong
its time, but still acceptable to a family audience. It would seem very
by today's standards. There are some occasions when the show borders on the
politically incorrect. However the show stands up much better than many
others from that period and the 1970s. For example in one episode an Indian
student joins the class. Typically for the time he is played by a white
actor and wears stereotypical Indian dress. However he is shown to be
intelligent, polite and articulate, with committed parents. His classmates
avoid the prejudice of their parents. Liberal ideas generally are given a
sympathetic airing, particularly by Hedges. They are though less
expressed by the bumbling Head. "I would rather resign than be forceful,"
The show avoided becoming a one-joke, innuendo-laden affair unlike many
others. The humour chiefly comes from defective people, defective
relationships and defective situations, as most comedy does. The show still
lives on, in video format and also on satellite channels. It is well-worth
checking out, whether you remember it originally or, like me, are of a
younger but curious generation. I feel you will be pleasantly surprised,
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