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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This amiable Vince Powell/Harry Driver sit-com for Thames Television
starred the irreplaceable Sid James and the underrated Victor Spinetti
as 'Sid Turner' and 'Vic Evans', city boys who quit their boring office
jobs but have no idea what to do next. "I'll have to do something.",
says Sid: "I'm too old to be a hippie!". They buy Clover Farm ( 40
acres, 12 dairy cows, 40 poultry, two sows and a mare ) in the middle
of nowhere, and try and run it themselves. Predictable mishaps ensue -
milking, mucking out, the occasional run-in with the Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, hens that won't lay, tractors breaking
down, Fanny the cow getting pregnant, and surly locals and snobbish
gentry trying to get one over on our heroes.
Hardly 'The Good Life' ( which it most strongly resembles ) perhaps, but miles funnier than the more recent 'The Green Green Grass'. The humour comes chiefly from the offbeat teaming of hardened Londoner James and shrill Welshman Spinetti. Originality might not have been Powell & Driver's forte, but they knew how to write funny lines alright. Guest-stars included John Le Mesurier, James Beck, Bill Pertwee, Gerald Flood, Graham Crowden, Justine Lord, and a fresh-faced John Inman. Spinetti was absent one week, so Richard Davies ( 'Mr.Price' of 'Please Sir' ) took his place.
Though a ratings success, it was dropped after only two seasons. In his autobiography 'From Rags To Gags', Powell says that it was because the second run had not done as well as the first, and being a fairly expensive show ( with some of it being done on film and involving livestock ), the powers-that-be decided not to continue with it. Sid would next be seen in the show he is best remembered for - 'Bless This House'.
35 years after it ended, 'Clover' resurfaced on D.V.D. and proved as delightful as ever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1966, the writing team of Vince Powell and Harry Driver penned a
successful sitcom for Sid James called 'George and the Dragon' for ATV.
It achieved fine viewing figures and lasted for four series. Sid James
then contacted the writers telling them ATV have ordered a fifth and
sixth series of 'George and the Dragon' Powell & Driver though informed
James they would have to decline as they'd just signed an exclusive
contract with Thames Television. Sid James then told the writing duo
he's moving to Thames. Imagine the compliment that must have been for
the two writers.
So Powell & Driver had to come up with an idea for Sid James. This was proving incredibly difficult for them. Day after day they just couldn't think of anything. One lunchtime they went to the local pub for lunch, when there was a party going on. It was in aid of a car mechanic the duo knew called Ted. Ted was fed up of coming home from work every night in oil and dirt, so he'd brought a small holding farm in the country. He knew nothing about farming, it would be a new experience. Powell got some beer mats from behind the bar and they both started writing what it'd be like having Sid James in Ted's situation. 'Two in Clover' was born.
In 'Two in Clover' Sid Turner (Sidney James) and Vic Evans (Victor Spinetti) are fed up of their nine to five job, so they buy a holding farm in Finchley. They call it Clover Farm. They know nothing about farming and find the country locals unwelcoming to the townies, especially from the local Policeman Cecil Armitage (Bill Pertwee) and the local pub landlord who is called Dan in the first series and Tom in the second (Victor Platt, a bit of a balls up here). Farming adventures occur, such as the stress of Fanny the Cow being made pregnant, financial problems occur and as Sid James is in it, problems occur when Sid has had one too many beers and again because Sid's in it, there is some fun with the birds as well (not just the feathered variety). Sid James and Victor Spinetti both put in great performances with great comic rapport.
The scripts were very good and funny, great performances by James, yet there were also some fine guest appearances throughout the series. There was a bit of a 'Dad's Army' theme occurring throughout the first series as Bill Pertwee who played Hodges in 'Dad's Army' had a semi-regular role as the local policeman. His 'Dad's Army' colleagues John Le Mesurier and James Beck turned up in the first series. As did JG Devlin and appearing in two episodes as their grumpy farmer neighbour who is particularly unwelcoming to Sid and Vic was Gerald Flood as Gerald Bromley-Jones. The Second Series brought equally fine guest appearances with Jack Woolger, Tim Barrett, Garfield Morgan, John Savident (a pre Fred Elliot appearance) and in the final episode there was two significant guest appearances. Freddie Trueman played himself in the ending episode and also appearing in his first TV role was John Inman, who later went on to play Mr Humphries in 'Are you Being Served' In one episode, Victor Spinetti was unable to appear, so he was replaced by fellow Welshman and 'Please Sir' star Richard Davies, who played Victor's brother David Evans.
The first series was shot in monochrome and the second was shot in colour. Their was problems with both series though. The first was shot mainly in a studio, which led to chickens attacking members of the audience and other animals doing their business on the studio floor. The second series as a result then was mainly shot on location, which was too expensive for Thames Television and as a result was dropped. A shame as perhaps another series would have made the sitcom more memorable to this day. In my view it is a forgotten gem. But James, Powell & Driver would carry on working together in the sitcom 'Bless this House' which started a year later. 'House' is much better remembered, but in my view 'Clover' was superior in every respect.
Six years after 'Clover' began, the much more remembered self sufficiency sitcom 'The Good Life' came to our screens. 'The Good Life' is a classic sitcom in my opinion, yet I preferred 'Clover' I wonder how much inspiration John Esmonde and Bob Lareby got from 'Two in Clover'? 'Life' lasted for four series, double which 'Clover' did.
'Two in Clover' is for me one of the forgotten gems of British sitcom and such a shame it didn't extend beyond two series. A DVD was released of the complete series but sadly has now been deleted. But I recommend that if you can get a copy of it, do, you won't be disappointed.
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