The B.B.C.'s 'The Likely Lads' made stars out of Rodney Bewes and James Bolam. The former, in particular, was in great demand, popping up on the small screen either as Basil Brush's side-kick, a story teller on 'Jackanory', or guesting on the I.T.C. detective drama 'Man In A Suitcase', as well as an early edition of Patrick Cargill's 'Father Dear Father'. In 1969, Bewes landed his very own sitcom. 'Dear Mother......Love Albert' cast him as 'Albert Courtnay', a well meaning if bewildered 24 year old Northern lad who goes to London to take a job with 'Tomlinson's Toffee'. His boss is the strict 'A.C. Strain' ( Garfield Morgan ). Albert is like 'Walter Mitty' in that he too drifts from the real world into one of his making. Each week, he writes to his mother describing in glowing terms his latest exploit, but then we get to see what really happened. In 'The Interview', he tells his Mother that he is staying in a London hotel ( it is a hovel ) and that he passed the interview with flying colours ( he only got the job because they could not find anyone else ). In 'Knight Of The Open Road', he asks his landlady's sexy daughter 'Vivian McKewan' ( Sheila White ) on a date. His new company 'car' arrives - it is a grotty van with a huge plastic toffee fixed to the roof. Vivian can barely contain her amusement at his embarrassment. In the final episode of Season 1, he makes a bid to star in the company's new television advertisement. The result? Chaos.
Thames T.V. produced the first run, but subsequent seasons were made by Yorkshire as Thames ran out of studio space. The second also saw a move into colour. Garfield and White were retained, along with Geraldine Newman as Vivian's mother. White provided a storyline for one episode, in which Albert thinks she is expecting an illegitimate child and sets about learning to look after it. Season 3 ( made in black and white due to a technician's strike ) saw White and Newman depart and the late Liz Gebhardt ( fresh from 'The Fenn Street Gang' ) joining as Albert's possessive fiancée 'Doreen Bissel', along with Amelia Bayntun as her battle-axe mother 'Ada'. In a move that predated 'Man About The House' by two years, Albert was now seen sharing a flat with two dolly birds, one of whom was played by busty Luan Peters ( you may remember her as the Australian girl Basil Fawlty accidentally groped ). The final run had the title shortened to 'Albert!', with Doreen ( now played by Cheryl Hall ) breaking up with our hero and him getting the sack from Tomlinson's Toffee.
Not only did Bewes co-write the show with director Derrick Goodwin ( who filmed several 'On The Buses' episodes ), but also sang the 'Beatles'-styled theme tune ( co-written with former 'Manfred Mann' drummer Mike Hugg ), and produced the final season. He may even have made the tea and bacon rolls for the cast during filming breaks for all we know. The original idea started with Goodwin himself, expanding an 18-minute sketch he used to pass his exams at the end of his T.V. director's course. Bewes supplied the 'letters to home' idea, based on his own experiences ( the 'Auntie Elsie' and 'Uncle Jim' mentioned in the theme song really existed ). The title sequence showed Albert at various London locations, gleefully pointing out his first name on the signs. Though a fine actor, his scriptwriting skills were not nearly as impressive. 'Love Albert', while not actually bad, could have benefited from the input of other writers, such as David Nobbs ( who was working for Yorkshire Television at around this time ). The characters are simply not strong enough, and the laugh lines few and far between. The show got by mainly on the strength of Bewes' naive charm. Even so, it came as a relief when it folded, enabling him to return to the B.B.C. to resume the 'Likely Lads' saga.
The entire first season was wiped - along with three 'All Star Comedy Carnival' sketches - which is a shame as I remember it being the best of the quartet. What's left is now on D.V.D. and, while it makes pleasant enough viewing, never gets anywhere near the heights of either 'Likely Lads' nor L.W.T.'s not-dissimilar 'Billy Liar' series starring Jeff Rawle. Sorry, Rodney.
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