Quite a few '70's British sitcoms made the jump from small to big screen - 'Dad's Army', 'Steptoe & Son', 'Please Sir!', 'Bless This House' to name but a few - but only one started life as a motion picture before becoming a television series.
Produced by H.T.V. West, 'Men Of Affairs' was a spin-off from the 1973 movie 'Don't Just Lie There, Say Something', adapted in turn from his own hit comedy play by Michael Pertwee. It starred the king of stage farce Brian Rix as 'Barry Ovis', the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Minister for European Affairs - Sir William Mainwaring-Brown ( Leslie Phillips ). Joanna Lumley, Katy Manning and Derek Griffiths also featured in the cast.
For the series, Rix reprised his role, but as Leslie Phillips was making 'Casanova 73' for the B.B.C., Warren Mitchell ( in monocle and toupee ), then between seasons of the newly-revived 'Till Death Us Do Part', replaced him. Each week, the perpetually randy Sir William got up to naughty business, got the hapless Ovis to cover for him, usually very badly. Misunderstandings piled on top of misunderstandings, and of course this being the '70's there'd be lots of scantily-clad dolly birds capering around bedrooms, and hiding in wardrobes. Imagine Rik Mayall's 'The New Statesman' as it might have been written by Ray Cooney and you should be able to guess correctly what this was like. The jokes were unashamedly corny; in one episode, Ovis asked a temperamental gay chef if he knew how to make puff pastry, but the man thought he'd said 'poof' and got very cross.
Joan Sims popped up from time to time as Sir William's harridan of a wife. Bernard Bresslaw, Kate O'Mara, Geoffrey Bayldon, Alfie Bass, Alexandra Bastedo, Victor Maddern, Moira Foot, Wallis Eaton, Sam Kydd, and Richard 'Mr.Pastry' Hearne all appeared as guest stars.
Thirteen episodes were made, and these were shown on the I.T.V. network. For lovers of British stage farce, this was essential viewing. It still exists in the archives, and should be released on D.V.D. in my view. It would be interesting to see just how prescient the labyrinthine plots of sex and lies in the upper levels of H.M. Government managed to be.
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