"A little bit of wisdom lasts the whole day through!"
A while back, a well-known online retailer advertised the D.V.D. of 'A Little Bit Of Wisdom - The Complete Series'. The news came as a shock as I'd been led to believe it no longer existed. I ordered it, and waited...and waited...and waited. When my patience snapped, I asked the retailer when I could expect to receive it. The sheepish reply said it could not be sent as...it no longer existed.
This debacle aside, is it a good thing that this A.T.V. show no longer resides in the dusty vaults or not? Well, it depends on your opinion of Sir Norman Wisdom. I do not like every film he made ( 'Up In The World', for instance ), but he made some good 'un's ( 'On The Beat', 'A Stitch In Time', and 'The Bulldog Breed' ), and generally amused a lot of people an awful lot of the time. Besides, without his films what would Miranda Hart have based her recent show on? She fell down so many times in the last episode I saw she must have done herself an injury. Besides, there was more to Sir Norman than simply gurning and falling down. He could sing for instance, and a few of his silent routines - the bicycle chase in 'Press For Time', for instance - are positively Chaplinesque.
'A Little Bit Of Wisdom' was his third sitcom for Lew Grade, the others being 'Norman' ( 1970 ), and 'Nobody Is Norman Wisdom' ( 1973 ). Neither were terribly well received. 'A Little Bit' broke with tradition in that it did not restrict Norman to a regular environment. He played the same character - 'Norman' - throughout, but never in the same place twice. One week, he'd be causing havoc in a city hospital, another time he'd be helping out a needy friend, or Bible-thumping on behalf of a charlatan Vicar. The shows were written mainly by Lew Schwarz and Dick Sharples, with occasional contributions from John Kane and Jon Watkins. There was plenty of slapstick alright, predictably making this a popular show with children. Guest stars included Frank Williams and Dudley Sutton. One edition provoked complaints; it had a depressed Norman trying to commit suicide by walking blindfolded across a busy street. But, by and large, Mrs.Whitehouse had nothing to worry about. The first season's title sequence had Norman playing hopscotch with a couple of girls, and after losing to them, they laugh at him and walk away.
The third and final series in 1976 saw the show grounded into a more regular format, with Norman working as a clerk in builder Albert Clark's ( Robert Keegan ) office. Alec Potter ( Neil McCarthy ) shared a flat with him, and Linda Clark, his employer's daughter ( Frances White, who co-starred with Wisdom in the film 'Press For Time' ), was his girlfriend. The title sequence for this run had Norman ostensibly punting up the river, but when the camera pulled back, we saw he was really sweeping a park with a broom. One person who did not appreciate the new-look show was Brian Lawrence, television critic of 'The News Of The World', who branded it a 'little bit of rubbish'. My father agreed, and refused to watch it from then on, though he'd enjoyed it before the article appeared. The power of the press, eh?
When 'A Little Bit' ended, so did Sir Norman's television career ( apart from a couple of variety specials and one-off appearances ). His movies continue to delight audiences of all ages, and not just those in Albania.
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