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Norman Stanley Fletcher is sentenced to 5 years at her Majesty's pleasure at HM prison Slade in darkest Cumbria. His naive cell mate Lenny Godber needs to learn the ropes, skives and scams and evil prison officer Mr.Mackay tries to run the prison his own way. And then there's Mr.Barroclough who is just too weak willed to have his good nature exploited.
According to Erwin James, an ex-prisoner who writes a bi-weekly column for The Guardian newspaper, Porridge was a favourite with British prisoners: "When I was inside, Porridge was a staple of our TV diet. In one high-security prison, a video orderly would be dispatched to tape the programme each week. If they missed it, they were in trouble. " See more »
[over opening title sequence]
Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal, who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences: you will go to prison for five years.
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The opening titles consist of outside shots of Slade prison and of several doors and gates being closed and locked. See more »
I'm not going to go on about why this is the greatest sitcom ever and what are the funniest lines ever; its up to whoever is reading this to go discover that for themselves and encourage you to do so.
I do want to comment on how this is a sitcom with exceptional timing of both visual gags and one liners, some so blatant that they are funny because you can't belive they stuck them in!
Possibly the best aspect of this programme though was the humanity.
Fletcher might sometimes seem heartless towards godber, but it is all about surviving a harsh environment intact. For evidence about this watch the episode "a night in" which revolves around godbers first night in prison. The episode takes place in their cell and never really features anyone but the two principle characters. But this is still one of the funniest episodes of any sitcom anytime, containing a few throw-away one liners, but mainly the episode is about the subtle humour of how to survive in stir and not forget the outside.
Ronnie Barker is possibly the greatest comic actor of all time, who provides perfect comic timing on every joke, but you will always believe that fletcher is real and you can see the emotion pouring out of every episode of porridge.
Richard Beckinsale as godber was the perfect foil for fletcher and again his timing was immaculate for the restraint on the delivery of his lines. He always held his own with ronnie and will always be fondly remebered by so many for this role after he died so young.
The two principles were also supported so well by other characters in the prison who came from all spectrums of life (well male life, sorry ladies)
One of the most interesting features was that they represented the two opposites of attitude from the prison guards. Mackay was load, coarse and brutal, but you could always see that underneath he was a man trying to do his job to the best of his ability. Mr Baraclough is more interesting as a "screw" who just wants to help the prisioners and be their friends whilst trying to not to hurt either side. Some people found him unbelievable; but i actually know a guy who had to leave his job as prison guard as he identified more with the inmates than the guards he was supposed to work with!
To be honest i don't care if anyone else has this as their favourite programme; it is mine and if i have persuaded just one person to go watch and love this as much as i do then i will be satisfied.
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