Picture the scene: some young people are in a pub, drinking after hours, when a policeman ( George Layton ) walks in, ready to make arrests. A bearded, scruffy character ( Jonathan Lynn ) rises to his feet, puffs out his chest, and tells the copper to clear off. The policeman does as he is told, and suddenly the scruff is a hero. The drinking resumes. But what he did not let on was that the copper he stood up to was, in fact, his brother.
Sitcoms about brothers of wildly contrasting personality have proved popular down the years, with 'Only Fools & Horses' being the most famous example. In 1975, George Layton and Jonathan Lynn both starred in and wrote this short-lived Granada sitcom, set in the fictional Northern town of West Hockley, in which they played 'Brian' and 'Pete Booth' respectively. They were meant to be twins, even though they did not resemble each other in the slightest. Brian was a naive if ambitious young copper ( rather like Roy Clarke's 'P.C. Penrose' ) and Pete a militant firebrand student, forever girl chasing, getting drunk and going on or organising protests against whatever upset him that week. Tenniel Evans was 'Sergeant Bluett', with Hilary Mason as 'Mrs.Booth', who had not realised her little boys had grown up. The opening titles showed pictures of them as children, accompanied by a brass band theme tune.
The stars had acted and written together in L,W.T.'s 'Doctor' series as 'Paul Collier' and 'Danny Hooley', and had penned episodes of 'On The Buses' and 'Nearest & Dearest'. 'Keeper' probably would have been a bigger success had it not had the misfortune to go out around the same time as 'Big Boy Now!' starring Leslie Crowther and written by Ronnie Taylor, which was also about a man with an overbearing mother.
The first episode drew complaints over the language. Pete wanted to take his girlfriend back to her house to have his wicked way with her. Unfortunately, 'home' for her was Glossop, some many, many miles away. So he pinched Brian's panda car and took her in that. When Brian found out, he was livid. "You used my car to take some scrubber back to Glossop for a bit of leg over?". "I didn't get my leg over!", replied Pete, sadly. Viewers reported that their children ( this was going out in a Sunday evening peak-time slot ) started asking what a 'scrubber' was, and why Pete wanted his 'leg over'.
Two seasons were made, but somehow it never gelled. It was a decent effort though, with Layton and Lynn making a fine comedy team. After it ended, they continued writing for the 'Doctor' series before splitting up. Layton created the popular 'Don't Wait Up!' starring Nigel Havers and Tony Britton while Lynn found a new partner in Antony Jay, with whom he wrote the wonderful 'Yes Minister' and its sequel 'Yes Prime Minister'.
Interestingly, in 1984, the B.B.C. put out a similar series to 'Keeper', entitled 'The Front Line'. It starred Paul Barber ( 'Denzil' from 'Only Fools & Horses' ) as policeman 'Malcolm' and Alan Igbon ( from 'Boys From The Blackstuff' ) as his anti-establishment Rastafarian brother 'Sheldon'. Despite good performances from the leads and funny scripts by Alex Shearer, it too failed to catch on.
'My Brother's Keeper' still exists, making a D.V.D. release viable. Its no classic from what I remember, but if Network can find time to put out the appalling 'Yus My Dear' with Arthur Mullard, surely they can do the same with this?
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