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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Ahead of its time, perhaps

Author: Enoch Sneed from United Kingdom
19 May 2006

"Big Jim" started life as a one-off television play. Set in the 1950's (the early days of the welfare state in Britain) the working-class narrator has been to university. Home on vacation he looks out his old mates from the gang of council builders he worked with. 'Big Jim' is the foreman, Harold Perkins is their snooping, petty-minded manager.

It turns out Perkins has started an affair with Big Jim's wife and the narrator gets caught up in two revenge plots. It is a tradition in the work gang that when one member "calls on Figaro", "every bugger calls on Figaro" - a sort of all-for-one-and-one-for-all (and not to be done lightly). Even after 25 years or so the narrator is still so committed to the club's code of silence that he says he can never tell us who Figaro is (or was). In this case, Big Jim doesn't call on Figaro but the other builders do, and organise the neighbourhood to 'rough music' the adulterous couple (an old-fashioned working class shaming ritual consisting of banging pots and pans outside the house where the couple are making love, in effect saying 'We know what you're doing').

Big Jim meanwhile is secretly building something in his garage. Before leaving for university the narrator showed Jim how to use the local library and he has combined his new research and work skills (Jim is a carpenter) to build a replica Roman army ballista (a huge catapult). Jim and the narrator use the ballista to pelt Perkins's house with bags of flour and less savoury material.

The film ends with Perkins, having had to escape from Jim's place, returning to find his own house covered in grunge.

The play had a good story, strong characters, and a great sense of period. A series of half-hour programmes followed in which the gang got into some scrape, called on Figaro, and delivered their own rough justice to snobs and social climbers. For example, in one episode houses were being linked to the main sewer system. All very well, but it puts the man who empties the old septic tank out of work. So, on the day the mayor and his friends come to inspect the work, not a toilet in the street is flushed until they are inside the sewer, and then...

Maybe the cost of recreating the 1950's was too much for a half-hour comedy. Maybe the show was broadcast at the wrong time to get good viewing figures, late at night on a minority channel. For whatever reason, only six were made. Nevertheless, it was well worth watching and as you can tell from my description, the plots were memorable.

A radio series was broadcast in the early 80's but in the TV age this was a definite minority audience and part of the show's attraction was its visual recreation of 50's Britain.

Since the 1990's, several very successful British TV shows (such as 'Heartbeat') have traded on nostalgia as part of their appeal. If 'Big Jim' had arrived just a few years later, it could have caught that audience. All the same, the shows that were made were an under-appreciated gem of British television and deserved a wider public.

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

An unsung masterpiece

Author: Michael Open from Belfast, NI
22 December 2005

Situation comedies come and go. Sometimes - Fawlty Towers, Friends - they are monumental and have a long-term future. Other times - like this little gem - they are misunderstood or too sophisticated for their audience. This magnificent little series was made and then, apparently, the BBC scheduler got cold feet and 'dumped' it late-night on BBC2 (by memory). However it was a gem - quite, quite wonderful. Set in the south of England during the massive post-war reconstruction era (~1949-55), it takes place on a building site among a group of council workers. The villain is the site supervisor while Norman Rossington plays 'Big Jim' - a beer-swilling joker who is always trying to 'get one over' on the boss. What makes it wonderful is the *absolutely perfect* sense of time and place. This is an era of innocence and optimism, the like of which has not been experienced since, and it is perfectly captured in this hilarious and, ultimately moving series. It says everything about the crassness of the BBC schedulers of the time that they buried it rather than shouting it from the rooftops. If it is ever resurrected, in any format, move heaven and earth to make sure you see it.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Figaro Club Rules

Author: mannyglitz from United Kingdom
4 April 2009

It has taken me years to remember this series, but it was wonderful. Post war Britain remembered by Nimrod, the boy, who was adopted by Big Jim and his Figaro Club. The really memorable bit was the cry "One bugger calls on Figaro, every bugger calls on Figaro!" Once invoked, the Figaro Club was duty bound to carry through whatever plot was hatched. Great comedy. Can't find it on DVD anywhere - why doesn't the BBC release their old treasures? Don't they want to make money? I remember it was Norman Rossington as Big Jim, but the rest of the cast eludes me. Come on BBC - what about a thirty year reissue, so that another generation can appreciate this little gem?

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Big Jim and the Figaro Club

Author: bluecap-2 from United Kingdom
19 January 2009

This series was a one off which I consider to be a shameful failure of the BBC when they had a gem like this.

With great fortune I videoed this when it was broadcast and I have watched it numerous times. It is sheer brilliance and I continually wondered why the BBC have stuck their head in the sand as they often do and have never repeated it or allowed it to appear on Sky ? Cmon BBC get your digit out and lets see more of this classic ! When will the BBC wake up and be guided by the licence payer who want classics like this yet are never listened to ? The actors in this have all got good credentials in other shows and they work together so well. The plots are brilliant and for me it is such a great snapshot of the period when life in Britain was so much better than it is now. The BBC should be proud of this series and transmit it again. If they do not then I'm afraid the BBC has lost all credibility in my opinion and do not realise they have such a gold nugget gathering dust in the archives. To not re-transmit it would be a very sad loss.

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