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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Spasms' was a one-off comedy play ( broadcast on 9/11/77 ) by Alex
Shearer ( future creator of 'Sink Or Swim' and 'No Job For A Lady' )
and which starred Jonathan Pryce as 'Dave Finn' and Robin Hawdon as
'Roger Scott', who meet in the waiting room of a maternity ward as
their wives are about to give birth. They get chatting, and it soon
transpires they have nothing whatever in common. Finn is a
loud-mouthed, unemployed hippie with a view on every subject under the
sun, whereas Scott is a young and upwardly mobile marketing director.
Finn hopes he will have a son so he can call him 'Mickey'. Roger
sneers: "Why don't you call him Dorsal?". As Finn's wife Rose ( Miriam
Margolyes ) goes into labour, he himself experiences sympathy pains.
The quality of the script was first rate. Despite his scruffy
appearance, Finn is actually rather intelligent, and some of his
observations are startlingly profound ( a possible prototype for Rab
C.Nesbitt, perhaps? ). 'Spasms' was well received, and a series duly
commissioned. When Pryce declined to return, the role was offered to
Michael Crawford, then fresh from 'Some Mothers Do Ave Em'. Crawford
donned a curly wig and beard to play 'Finn', and adopted a habit of
perpetually chewing gum. Gillian Martell took over the role of 'Rose'.
The first episode of 'Chalk & Cheese' was a remake of 'Spasms'. The second began with Roger and wife Amanda ( Julia Goodman replacing Jenny Cox ) moving into their new house - only to find Finn is their new neighbour ( he'd inherited his home ). His garden is festooned with weeds while a tin bath hangs over the front of the house. He also has an annoying habit of wandering next door whenever he feels like it, often to borrow things ( without returning them ) and make long distance phone calls.
Over the course of the series the men found themselves in various locations - in one episode, Finn goes after a job at the office where Roger works, in another, they go off to the pub after rowing with their respective wives, and even manage to meet at the same church when their children are christened ( Richard Wilson played the vicar, incidentally ). Despite being at loggerheads a lot of the time, Roger cares about Finn and helps him get a job. Hawdon and Crawford were excellent. The show was directed by Michael Mills, the original producer of 'Some Mothers'. There was none of the visual comedy of that show, except for Finn's chaotic driving and a sequence in the second episode where Roger slips on a skateboard left on the pavement outside his house by Finn's tearaway son Flipper. One thing 'C & C' had in common with 'Some Mothers' was that the opening titles were also presented in a little strip running along the bottom of the screen. Robert Lang provided the narration heard at the start of each episode.
It was popular, but predictably failed to eclipse 'Some Mothers', and did not return. It found its way to U.K. Gold in the late '80's, but to date there has been no official D.V.D. release.
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