In his excellent book on 'Dad's Army', Graham McCann wondered why the B.B.C. had never repeated Roy Clarke's sitcom 'Potter', which originally starred Arthur Lowe. I have often wondered the same thing.
We've all met a Redvers Potter; you'll find one in any pub, sitting alone, drinking whisky, nose buried in 'The Daily Mail', speaking to no-one except the barman, either to order drinks or huff and puff about how socialism has destroyed Britain.
'Potter' was a perfect role for Arthur Lowe, officious, grumpy, xenophobic ( "I love everything French...except the French!" ), there were similarities with 'Captain Mainwaring', as well as 'Harry Duckworth' from the classic 'Galton & Simpson Playhouse' edition 'Car Along The Pass'.
In the first episode, Potter retires from the family sweet manufacturing company ( 'Potter Mints The Hotter Mints' ). On his final day, he is appalled to find that the new owners have taken the nameplate off his door and removed most of the furniture and fittings. Even some of the wallpaper is missing. Potter then berates a secretary for her modern dress sense and argues with the man in the boiler room for trying to make off with his office carpet.
Rather like Victor Meldrew years later, Potter finds himself with too much time on his hands, so decides to meddle in other people's affairs. For instance, giving his long-suffering neighbour 'Tolly' Tolliver a lift to the railway station - even though its not where he wants to go.
Spotting a small crowd gathered in the street, Potter assumes an accident has taken place, and, taking charge, reroutes traffic and sends for ambulances. It turns out that the gathering is watching a local artist at work. To confound Potter's embarrassment, he then finds himself stranded in the middle of the road, surrounded on both sides by vehicles.
Potter's wife Aileen is so fed up at being taken for granted she has become an alcoholic without him noticing.
Possibly the show's only flaw was the use of a laugh track. Clarke's lines are not your usual T.V. sitcom lines and the studio audience seems unsure how to react to them, giving the impression the show is less funny than it is. I found myself laughing in places where the audience was silent, such as when Potter asked rhetorically over a drink: "Have you ever known a really exciting Tuesday?". 'Potter' would have been twice as funny without the laugh track.
Thanks to Lowe's acting and Clarke's scripts, 'Potter' was a hit. After two seasons, Lowe sadly passed on, and the role went to that fine actor Robin Bailey. Bailey did his best but Lowe proved too hard an act to follow.
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