What do Richard Beckinsale, Leonard Rossiter and Harry H.Corbett have in common? Aside from being brilliant comedy actors ( and all sadly dying within a few years of one another ), they had the misfortune to end their television careers by starring in sub-standard sitcoms. Beckinsale in the thankfully forgotten 'Bloomers' ( set in a flower shop ), Rossiter in the even worse 'Tripper's Day' ( in which he played a supermarket manager who shouted non-stop ), and Corbett in the Thames-made 'Grundy', scripted by the brilliant Ken Hoare, co-writer ( with Mike Sharland ) of 'Mr.Digby Darling' starring Peter Jones and Sheila Hancock, and author of the award-winning L.W.T. Stanley Baxter shows. His wit sadly deserted him here though. 'Grundy' was a chore to sit through.
Corbett had high hopes for the show. Interviewed by 'The News Of The World' prior to its screening, he said: "I hope to bury Steptoe for good.". This proved to be wildly optimistic.
'Grundy' was a newsagent whom Mary Whitehouse would have gotten along with famously. He too despised the so-called 'permissive society' and attacked it at every opportunity. The first episode opened with him leaving a court, having successfully divorced his wife on the grounds of adultery ( she ran off with a bookmaker ). The experience has made him so unhappy he covers his face with his jacket to prevent anyone from recognising him.
Boarding a train, he finds himself sharing a compartment with the attractive and earthy Beryl Loomis ( Lynda Baron of 'Open All Hours' ) who, wouldn't you know it, is the wife of the very bookmaker Mrs.Grundy ran off with. He opens up to her. "I got my load of legal rubbish out of The Yellow Pages.", says Grundy, sadly: "The firm of Pratt, Pratt, Pratt and Malone. I got Malone. He was the biggest pratt of them all!" ( and that was the funniest line in the entire series, believe me ).
Beryl is strangely attracted to Grundy and begins pursuing him. It is hard to see why as he is a miserable, self-pitying old git. Harold Steptoe has suddenly become Albert. Each week, Beryl would hound him no matter where he went, including a library. Today this would be called 'stalking'.
Her infatuation with Grundy is mirrored by her son Murray's ( Get Some In's David Janson ) lust for Grundy's pretty daughter Sharon ( Julie Dawn Cole ). I remember thinking the casting was slightly awry. Cole looked like Lynda Baron, while Janson could easily have passed for a young Harry H.Corbett. Oh well.
I have no idea how the series was resolved as I gave up on it well before the end. Grundy was such a misery-guts you felt like giving him a good shaking. 'Victor Meldrew' of 'One Foot In The Grave' was like that too, but then David Renwick always gave him a good reason for being so. You felt for him. It was impossible to feel the same about Grundy. He had no redeeming qualities whatever.
The show was not helped by the fact that Corbett suffered a heart attack prior to recording and thus his performance seemed unnaturally tired. The really sad thing was that it was just not worth the effort.
Corbett died two years later, and the 'Divided We Stand' episode of 'Steptoe & Son' was shown on B.B.C.-1 as a tribute. I.T.V. could have paid its respects by showing an edition of 'Grundy', but chose not to. Wise decision.
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