'Dad's Army' ended its nine-year run in 1977. Five years later, the writers of the radio version - Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles ( better known as 'Captain Ashwood in 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' ) - penned a sequel, provisionally entitled 'It Sticks Out Half A Mile'. Originally intended for television, it was eventually rewritten for radio. The premise is very similar to a 1957 Ealing comedy entitled 'All At Sea' starring Alec Guinness. It is now 1946, and ex-A.R.P. Warden Hodges ( Bill Pertwee ) buys a rundown seaside pier very cheaply in the hope of turning it into a commercial success. To renovate it, he needs to borrow money. The new manager of the Framlington branch of Swallows bank is ex-Home Guard Captain Mainwaring ( Arthur Lowe ), Hodges' sworn enemy, known to him as 'Napoleon'. An uneasy partnership is forged between the old rivals...
Along with Lowe and Pertwee, also returning was Ian Lavender as ex-private Frank Pike. Specially created for the new show was 'Miss Baxter', Mainwaring's daffy secretary ( Vivienne Martin ). Lowe passed on soon after recording the pilot. The series went ahead, with John Le Mesurier stepping into his old role of ex-Sergeant 'Arthur Wilson', newly promoted to bank manager. After 14 episodes, Le Mesurier also died. That seemed to be the end of that.
In 1985, Snoad and Knowles approached the B.B.C. again with a view to doing 'Mile' as a television series. They changed the names of the main characters, effectively losing the 'Dad's Army' connection along the way. 'Hodges' became 'Ron Archer', 'Wilson' was changed into 'Richard Talbot' and Pike was 'Trevor', Ron's dimwitted son. The name of the seaside town was altered to Midbourne. A pilot called 'Walking The Planks' was broadcast on B.B.C.-1 on 2/8/85, starring Michael Elphick, Richard Wilson, and Gary Raynsford. Vivienne Martin was retained from the radio show. It made no great impression, however, and plans for a series were dropped.
Anyone else might have given up by now, but Knowles took the idea to Yorkshire Television, who commissioned a full season of seven episodes. The series, now called 'High & Dry', went out early in 1987 in a prime-time slot - Wednesdays at 8.30 P.M. Elphick was unable to return, so he was replaced by Bernard Cribbins. Angus Barnett took over the role of 'Trevor'. Augmenting the cast was Arthur English as 'Fred Whattle' and Diana Coupland ( in her first sitcom role since 'Bless This House' ) as 'Mrs.Briggs'. Because Snoad was still under contract to the B.B.C., his real name could not go out on the credits, hence an alias - Alan Sherwood - was used. An element of the premise was changed; Archer is now Talbot's brother-in-law, and to get his loan, blackmails the bank manager over a past indiscretion. The show was criticised in the press at the time for being studio bound, with the pier itself looking exactly like what it was - a set. Yorkshire were keen to keep costs down on the show, just as it had done a few years earlier with 'Duty Free'. Only one episode of the Eric Chappell show was shot in Spain ( the Christmas special ). I do not think 'Dry' suffered from not being filmed on a real pier. As 'Carry On' producer Peter Rogers once observed; "audiences don't laugh at the scenery!".
With its catchy Neil Innes theme song, 'High & Dry' made for pleasant viewing, rather like Ronnie Barker's 'Clarence'. The scripts were not brilliant, but the performances of the cast - particularly Wilson - more than made up for this shortcoming. Nevertheless, no second season was commissioned. Wilson was thus free when the B.B.C. asked him to star in their new show 'One Foot In The Grave'. 'Dry' found its way onto U.K. Gold in the late '90's, but has yet to appear ( officially ) on D.V.D. If you can ignore the obvious lack of a real pier, then its not as bad as some have made it out to be. Cribbins and Wilson made it watchable.
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