Forgotten classic Barker that hints at future wonders.
Well done Network for releasing the Ronnie Barker Collection on DVD - an amalgamation of two series of 'Hark at Barker' (from 1969 and 1970) and the 1971 series 'Six Dates with Barker'. Obviously, the age shows, the first series being in black and white, and the whole thing having a modest budget and yet someone as classy as Ronni Barker can always make something special happen. Barker was a legend of British comedy, not to mention a great actor, and, despite the very 70s feel to the humour, this is as strong today as ever. The series focuses on Barker as Lord Rustless, a doddery old gasbag, every bit as comedic and well observed as his later, more famous characters such as Norman Stanley Fletcher and Arkwright the Shopkeeper. He is ably backed up by an impressive comedy army including Josephine Tewson, David Jason and Ronnie Corbett
all hinting at future glories as each of these actors joins Barker in
some of his finest moments of the 70s and 80s. Also, watch out for Michael Palin, Valerie Leon, and Christopher Timothy. Note should also be made of sterling regular performances from Frank Gatliff as the butler and Mary Baxter as the cook, joined in series two by the gorgeous Moira Foot as Effie the maid. Scripts are contributed by none other than Barker himself and members of both Monty Python and The Goodies. Indeed, many of the shows provide prototype versions of many greater successes. Each show sees Lord Rustless pontificating on any number of issues, interspersed with sketches in the Two Ronnies style and showcasing Barker's great comic acting. Like other British TV comedy greats - such as David Jason and Peter Kay - Barker can take on a variety of roles and become a completely different person. His personas in this show are each as different and effective as Jason is in varied roles such as Delboy, Granville, Pa Larkin and Frost and Kay is as Brian Potter, Max the Bouncer and Geraldine McQueen. Ronnie Barker was a legend - it's as simple as that, and whilst this series is not as well remembered as his work in 'The Two Ronnies', 'Porridge' or 'Open All Hours', it remains a solid piece of classic comedy entertainment. In it's rarity it is a special treat for all Barker fans. Check it out.
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