In the latest installment of "What to Watch", IMDb's TV Editor Melanie McFarland chats with "Mad Men" stars Jon Hamm, January Jones, John Slattery, and series creator Matthew Weiner about the drama's extraordinary legacy, as AMC prepares to air its final seven episodes.
'Mr.Big' started out as a one-off 'Comedy Playhouse' broadcast in 1974. It proved popular enough to warrant not only one series, but two. The late Peter Jones, best remembered as 'Mr.Fenner' in 'The Rag Trade', played 'Eddie', a would-be mastermind who dreamt of pulling off the ultimate crime, hence the theme song: "We're In The Money". He shared a house in East London with Prunella Scales, who played wife and fellow thief 'Dolly'.
The tone of the humour is established at the start of the first episode when she walks in with two heavy-looking carrier bags. Asked where she has been, she replies: "Shoplifting for the weekend.". In fact, everything in their house was stolen. Whenever Eddie needed cigarettes, he got Dolly to go out and steal him some.
Also in the house were their children 'Ginger' ( played by 'Dad's Army''s Ian Lavender ), an idiot who usually messed up Eddie's plans, and the gorgeous 'Norma' ( Carol Hawkins of 'The Fenn Street Gang' ). We never quite found out what was going on between these two. They were brother and sister, yet were often in bed together. As incest was not permissible in '70's sitcoms ( even David Nobbs had to drop an affair between the Geoffrey Palmer and Sally-Jane Spencer characters when adapting 'The Fall & Rise Of Reginald Perrin' ), its reasonable to assume that nothing naughty was going on.
Each week, Eddie would come up with a daring new criminal plot, such as ripping-off a bookies, and put it into action, using Dolly, Ginger and Norma, but this being a sitcom, things would go wrong and then they had to escape before the police caught them. A far cleverer man would have dropped these dimwits, but Eddie stood by them. You must bear in mind this was made long before sitcoms about losers became fashionable.
Peter Jones co-wrote the scripts with Christopher Bond, and very funny they were too. To get an idea of what 'Mr.Big' was like, watch the Sid James film 'The Big Job' ( 1965 ).
I haven't seen the show since its original broadcast, so cannot tell you if it has aged well or not. It was never repeated, and U.K. Gold has yet to show any interest. There are no plans to put it out on D.V.D. I would like to see it again if only to marvel at the superb comic timing of Jones, Scales, Lavender and, of course, Hawkins ( as well as admire her wonderful legs! )
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