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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Christine Hargreaves ...
Peter Kerrigan ...
Paula McDonagh ...
Gary Todd ...
Grace Allen ...
Dawn Booth ...
Baby Dawn
Angela Catherall ...
Gertie Almond ...
Elaine Lindsay ...
Mrs. Johnson
Bernard Atha ...
Councillor Conway
Director of Social Services
Ina Clough ...
Deputy Director of Social Services
Donald Gee ...
Dr. Whitehead
Frances Cox ...
Supervisor at Home


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Comedy | Drama





Release Date:

24 January 1978 (UK)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Bernard Atha, who plays Councilor Conway, was at the time of filming a Leeds City Councilor. He was later Lord Mayor of Leeds. See more »

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User Reviews

Victim Culture According To Hypocrites
5 July 2013 | by (Isle Of Bute , Scotland) – See all my reviews

This is a landmark teleplay that quickly entered British television legend . A social realist play that is angry , angry and ...well angry . Any other adjectives ? I think angry sums it up . Any other grammar ? How about a noun - victim ? Am I getting warmer ? Any other nouns ? How about culture ? Yes that's it angry victim culture which sums up THE SPONGERS perfectly , so much so you wonder if everyone involved in it did it all for free or if they did get paid they felt a noun called guilt ?

Christine Hargreaves plays Pauline a single mother of four children who falling deeper and deeper in to debt finds herself being ground down by the unfeeling bureaucracy of an uncaring capitalist state . How did she get in to debt ? Well the story needs a victim so writer Jim Allen can show the audience

1 ) Capatalism is bad

2 ) Jim Allen can shove his political views down the audiences throat

So apparently Pauline spent the rent money on her kids but it's never revealed on what . This is to manipulate the audience in to great sorrow for Pauline who never spends money on booze and ciggies . One wonder's if indeed Allen is aware of how little short supply there would be of sympathy if Pauline went out every night and smoked 40 cigarettes a day . None I imagine . It's also interesting if Pauline got a job she'd be able to pay off her debts . What about childcare you ask ? Is it not revealed she has strong parents who could babysit her children ? No doubt if she did get a job her dad would have a heart attack and it'd be the fault of the state . Remind me what political party was in power in 1977 ?

All this is a great pity because there are some things to admire from THE SPONGERS . The characters might be mere manipulative literary plot devise but the cast are uniformly Oscar worthy especially Hargreaves and give totally naturalistic performances . Special mention should also go to the average shot length which is phenomenally long to the eyes of a 2013 audience and must have been a nightmare for director Roland Joffre . All it takes is a cast member to fluff a line and that's the shot ruined . Incidentally Joffre would later go on to direct THE KILLING FIELDS set in 1970s Cambodia which was no doubt an Utopian paradise compared to Britain . Fair enough you'd risk starving to death and might get your head bashed in by the Khmer Rouge but at least you wouldn't get sent to jail for not paying your TV licence , especially if it's getting spent on salaries of professional socialist film makers

And that's always the problem of socially aware drama - it's invariably made by lovers of poverty - not lovers of the poor . Like ecclesiastical aid organisations who travel the world in search of victims to relieve their conscience they end up doing nothing of any worth except to make themselves feel better about themselves and jump on the outrage bus on behalf of other people . It is the victim culture portrayed and personified by hypocrites such as Laurie Penny and Owen Jones and offers no practical support of any kind to anyone . Interesting that no makes television plays about poverty stricken single mothers being jailed for not paying their TV licence because they can't afford to . That tells you something

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