Wonderful, if rarely seen, experimental series featuring a true comic genius
SEVEN OF ONE was another 'anthology' series from Ronnie Barker, along the same lines as his earlier ITV series 'Six Dates With Barker', the premise being that each episode would serve as a pilot for a prospective series. It didn't quite work out that way, but since two of the episodes later spawned the hugely successful PORRIDGE and OPEN ALL HOURS, the hit rate was pretty good nonetheless. The episodes were as follows -
PRISONER AND ESCORT - An "habitual criminal" (Barker) is on his way to prison with two guards, the relaxed, personable Barraclough and the aggressive, authoritarian Mackay. My rating - 8/10
OPEN ALL HOURS - A miserly Northern shopkeeper (Barker) divides his time between applying the hard sell to his unfortunate customers, persecuting his naive nephew Granville and chasing the buxom Nurse Gladys Emmanuel. Keith Chegwin and Yootha Joyce have minor roles! My rating - 9/10
MY OLD MAN - An embittered retired train driver (Barker) is forced to move out of his council house due to a redevelopment scheme and live with his snooty son-in-law. An amusing culture-and-generation-gap comedy with a memorable cameo by Leslie Dwyer, later revived as a short-lived (and not very good) ITV series without Barker in the lead role. My rating - 9/10
SPANNER'S ELEVEN - A loud-mouthed hot dog chef and chauffeur (Barker) tries to save his cushy job as the trainer of England's worst non-league football team. Bill Maynard and Christopher Biggins have small roles. A good one-off but not really series material. My rating - 7/10
ONE MAN'S MEAT - An overweight businessman (Barker) is forced to go on a crash diet when his wife prevents him from leaving the house by stealing his trousers. Barker wrote this episode (under the pseudonym Jack Goetz) so it's not thin on laughs, but occasionally feels like an overstretched Two Ronnies sketch. Also stars Sam Kelly, Prunella Scales and Joan Sims. My rating - 7/10
ANOTHER FINE MESS - A pair of Laurel and Hardy impressionists (Barker and Roy Castle) find themselves wrapped up in an escalating series of events, and respond to the madness by gradually turning into their comic heroes. Well-observed and frequently madly funny, but it could be hard-going if you're not a Laurel and Hardy fan (I am)! My rating - 8/10
I'LL FLY YOU FOR A QUID - Barker plays two members of a Welsh family who will gamble on absolutely anything in this comedy about the confusion that ensues when the patriarch dies and nobody can find the winning betting slip (worth nearly £850) he never cashed in. Not really series material but a very good one-off. Also stars Richard O'Callaghan and Talfryn Thomas. My rating - 8/10
A very fine series in all, now available on DVD (though the lack of extras is a wasted opportunity) and a must-buy for Barker fans.
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