Imagine, if you will, that Tony Hancock had not died in 1968. Furthermore, that he had re-teamed in 1975 with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and Kenneth Williams to make a new series of 'Hancock's Half-Hour' for Yorkshire Television. If you can imagine all that, you should then have a rough idea of what 'Dawson's Weekly' was like.
Comedian Les Dawson had shot to stardom on 'Opportunity Knocks!' following years of doing stand-up in British clubs - often to unresponsive audiences - and landed his own show on I.T.V. - 'Sez Les'.
Galton and Simpson had noted the uncanny similarity between Dawson's comic persona, that of a right old misery guts, and the late Hancock, and thought it would be interesting to put him in a 'Hancock' type show.
The starting point was 'Holiday With Strings', a one-off special screened on 26/8/74. In it, Les played a would-be traveller wishing to see the world for £22. He books a package holiday to Tossa del Mar with the 'Kut Price' tour company. He gets an idea what sort of holiday this will be when the air hostess ( the great Patricia Hayes, a one-time Hancock regular ) sells raffle tickets to see who is going to have lunch on the plane. Les strikes up a friendship with Peregrine ( Roy Barraclough ) a gay coal-miner. Things get worse as passengers are made to hand over loose change to pay for an unexpected refuelling.
It is not hard to imagine Hancock saying Les' lines. In addition to Barraclough and Hayes, Dawson had good support from the likes of Mollie Sugden and Frank Thornton. It worked well, and 'Dawsons Weekly' appeared the following year. Barraclough returned, filling the Kenneth Williams role as an irritating little man who crops up every week. Instead of a Homburg hat and Astrakhan collar, Dawson wore a Hell's Angels type leather outfit - 'Darby & Joan Club, Leeds' written on the back of the jacket, complete with long white scarf. The main titles showed Les arriving at a new location on his bike 'Gladys'.
Seven episodes were made. In 'Les Miserables', a depressed Les goes to a psychiatrist. 'Where There's A Will' has him trying to get married within seven days in order to qualify for an inheritance. In 'Stage Struck', Les's Hancockian pretensions lead him to try his hand at stage acting. The show ended with 'Strangers In The Night', set aboard a British Rail sleeper train to Scotland. Les meets an attractive woman ( Sue Lloyd ) and sneaks into her cabin for some naughty business. The next morning, however, he finds he had sex with an old woman by mistake. Panicking, he calls for an ambulance.
Critics were less than impressed, branding it 'crude' and 'rude' ( funny how the definition of crudity has changed since 1975! ) and, at least one wag said the show should be renamed 'Dawson's Weakly'.
While it is nowhere near as good as the Hancock shows ( mainly down to Les looking uncomfortable in sitcom ), it is very funny and worth a major reevaluation. Les returned to sketch shows and eventually replaced Terry Wogan as the host of the B.B.C.'s 'Blankety Blank'.
'Where There's A Will' and 'The Clerical Error' were remade twenty years later starring Paul Merton.
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