'One-Upmanship' is probably unique in the annals of television in that its Christmas Special preceded the series by over a year. Richard Briers portrayed Stephen Potter, ex-B.B.C. broadcaster and college lecturer, and author of the spoof manuals 'Gamesmanship', 'Lifemanship', 'One-Upmanship', 'Supermanship', 'Anti-Woo' and 'The Complete Golf Gamesmanship'.
What is 'One-Upmanship'? Well, nothing less than the art of getting one up on your opponents at all times. As Potter succinctly puts it: "The world is divided into two types of people - winners and losers, the one-up and the one-down. He who is not one-up is surely one-down'.
The books had previously been done on radio and formed the basis for an excellent film starring Ian Carmichael, Terry-Thomas and Alistair Sim entitled 'School For Scoundrels' ( 1960 ). Here they were adapted for television by the irreplaceable Barry Took, and took the form of witty sketches depicting various social situations. As well as Briers, the late Peter Jones played the snobbish 'Gatling-Fenn', with the late Frederick Jaegar - replete with monocle and buckteeth - as the Bertie Wooster-like 'Cogg-Willoughby'.
I cherish a wine-tasting scene in one episode where the latter employs a pen torch to evaluate the contents of his glass. The gathering then try to outfox one another with unintelligible comments such as: "Too many tram lines for me!".
But it was Briers' wry asides to camera ( many lifted from the books ) that got the biggest laughs from me. The humour was altogether very English. Instant Sunshine provided the theme music.
'One-Upmanship' is one of those wonderful B.B.C. shows which appears alas to have vanished into television oblivion. Surely with such a fine cast and strong writing it deserves a D.V.D. release at the very least?
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