Although seven episodes were made, only two were broadcast (the 60-minute premiere and one 30-minute episode) on consecutive nights. Due to extreme press and public reaction to its anarchic content, the series was pulled from the schedules and has never been shown since. See more »
Seven episodes of this sitcom were made, but only two were screened before it was unceremoniously yanked from the schedules. It has never been repeated and never been given either a video or DVD release. Sadly, it was never given a fair chance because both its time slot and its advance billing were inappropriate.
Contrary to rumours, the series has never been wiped and is still retained in ITV's archives. I am probably one of the very few people who has seen all seven episodes (and copies do exist; they are hard to find but you can obtain them if you know where to look). I have no idea why ITV refuse to release it on DVD. But I will say this; it definitely cannot be because of the content. There is no way that this show could be considered so offensive that the public can never see it. Not even close. The five unscreened episodes are actually quite tame and there are countless TV series and movies that can easily be deemed far more offensive and which are already available to buy. There is no child brutality or paedaphilia. It essentially comes across as a comic strip from "Beano" come to life.
Here's an example of one of the unseen episodes: episode five is entitled "Old Boys" and features guest stars Rick Mayall as Lenny and Adrian Edmondson as Tiny (real name Arthur). They arrive about ten minutes into the episode driving a green Mini pickup (very rare) and are kind of dressed like undertakers. Tiny is sporting crocodile skin platform boots and they are looking for Mr Fowl, the English teacher. Mr Fowl is feared by most of the children and is a snide, devious disciplinarian. Lenny and Tiny are former pupils of Hardwicke House and Mr Fowl had them sent to a borstal (a reform school). As they prowl the corridors, they confront terrifying school bully Slasher Bates, demanding to know where Mr Fowl is. This is the only time in the series in which Slasher is overpowered and humiliated (they throttle him and grab him by his naughty bits). By the way, Slasher is revealed as being 23 years old in another episode; he keeps failing and having to repeat his final school year. Anyway, shortly afterwards, Lenny and Tiny bump into Miss Crabbe, the French teacher, and are actually quite respectful towards her (they don't exactly fear her - she's not as strict as Mr Fowl - and it seems like they're attracted to her). They tell her that they work for an insurance company as sort of debt collectors (but it seems more likely that they run a protection racket). They tell Miss Crabbe that they have returned to the school to thank Mr Fowl for sending them to a borstal because it taught them a lesson and made them into better citizens. In reality they are there for revenge. Mr Fowl is petrified when he hears that Lenny and Tiny are back in the school and he tries to hide from them by disguising himself as Mr Savage, the PE teacher. But he doesn't get away. Miss Crabbe hates him and cajoles Agnes, the school secretary, to make an announcement over the tannoy system asking Mr Fowl to go to the staff room because a representative from Readers Digest is there with a prize draw gift for him. He falls for it and hurries to the staff room, only to find Lenny and Tiny waiting for him. They move in menacingly with a makeshift flame thrower but Mr Fowl jumps through the window and lands in a bush below. There's nothing horrendous, or disturbing, or unsettling, or controversial in this episode. It's no worse than watching an episode of "Men Behaving Badly".
But is it funny? That is a difficult question to answer because everyone has their own tastes. Obviously, "Hardwicke House" won't appeal to everyone, and that can be said about any programme. However, if you like wacky, silly, slapstick humour then you will probably like "Hardwicke House". Yes, there's some black comedy in it. Yes, there's some vulgarity. And yes, some of it is corny and predictable. But overall, in my own view, I enjoyed it and there were plenty of genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. The characters are exaggerated (a bit like "Spitting Image" puppets) and they are varied, from the utterly useless no-hoper (geography teacher Mr Philpott) to the gruff, almost unintelligable neanderthal (PE teacher Mr Savage).
One of the problems with this programme was its scheduling; it was given a prime-time mid-evening slot and was billed as family viewing. It had the same time slot that would have been given to traditional lame sitcoms such as "Fresh Fields" and "Robin's Nest". But "Hardwicke House" is not a traditional family sitcom. It is zany and over-the-top and came in the wave of so-called "alternative comedy" in the early-to-mid 1980's, and it has no laughter track. It is similar in style to "The Young Ones", which came before it, and "Bottom", which came after it. It should have been given a late-night time slot and if it had, there would likely have been little uproar surrounding it. As often happens with something that is cutting edge, there is a knee-jerk reaction and everything gets blown out of proportion.
It was certainly ahead of its time. If it was shown today it would hardly raise an eyebrow. If there's a problem with the content of "Hardwicke House" then how does something like "Jackass" ever get on the screen? Hopefully, the powers-that-be will see sense and finally give it a long-overdue showing on one of the multitude of satellite channels or release it on DVD. I'd buy it.
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