Mild-mannered Arthur Harriman is happily married to the lovely Kitty. Every Friday he brings her a bunch of chrysanthemums. But she gets bored of his dog-like devotion and, after a a blazing row, walks out on him. Depressed beyond measure, Arthur tries to kill himself - but realises he has no stomach for the task.
Salvation comes knocking on his front door in the unlikely shape of Clive, an eccentric odd job man. Arthur hires Clive to be his assassin. Kitty unexpectedly returns, and Arthur changes his mind about dying. But he does not know how to get in touch with Clive...
Broadcast as part of the London Weekend Television anthology series 'Six Dates With Barker' ( a precursor to his later 'Seven Of One' ), this was an early teaming for Ronnie Barker and David Jason. On reading Bernard McKenna's script, Jason assumed that as the most interesting character was 'Clive', Barker would be playing the role. However, Barker insisted it go to Jason. Why? He felt Jason would be better. This act of unparallelled generosity resulted in a sparkling black comedy.
As Arthur goes about his daily business, he is subjected to various murder attempts - hydrochloric acid is put in his milk, a trip wire placed at the top of the stairs outside his flat, he is almost shot in a park ( an army of gnomes is blown to smithereens and 'The Last Post' plays in their honour ), and the rail around the balcony sabotaged - but manages to survive each time ( until the final scene, anyway ).
Joan Sims does seem wasted in the role of 'Kitty', but could not have been too upset because she later appeared with Barker in 'One Man's Meat', an episode of 'Seven Of One'. Barker is excellent as 'Arthur', as you'd expect, but the acting honours go to Jason. In his flight helmet and granny glasses, 'Clive' resembles John Lennon playing 'Biggles'.
Australian Maurice Murphy directs at breakneck speed, coming up with some wonderfully disturbing ( almost 'Pythonesque' ) images, such as Arthur pouring acid-flavoured milk on his breakfast. As it dissolves, he quips: "Are they supposed to do that?". Murphy had previously worked with Michael Palin and Terry Jones on 'The Complete & Utter History Of Britain', and would later direct episodes of 'Doctor In Charge'.
Spot The Mistake: Arthur says he had cornflakes for breakfast, but we saw shredded wheat.
In 1978, 'The Odd Job' was made into a film. Jason was back as 'Clive', but 'Monty Python' star Graham Chapman took the role of Arthur. Expanded to three times its original length, it was nowhere near as funny.
In 1992, Channel 4's 'T.V. Heaven' gave 'The Odd Job' a welcome repeat. It had lost none of its offbeat charm.
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