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"Shelley" Signing On (1981)

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Back on the Dole!

Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
21 December 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After three months at the advertising agency of Harper Mackintosh, Shelley is unemployed again. His return to the Labour Exchange ( known now as Job Centres ) to sign on provokes undisguised mirth from dole officers Mr.Jones ( Martin Sadler ) and Mr.Aziz ( Nadim Sawalha ).

Jim also has an interview with Mr.Parsons ( Peter Cellier ), the latest in a long line of D.S.S. inspectors seemingly bemused by Shelley's astonishingly poor work record, despite him having a Phd. Shelley openly admits to not liking work, but now he desperately needs a job to help pay for the house he and Fran have just bought. But, with unemployment at two million and rising, it is not going to be easy...

A cracking return to form for 'Shelley', with our man doing what he is best at - outwitting the snooty staff of the D.S.S. Many of us who were in similar circumstances during the early '80's could only dream of doing what Shelley did. He has met Mr.Jones and Mr.Aziz before, though this is our first sighting of them. They come across as a kind of state-sponsored Laurel and Hardy, forever trying to nail Jim with sarcastic one-liners about his self-confessed laziness, but he is too good for them. You wonder why the D.S.S. does not employ Shelley instead of them. Hywel Bennett is on great form here, firing off his lines like Exocet missiles - all hit their targets.

The late John Arnatt plays 'Mr.Humphries', an out-of-work company director baffled by D.S.S. bureaucracy, whom Shelley assists. The character is an effective riposte to the lie put about at the time that all dole claimants were young, lazy skinheads.

Funniest moment - Mr.Parsons asks Shelley why he was signing on at Brighton some years before. "I wanted a holiday!", he snaps.

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