In the early 1990's, the now-defunct I.T.C. Home Video put out a batch of videotapes featuring episodes of assorted archive television series under the collective title of 'T.V. Heaven' ( pinched from a Channel 4 series ). Alongside old favourites like 'The Saint' and 'Randall & Hopkirk ( Deceased )', there were a few lesser-known shows, such as 'Seaway', 'Father Brown', and 'Spyder's Web'. I recalled the latter when it was first transmitted on I.T.V. back in 1972. The episode chosen to represent the Richard Harris-created spy series was Roy Clarke's 'Romance On Wheels'. The Web investigates the activities of a London-based company known as 'Romance On Wheels', a combined dating agency and travel agent. Single people can take a holiday and ( hopefully ) pair off with one another. 'Clive Hawksworth' ( Anthony Ainley ) joins the latest batch of clients, posing under the name 'Wormley'. 'Lottie Dean' ( Patricia Cutts ) is with him too, as a loud and lusty divorcée ( not too far removed from the real Lottie, in other words ). The trip ventures behind the Iron Curtain, where they meet the sinister 'Grovnik' ( Peter Sallis, who would reunite shortly with Roy Clarke for 'Last Of The Summer Wine' ). The clients are being murdered and their identities given to enemy agents, who then fly back to England to inveigle themselves into society.
'Spyder's Web' was a comedy spy thriller in the mould of 'The Avengers'. Though lacking that filmed programme's gloss and charm, it got by on the strength of its scripts - some top writers, such as Robert Holmes, Alfred Shaughnessy and Marc Brandel, worked on the show
and the performances of the cast. Cutts and Ainley are an odd couple
alright; he is British and reserved, while she is raucous and ribald. In supporting roles are lovely Veronica Carlson and the late Roger Lloyd Pack. 'Romance on Wheels' was a good choice to represent the show as it has witty lines and nice guest stars, particularly Carolyn Jones ( 'Crossroads' fans will remember her as 'Sharon Metcalfe' ) and Mollie Maureen. Sallis' 'Grovnik' steals the show.
I was disappointed when more 'Spyder' episodes failed to appear in the 90's. However, Network happily released the whole series on D.V.D. in 2011.
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