Mind Your Language (1977–1986)
8.5/10
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The First Lesson 

Mr Jeremy Brown, an English teacher, meets his class of foreign students for the first time. Things start of well, but...

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Pik Sen Lim ...
Chung Su-Lee (as Pik-Sen Lim)
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Storyline

In the pilot episode, Mr. Jeremy Brown begins teaching an English class to a diverse group of ten foreign adult students in London, hailing from nine different countries. From Europe come two au pairs, the flirtatious and beautiful Danielle (France) and prim and proper Anna (Germany), two young single men, Giovanni (Italy) and Max (Greece) and a laid-back middle-aged bartender, Juan (Spain), who speaks no English at all. From Asia, come a revolutionary-minded secretary from the Chinese Embassy (Su-Li), a Japanese businessman (Taro) as well as three students from the Subcontinent, a devout Sikh (Ranjeet) and an unemployed Pakistani (Ali), who are constantly at each other's threats, and finally a Hindi-speaking housewife (Jamila) who can't speak a word of English. The school principal, Miss Delores Courtney, nearly dismisses Mr. Brown immediately as she had requested a female teacher, but he is allowed to stay on a trial basis. Written by Anonymous

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30 December 1977 (UK)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Miss Courtney: I distinctedly requested for the local authority to send a woman teacher, especially in view of what happened to Mr. Warburton.
Jeremy Brown: Mr. Warburton?
Miss Courtney: Yes, he was teaching English language for Foreign students last term. I'm afraid he only lasted a month. Then, he departed.
Jeremy Brown: Dead?
Miss Courtney: Demented! Yes, the strain was too much for him. Typical of the male sex, no stamina! Always seem to be able to cope at first and then he just snapped! It was really quite disgusting!
Jeremy Brown: Really? What did he do?
Miss Courtney: Climbed out of the ...
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"You're early!", "No, I'm Ali!".
18 February 2010 | by (Ambrosia) – See all my reviews

I found recently a web article entitled 'The Golden Age Of Racist Sitcoms'. Its author took the view that the '70's was the highpoint for comedy shows in which ethnic minorities were treated somewhat less than respectfully. In defence of his argument, he mentioned 'Curry & Chips', 'Till Death Us Do Part', 'Love Thy Neighbour' ( what a surprise! ), 'Rising Damp' and, rather oddly, 'The Black & White Minstrel Show'. I was not about to let him get away with this, so wrote to him pointing out that 'Curry & Chips' was from 1969, 'Till Death Us Do Part' and 'Love Thy Neighbour' made fun of racists without endorsing the main character's extreme views, 'Rigsby' of 'Rising Damp' was more fascinated by African culture than contemptuous of it ( why else did he try to woo Miss Jones by burning wood? ), and 'The Black & White Minstrel Show' was light entertainment, not sitcom. I then asked him whether he had seen 'The Fosters' or 'Mixed Blessings'. He had not. Needless to say, he did not publish my reply nor rewrite his article. He seems to hate the '70's with a vengeance, despite not having been alive then. Judging by his other articles, I'd say his knowledge of the decade comes from a 'Horrible Histories' book.

Surprisingly, he did not mention 'Mind Your Language' which has also had the misfortune over the years to be lumped in with those other 'unacceptable' shows. The first episode begins with Ali Nadim ( Dino Shafeek ) arriving at the office of Miss Courtney ( Zara Nutley ), principal of an adult education centre, because he wants to learn English. Next to arrive is Jeremy Brown ( Barry Evans ), the new tutor. He is told that his predecessor went mad. The new class are a varied bunch, including a sexy French girl ( Francoise Pascal ), a surly German woman ( Jacki Harding ), a Japanese gentleman ( Robert Lee ) who says 'ah so' a lot, a Mao-quoting Chinese girl ( Pik-Sen Lim ), a fast-talking Italian ( George Camillier ), a randy Greek ( Kevork Malikyan ), an Indian woman ( Jamila Massey ) who loves knitting, a Sikh ( Albert Moses ) always ready with a thousand apologies, and a Spaniard ( Ricardo Montez ) who says 'por favore?' whenever spoken to. According to Paul Ross on Channel 4's '100 Greatest Moments Of T.V. Hell', these characters were stereotypes. Well, I never! For that, the show deserves inclusion in Paul's 'Big Black Book Of Horror'. Wait a minute! Isn't the use of the word 'black' in that title gratuitously offensive? Paul, you should be ashamed of yourself. Yes, they were stereotypes, and it was deliberate. Put believable foreigners in there and you do not have a funny show. John Cleese and Connie Booth thought along similar lines when they created 'Manuel' for 'Fawlty Towers'.

The first edition is amusing enough, establishing the characters and their relationships to one another. By the end, there is chaos which Brown knows he will have to sort out. The show effectively revisited two of I.T.V.'s biggest comedy successes - 'Please Sir' with its well-meaning teacher dealing with a troublesome class, and 'Love Thy Neighbour' with Eddie and Bill's hatred replicated in Ranjeet's attitude to Ali. At one point, the former even pulls out a knife! Fortunately, Brown manages to make him see sense.

Funniest moment - Brown asking Giovanni his occupation. "I am a cookder!", says the Italian. "A what?". "A cookder!", repeats Giovanni. "I cook der pasta, I cook der spaghetti, I cook der ravioli...!".


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