The Bottle Boys Diaries part 1 ('Here Comes the Groom')
Over the years Bottle Boys has, lets face it, developed a reputation as being fit for neither man nor beast. Mark Lewisohn, recently writing in the Radio Times Guide to Comedy, referred to it as the "worst ever" British sitcom, and its a surefire candidate for whenever similar worst TV lists get compiled. This despite the fact that this milkman sitcom pairing of Robin Askwith and the politically incorrect pen of Vince Powell, only lasted two seasons (1984-1985) and has remained pretty much unseen since its first broadcast. Causing if nothing else a certain amount of curiosity for people too young to have caught the original showing. Could this program be so bad that critics could vividly recall it with gritted teeth, as if it was inflicted on them yesterday, rather than more than twenty years ago? Off-air recordings of the program are also notoriously hard to come by, with few believing anyone would have kept them all these years. So it was with a mixture of intrigue and trepidation when off-air recordings of 9 of the 13 episodes recently reappeared and made their way to me recently, warts and all.
Although not originally conceived as an Askwith vehicle, the part of amorous milkman Dave Deacon certainly fits him like a glove. For anyone unfamiliar with Askwith's previous "Confessions" form however, Bottle Boys' animated title sequence, with a cartoon Ask delivering milk to ladies' doorsteps and the Chas and Dave like theme song leering "anything you're short of darling, leave us a note", gives a fairly good idea of what to expect.
HERE COMES THE GROOM As the copies I have are in no special order, I've written these up in the order that I've watched them. Despite this actually being the last episode of the first series, it does conveniently open with some banter that provides a fair introduction to the rest of the characters, the other Bottle Boys being hapless idiot Billy Watson (David Auker), West Indian ladies man Joe Philips (Oscar James), the drunk, constantly hung over Scotsman Jock (Phil McCall) and Welsh boss Stan Evans (Richard Davies, playing virtually the same put upon role as in Please Sir).
Dave turns up at the dairy to announce that he has fallen hopelessly in love with the firm's resident dizzy secretary Sharon (Eve Ferret), and much to the others disgust the pair plan to marry and refer to each other as "my sweetness" and "my boo, boo" .. Actually upon your first dip into Bottle Boys its hard to really concentrate on the plot or the jokes, for the sight of Eve Ferrret's hairdo. Simply put its incredible, a big, monstrous mop of hair that wobbles about the top of her head, reminiscent of Gloria Brittain's hair in The Perils of Mandy, but -unbelievably- its even more huge. If that's too much of an obscure film reference, its as if a big Cheshire cat had died on her head and the rest of the cast were too polite to mention it.
Anyway back to the plot .Dave and his friends go through the expected stag do routine, ending with Dave passing out drunk in a car, which is then stolen and driven to "the North". Leaving the final part of the episode a thinly disguised remake of the "mad dash to get to the wedding" last 15 minutes of Confessions of a Window Cleaner. Dave tries his hand at hitchhiking, then resorts to stealing a bike, and then hanging onto the back of a lorry while still on the bike. All of this proves in vain though, since when he finally arrives at the wedding Sharon beats him off . with her handbag, and calls off the wedding. There's a happy ending of sorts however, as Dave pulls her bridesmaid (Candy Davis) at his wedding party. Aside from Miss Ferret's hair, another distracting quality to Bottle Boys, first time in, is the underlining 1980s feel to everything, with the hairstyles, the clothes, the cars, the references to Charles and Di all screaming out the decade. Giving Bottle Boys the feel of the Ashes to Ashes equivalent of the firmly routed in the 70s Confessions films.
As the credits roll, an ITV voice-over man tells us "that was the last in the present series of Bottle Boys" but for anyone fearing Askwith withdraw syndrome there is the good news that "Robin Askwith is currently appearing in Run For Your Wife, at the Criterion Theatre in London".
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