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The late Edward Woodward had a flair for comedy that went largely unexploited by television; an exception was Roy Clarke's 'The Bass Player & The Blonde', an A.T.V. 'Playhouse' presentation on 14/7/77. He plays 'George Mangham', a gifted jazz composer who has fallen on hard times and who now works as a bass player at 'Larry's Club' in London. He lives alone with his cat, drinks endlessly, plans on marrying a wealthy woman - 'Mrs.Merino' ( Mary Kerridge ) - whom he does not love, and is forever being chased by gangsters eager to recover steep gambling debts. Good fortune smiles on him when he meets the beautiful 'Terry' ( Jane Wymark ), who is soon to marry the nerdy but rich 'Nigel' ( the late Jeremy Sinden, son of Donald ). With a life of respectability ahead of her, she wants to end her status as a single woman by singing in a live band. Her father 'Charlie Weston' ( the late Ronald Fraser ) is dead against the idea, so she runs away from home. After completing her song, she goes to the station to catch the train home, but finds she has forgotten to bring money and cannot afford the fare. Mangan is also bereft in the cash department, so offers to put her up for the night, and that's where the fun begins...
'Blonde' is like Neil Simon's 'The Owl & The Pussycat' and 'The Odd Couple' in that it also pairs mismatched people who bicker like hell before gradually coming to understand the other's point of view. Woodward and Wymark are excellent; the former enjoying himself hugely with a role totally different from hard-bitten British agent 'David Callan', the latter radiates sexuality, and it is strange why she did not go on to bigger things. She is best known to viewers these days for her thankless role as 'Joyce Barnaby' in I.T.V.'s seemingly endless 'Midsomer Murders' series. The supporting cast included Sam Kydd, Stanley Labor, Barry Linehan, and Betty McDowall. Jack Parnell composed the music ( and there's an awful lot of it ).
The play was well received ( it was repeated in an afternoon slot a few months later ), and led to a three-part sequel the following year. Clarke was not involved though, and had to be replaced by future 'Grange Hill' creator Phil Redmond and Ian Lindsay. It picked up where the original left off; with Terry jilting Nigel at the altar to run off with George, incurring the wrath of her dad.
Woodward stayed in the comedy genre with the B.B.C. sitcom 'Nice Work' in 1980, but returned to drama in 1986 in the hit U.S. series 'The Equaliser'.
'The Bass Player & The Blonde' has recently been issued on D.V.D. and has lost none of its charm. As well as being funny, it also had the good sense not to out stay its welcome.
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