The sketch presents the 90th birthday of elderly upper-class Englishwoman Miss Sophie, who hosts a celebration dinner every year for her friends Mr Pommeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby, and Admiral von Schneider. (The plot has nothing to do with New Year's Eve. There is a "Happy new year" toast, but this is purely a reference to Miss Sophie's birthday.) The problem is that due to Miss Sophie's considerable age, she has outlived all of her friends, and so her equally aged manservant James makes his way around the table, impersonating each of the guests in turn. Miss Sophie decides on appropriate drinks to accompany the menu: Mulligatawny soup (Miss Sophie orders dry sherry), North Sea haddock (with white wine), chicken (with champagne), and fruit for dessert (with port) served by James, who finds himself raising (and emptying) his glass four times per course. That takes its toll, increasingly noticeable in James's growing difficulty in pouring the drinks, telling wine glasses from vases...Written by
Until 1988 the original NDR version featured a grammatical error in the introduction by narrator Heinz Piper. He quoted Frinton with "Same procedure than last year?" and Warden with "Same procedure than every year!". It was then replaced with the correct "Same procedure as every year" from a rehearsal recording. See more »
After James burps, Miss Sophie takes hold of her chair's armrests probably in anticipation of James almost tipping her chair backwards. See more »
[impersonating Mr Pommeroy]
Happy New Year, Sophie dear!
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Several versions of this sketch were recorded/broadcast or released on DVD/video:
the original B&W version with an audience as produced by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) in 1963. 18 minutes
a changed B&W version where an english spelling error in the intro narration was digitally removed. Shown on German TV since the end of the 90s.
a changed B&W version without the audience sound. Shown by Danish TV who also omit the introductory narration, bringing the sketch to a 14 minutes runtime
a computer colorized version produced by the NDR in 1999. Due to massive protest from fans this version is almost never shown
an alternative B&W version as produced by Swiss TV. This version has no intro narration and misses some gags. This version can be recognized by the much simpler set decoration (no table cloth, smaller/simpler pictures on the walls, much smaller stairs). Released on DVD in Germany. 11 minutes.
Same procedure as every year... and still furiously funny!
It is to be wondered why the "Dinner For One" has never been a smash hit in the UK. It is a fact that it has been around for decades. Yet only two people have mastered this sketch in an unforgettable way: The artist Freddie Frinton and his graceful partner May Warden. During a visit to Blackpool, German entertainer Peter Frankenfeld and his colleague Heinz Dunkhase witnessed their great performance and managed, with some hardship, to persuade Frinton to come to Germany to film this most peculiar dinner. Frinton was not at all keen on Germany and its inhabitants and he would not perform in German either (This was perhaps a very wise decision). He also insisted on the tiger over which he stumbles more than once in 18 minutes. The ice bear, that has been organised by the producers had a bigger head than the tiger and this, according to Frinton would really have sent him flying. For eighteen years the Butler James had faithfully served Miss Sophie and her late guests. He would drink at least 4 pints of Sherry, Champagne and Port, always the same procedure as last year, and he would give his mistress a hand up when she decides to retire promising to do his very best. Frinton died five years after the filming just three weeks before the sketch was to be shot once more, in colour. (Sadly enough one of the German TV-stations attempted this once more a few years ago. With German actors and in German. Quite a disaster, if not downright sacrilegious in my opinion.) It is a pure joy to watch this sketch, same procedure as every year and I hope for many a repetition in the future.
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