Sunday, August 21, 2016

Michael Kitchen is Christopher Foyle!

If you have not seen any of Foyle’s War, please note that this article is very spoilerific and I will give away plot points to not only this episode but the series. If you do not want to be spoiled please do not read further or read at your own risk.
It is a little rare that I am writing about a series from the 21st century. I am actually quite serious about this point and there is a reason for it. When I started writing this blog at the end of 2007, I was really not well-versed in anything that was made past the mid-1990s and I was OK with that. I had pretty much discounted everything from that period on and as more programs were coming out, I was getting further and further behind. At one time when my friends thought I really knew something about British television but now I was someone who completely lost track and just knew the “old programs”. Then Foyle’s War came along.

Although Foyle’s War started in 2002, it wasn’t until 2012 or so that I really ever gave it a chance and even that was not by choice. I had been writing this blog for some time and created a backlog of articles that are still available to read if you choose. I had decided that I wanted to get into the game of reviewing DVDs. I felt I had something to say and could write reasonably well. I didn’t want to do reviews on everything out there, I wanted to do reviews on British television releases, after all that is what the focus of this blog is, British television. That narrows things down a bit. I sent out letters to whoever’s name I could find that was related to companies that released British television media. I wanted to send them all examples of what I could write and see if they would be interested in letting me review their material.

I sent a note to the editor of DVDTalk to see if he would ever consider having me as reviewer on his site. He wrote back and had a better idea. He had wondered if I would be interested in starting my own article on their site and write about streaming British television. That was amazing; this was what I wanted.  We called it Brit-Streaming and the first studio we worked with was Acorn Media. They just launched Acorn TV and wanted us to write for them. I looked through their vast catalogue of material we could watch but there was a problem. All of these were new series! Nothing in it was archive vintage television which I knew so much about and it was outside my comfort zone. These were all contemporary series that were just made. What was I going to do with that? Then I saw Foyle’s War.

Being a consumer of Acorn Media’s output for some time, I couldn’t go far without seeing something about Foyle’s War in their advertising. Whether it was at a start of the DVDs or whatever, there was Michael Kitchen staring at me. Since I have been “followed” by Foyle’s War for so long, I decided to give it a shot for my new columm. New episodes were available for streaming. My first article of Brit-streaming was going to be about the World War II espionage series Foyle’s War. Series 6 was just released and I chose to write about the first episode of that series, The Russian House. The only problem was that Series 6 was the first series that took place after the war. They were mopping everything up, getting back to their lives. I missed the war! Whatever was I to do?
Plan of Attack TX: 06/01/08

We can get back to my dilemma in a little bit. Clearly, I have since seen all the episodes of Foyle’s War by now so for this outing, we randomly go to the start of Series 5 which is the series before my first outing with Christopher Foyle. At this stage in the series, it is clear that the war is ending soon. There is still much to do but the British government and its people know that Germany and Hitler do not have a lot of time left.
If you have not seen Foyle’s War, I would strongly suggest to take a look at it. To me Series 1-5 are the best. This deals directly with the war. The series is about Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle who is in charge of a station. What is unique about this series is that although it takes place during the war, it is not necessarily about battles and soldiers. It about Foyle capturing criminals who take advantage of the wartime through profiteering and other offenses. The city under his jurisdiction is seaside and it is active with the war effort with multiple facilities built there to combat the enemy. His second in command is Sergeant Paul Milner and Foyle’s driver is young girl named Sam. The only thing about all of this is that Foyle resigned from the police force at the end of Series 4, so what is going on?

There is a new DCS who has taken over since Foyle’s retirement, John Meredith, who doesn’t seem nearly as engaged as Foyle would have been. This is distressing enough for Milner to put in for transfer at another precinct. Foyle in the meantime has been working on a book he has been writing. With the help as Sam doing the typing, they are slowly getting through it. It appears Sam may not be the best typist around but Foyle is loyal to his friends and wants to make sure that she has some money coming in since she was let go from the station after Foyle resigned.

There is something else going on. There is a secret base near town doing some of the most top secret work of the war. The work is map making of parts of Germany using what information they have from the 1930s and any kind of reconnaissance imagery. No one knows it exists and no one is allowed to talk about it. Henry Scott, though,  is one person who works in this facility and he is a talented map maker but the problem is that he has a very hard time with the morality of working on maps that will kill people. In fact, he has befriended Father Keppler. Father Keppler can help him ease that pain of what he is doing for the war. The interesting thing about Keppler is that he is German. Came over to England during the late 1930s. He was running from speaking out about what was happening in his country with the Nazi influence. He had to give up his life and parish in Germany to be able to stay alive. Henry will sometimes share what he knows because he feels bad that this priest is having his country blasted away by the allies.
This is an interesting perspective that I never really heard of before I’d seen this episode. There is certainly a remorse from soldiers who kill their enemy or even having to kill innocent people for many different reasons, but I had never seen someone relatively removed from combat feel such remorse for what he had done. As mentioned above, he was very close to his faith and that is what was important to him. Even Father Keppler was more sympathetic to the Allies cause and understood innocent people sometime had to die, Henry was still resolute with his feelings. This theme goes a little deeper.

By the time this episode happens, we are very close to D-Day. This is the start of the final push to Berlin. There becomes a bigger theological discussion of the ethics of what is happening and how to punish one’s enemy. This “conversation” is being led by Bishop Francis Wood. This isn’t a popular stance in the UK during this period but he is holding a conference in Foyle’s area and bringing in other priests to discuss the ramifications of what he is doing.
Henry is not only over wrought by what is now happening in the war, he is unstable. He cannot look the woman he was close to, Jane, for something she had done; he refuses to even consider to forgive her for infidelity. Finally, it all weighs on him too heavily and it appears Henry has taken his on life. Christopher Foyle is no longer a commanding officer. His replacement, DCS Meredith, is now in charge. Milner has a suspect in for racketeering but is threatened by this person for arresting him. After that, Milner is nearly run down by a car but even worse, a night later, someone attempts to kill Milner by firing a gun at him. It just so happens that DCS Meredith gets in the way of the shot and is killed.

At the end of Series 4, AC Parkins (played by Michael Jayston) was making things difficult for Foyle which is why Foyle retired. Now, Parkins tracks Foyle down at the priestly summit that he is attending asking him to take up his old job. There is something really wonderful watching Michael Kitchen play Christopher Foyle. It was commented on Wikipedia that Foyle speaks with precision. I love that description and it is very true. Foyle doesn’t display a ton of emotion but you know what he is thinking, whether he is kidding or not or whether your opinion doesn’t matter to him. Foyle is very fair but don’t cross him. I don’t mean that as in he will come out to gain revenge but more like if you let him down or disappoint him, there is no return.
The plot for this story has a lot of layers to it. On the top layer, it looks like Henry is unstable and commits suicide while a racketeer boss ends up killing Meredith. What really is going on is that Henry knew a lot that was going on at Beverly Lodge which is where the map making is taking shape. Milner doesn’t think Henry committed suicide for a variety of reasons and when Foyle is back on then force, he seeks permission to start investigating at the lodge, which up to that point had been off-limits. There Foyle uncovers that the commanding officer, Foster, was covering up for someone else. This is not directly connected to what happened to Henry but it leads Foyle to the truth.

Foyle has this way of interrogating people almost in a similar vein as Columbo. What I mean by that is I feel there are a lot of times where Foyle knows the truth well before he let’s everyone else know. 
In some way, the line of questioning “toys” with the person who did the crime. It’s a mind game that’s fun to watch. Now, I’m not sure if that is true but it is a hypothesis of mine. So, when Foyle is at Beverly Lodge, he is talking to Richard Waterlow who was also doing an investigation at the lodge and looks through a binocular type object that shows two slightly different angles to a picture, making it look three dimensional. This is the clue that shows Foyle what is going on to solve the case.
Before Henry left Beverly Lodge to kill himself, he grabbed one of the photos of the location Father Keppler came from in Germany. He took the picture from the lodge which is illegal. Foyle realized what Henry did. Foyle goes to the church that Keppler is the priest at and confronts him. Foyle tells Keppler that he knows Keppler is not a priest but a German spy. Foyle explains that he knows Henry had trusted Keppler and gave him sensitive information on bombings as a way to clear his own conscience with God. Then, when Henry saw the photograph of the village Keppler is from, he notices one thing on the photo…..there is no church. Henry knew that Keppler was a fraud and that is why Keppler had to kill him but do so in a way that made it look like suicide. How does this tie in with DCS Meredith’s death? Everyone thought it was the racketeers that orchestrated this murder but this was also Keppler. Keppler had tried to kill Milner and not Meredith because Keppler had given the wrong information of where he was from and what parish he led in Germany while he was being questioned by Milner about Henry’s death. He knew this was easy to cross check and he needed to eliminate Milner.

Keppler called himself a patriot to Germany which is another call out to the messages we have been hearing all through out the episode. The idea of nothing is black & white or straight forward. We live on the side of what the Nazis and the rest of the Axis did during World War II was abhorrent, they believed what they were doing was correct. As Foyle arrests Keppler to bring him out of the church, Keppler pulls a gun on him to shoot Foyle. Foyle literally turns around to walk out telling Keppler to get his affairs in order, Keppler did and commits suicide.
I had forgotten how much I enjoyed Foyle’s War. This is a tremendously well-made series that has a lot of great detail in the design and history of lesser known aspects of the war. It’s interesting with the direction the episode goes. It starts out about a man’s faith, I noted when I watched it that faith is very important to people during the war but there is a flipside to it. During the episode, DCS Meredith is having dinner with his wife. He is trying to have a conversation with her but she is unresponsive and uncaring. It isn’t until after his death we find out that their two young sons were killed in the line of duty just months apart. Later in the episode, Rev Stuart (Sam’s uncle we meet earlier) checks in on Meredith’s wife to see how she is doing after her husband’s death. She explains in no uncertain terms that faith is no longer important to her since both of her children were killed and has no compassion at all for the general population of Germany and what is coming their way. I am fairly confident that this is one instance of many.

The characters and cast are quite good in this. Apart from the regulars, we have Malcolm Sinclair playing Father Keppler. I have seen Sinclair in a number of things but most notably for me he played Freddy Fisher in Pie in the Sky, and was also in the opening to the James Bond film Casino Royale. As mentioned earlier, he played the German priest though sometimes his accent sounded more French than German to me. Henry’s girlfriend Jane was played by Fiona Glascott. She is somewhat tortured by what happened to Henry and it looks like she has been permanently crying through out the episode. We have such great actors as Michael Jayston and even Clifford Rose as Bishop Francis Wood who himself played in another famous wartime series as Kessler in The Secret Army.
One thing I forgot about these episode is that they were shot on film at this time of production. On DVD, you can see the grain and with the production values being so high, watching this episode is a very enjoyable experience. The music is wonderful and was composed by Jim Parker. Jim had done music for such series as The House of Cards and Midsomer Murders. I am a big fan of the work of Jim Parker and I will be listening to the Foyle’s War soundtrack soon. I want to do so for a couple of reasons: I know the music is good but at the same time, apart from the actual theme, I can’t actually remember what I hear that makes me say it is so good and I want to be able to do so. That being said, my favourite work of his is the music for The House of Cards. Every last note. It is incredible and I am really disappointed that we never got a soundtrack of that music.

I watched this from the SD DVD. Like I said above, it looks great but with it being shot on a film, it would be nice to see it in HD.  The series was shot on 16mm. It looks like the set is sold on Blu-ray from Australia but I don’t know if it is true HD or an upres of the existing SD masters. When I go to a retailer like Amazon in Australia, it doesn’t show up there. There is a just a dealer selling it on so I think I will stick to my DVDs.

What about Brit-streaming on DVDTalk? Even though I picked an episode of the series that took place after the war was over, I still enjoyed it though I wouldn’t recommend that is where people start their viewing of the series. Things started moving for me. At the same time that DVDTalk gave me the opportunity to write, Acorn Media got in touch with me to write reviews of their discs. Once I accepted, they sent me my first title which was the new version of the Forsythe Saga. Then I started reviewing the Agatha Christie's Poirot episodes. At the time this was happening, the BBC got back to me and said they loved my writing and said I could review their content too. The only problem was that I was in the US as I contacted the UK arm. I did more research to find contacts in the US for the BBC and they allowed me to review their content. Then if that wasn’t enough, BFI and Network allowed me to review their material.

The funny thing is that I’ve read people comment to me saying they didn’t know that studios let “blogs” do reviews. Well, why not?The sad thing is now I don’t have time to do the reviews like I used to have back in the day. I turn down opportunities to review because I want to make sure I do good thorough reviews and not run through them quickly. Maybe I will one day soon. I only tell this story because it’s the old adage, “when it rains, it pours” or “careful for what you wish for as it might come true”. It was an amazing, exciting time as I did the research of who to talk to  at the studios to allow me to review and sent about 10 of my favourite articles I wrote as examples. Since then, I’ve had many people e-mail me and ask for the names of my contacts at these studios so they can do reviews too. I go to their sites and they have no articles written. Right or wrong, I never reply. I did the due diligence of researching who I should talk to and also had a large catalog of articles even before I reached out. Sometimes you need to work hard to get what you want.

I am extremely proud of my reviews and it all started with John at DVDTalk who gave me a chance. Thanks John! If you have never read one of my actual reviews of a DVD site, why not try reading my review of the massive Foyle’s War Homefront Files set.

Next time: For some reason we celebrate Christmas in August with an episode from the Ghost Stories for Christmas Collection: The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.

Have a great week!
 Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Nigel Kneale: Always Against the Crowd

The following article was written at the time I wrote Classic Nigel Kneale: Beasts - During Barty's Party in December of 2011. I often write additional articles at the time I view a program that somehow tie into that program I am watching. Whether it is a DVD extra, soundtrack or even a whole other program these articles are kept back get published when I do not have time to write a new article or if I want to take a week off. Enjoy!

In 1975, Nigel Kneale wrote a script for the ATV series Against the Crowd. The series’ premise was about society’s outsiders. Produced by Nicholas Palmer, this episode serves as an unofficial pilot to the ATV series Beasts. Kneale enjoyed the process of writing the episode and working for ATV. His relationship was again souring between the BBC and himself and he enjoyed working with Nicholas Palmer.
Murrain TX: 27/07/75

Murrain simply means a plague and that is exactly how the episode starts out.  Vet Alan Crich comes out to a rural village to look in on Farmer Beeley’s pigs. The pigs are dying and the water that is up the hill which comes from the spring has dried up. Crich doesn’t know why. Beeley and his farm hands know. They believe that an old woman who lives up the road from Beeley, Mrs. Clemson is a witch and they hate her. They believe that she is killing off the pigs through witchcraft, messing with the water supply and also making people sick.
Beeley has organized the village to retaliate to the perceived witchcraft. She is old and not very mobile anymore so the village refuses to allow her to buy any food from the local store which is literally across the street from her. They also believed her cat was spying on them, so they killed it. What Beeley wants Crich to do is to go inside her house and purify her house. Of course, Crich is absolutely not going to do it. Even when forced and threatened to do so, he refuses. Instead, Crich goes to Mrs. Clemson on his own to meet her just by himself because he knows that they are starving her out and wants to help.

Meeting Mrs. Clemson, he realizes that she is an old woman who can do very little about the situation she is in. She even has money to buy food but they refuse. Crich decides to take matters into his own hands. In his mind, she is no witch, just someone who needs his help. Crich, taking Mrs. Clemson’s money, goes to the local store to buy food for her and tells the owner Mrs. Leach that he is buying the food for himself. Once Beeley and his men meet up with Crich in the store, the truth comes out that he is buying to food for Mrs. Clemson. Mrs. Leach screams and is horrified that she has touched money that came from a witch. She is scared because her son is very sick and she thinks this is because of Mrs. Clemson.
Crich comes back the next day with groceries for Mrs. Clemson who is very appreciative for the groceries. It is there that Crich realizes that Mrs. Clemson is a little crazy. Saddened by a little girl who she used to think of as her daughter but eventually was told could never see her again. As Crich leaves the house, Beeley and his men are back. They forcefully take Crich into the store to show him what happened to Mrs. Leach. She is now sick and her hands, which she used to touch the money, are extremely swollen. Beeley is very angry and they have decided to go to Mrs. Clemson and kill her. Crich runs up to the house first to warn her and as the gang come up to confront her, she comes out of her door, says a spell and Beeley drops dead right in his tracks.

Murrain is highly enjoyable and quite atmospheric. On the surface, the setting looks like something that could be seen on something like All Creatures Great & Small. Small village, country side and hard working villagers. The accents for some of the people from the village was sometimes difficult for me to follow. The entire production was shot on video, the same as Beasts. Generally, I prefer film for the exterior scenes but this works very well for this story. It gave a great sense to a small village feel. British television has always been great at capturing this side of British life and whenever I see it, I absolutely love it. One things I noticed about this story too is that the scope of the episode isn’t grand. It is confined to just a few locations and a few characters. It literally is the village against Mrs. Clemson.
I think the one thing that really stands out for me is the character Beeley. Beeley is played by Bernard Lee. If you are a fan of the James Bond film franchise, I absolutely do not need to tell you who he is but I will anyway. He was the original M character. He was in the film series from Dr. No through Moonraker. It’s funny, these people are actors. The reason Lee would be in the Bond franchise is because he is an excellent actor. Yet, I am still surprised to see him in this role as he is not in a sophisticated position high up in her majesty’s government but he is a narrow-minded farmer in this. For some reason that is odd for me to accept because I am surprised to see him in television. It’s weird that I even think this way because he is an actor, his job is to act and to act in as many different things as possible. He is tremendous in this. I think it’s probably because this is the first thing I have ever seen him in outside playing the role of M but he is really good in it.  David Simeon plays Crich. I recognized Simeon from playing the role of Alistair Ferguson in the Doctor Who story, The Dæmons. He is also very good in this episode playing rational character vs the irrational superstitious Beeley.

In the DVD viewing notes for Beasts which this episode is an extra on the DVD set, Andy Murray says the outcome of the episode is ambiguous whether or not Mrs. Clemson is actually a witch or not and that Kneale left it up to the audience to decide for themselves. Thinking about it, I guess that makes sense. I actually assumed she was a witch but the way it is laid out, maybe not. The only thing we see Mrs. Clemson do that could be considered witch like is her saying some kind of spell before Beeley falls down dead. It could very much be power of suggestion and when Beeley heard the “spell”, it may have been too much for him and he had a heart attack. In regards to the sick kid and his mom, it could be the effect of the murrain. The kid was probably hanging around where the pigs were ill and ended up getting the sickness. Mrs. Leach had been attending to the kid and it is possible she got sick too. Or it could be that Mrs. Clemson was a witch. Have you ever seen this episode? Do you have any thoughts?
I think we are lucky with Against the Crowd. This ATV series was around for one series in 1975. It appears that two out of seven episodes are missing. Luckily Murrain is not one of them. I don’t mean that in the sense that any of the other episodes are worth being missing, it is more down to the fact that this episode is a nice forerunner to Beasts. It is interesting to note that as I said above that all episodes of Beasts were shot on video and that is how they all exist, one of the episodes of Against the Crowd exists as a 16mm colour film print taken from a 2” master tape. I would assume basically a colour telerecording.  It’s shocking that material was still being wiped as late as 1975! As of writing this article, Murrain is the only episode of Against the Crowd that is available on DVD and I do not have any other episodes of this series in my own collection. That being said, I would love to see the 16mm film recording with the 2” videotape source. If you ever seen The Best of Benny Hill film from 1974, it will probably look a little like that.
Of course, no article would be complete unless I included a shot of the VT Clock since it is available:

Next time: For some reason we celebrate Christmas in August with an episode from the Ghost Stories for Christmas Collection: The Treasure of Abbot Thomas.

Have a great week!

Do you have feedback, article requests or want to talk about a program but do not want to leave a public comment? Feel free to drop me an e-mail at
I am on Twitter: @FromtheArchive Please follow and re-tweet these article if you like them.

Also please subscribe to my From the Archive: British Television Blog Facebook Page for updates about new articles. You can also just click "like" on the top of the right sidebar too!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beane's of Boston Should Have Been A Series!

Garry Marshall was known as a comedy genius. He was a writer on The Dick Van Dyke ShowThe Joey Bishop ShowThe Danny Thomas Show and The Lucy Show. Marshall was a prolific filmmaker with such films as Young Doctors In LoveThe Flamingo KidBeaches and of course Pretty Woman. He created some of our favorite TV series such as Happy DaysLaverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. Marshall was a funny guy and was a powerhouse in Hollywood. For this site, it may seem odd to pay tribute to someone who is not British or was a part of a British television series. Yet, for Garry Marshall, he was close enough and many of us have never seen it.

It’s probably odd to pay tribute to someone who has had such a distinguished career making some of the best film and television ever to look at a failed television pilot from 1979. Yet, that is precisely what I am going to do. One of the “holy grail” for Are You Being Served? fans is a chance to look at the only attempt at making the series in the US. This series was called Beane’s of Boston.

Beane’s of Boston Pilot TX: 5/5/79

“Remember our motto: if at first you don’t succeed, you’re out on your butt!”

I am not going to pretend to know really what transpired to create this pilot or even what discussions took place to get it made to go on the air. A number of years ago, I wrote to Garry Marshall’s people in a few different places he was associated with to see if he could talk to me at all about this pilot. This man was directing some of the great comedy films of the time and for some reason I thought he would respond to me and talk about a pilot for a show that didn’t make it in 1979. That beings said, I felt that he always came across so down to Earth that if he did respond, I wouldn’t have been surprised. He came across as someone who was accessible to everyone. I remember watching a Happy Days reunion special where all the cast were in director chairs on the set of Arnold’s and Scott Baio was sitting at the end of the row. Garry Marshall was moderating the interview with the cast and when he got around to addressing Baio, he looks at him and says, “Scott, why don’t you move your chair a little closer to us. You are so far away you are on the set of Charles in Charge!” I don’t know why but I always found this really funny!

Original TV Guide Listing from 1979
It was on a Saturday night in May 1979 that CBS did a one-time airing of this pilot episode. If you watched any of the series Garry Marshall created and produced from the 1970s, Beane’s of Boston has that same feel. It was shot on film and made before a live studio audience. The series starts off with a song that is sung by old Mr. Beane. Of course this is not to be confused for Young Mr. Beane who is affectively the replacement of Mr. Rumbold in this series or even confused for Mr. Bean played by Rowan Atkinson. The elderly Mr. Beane is played by Tom Poston. He does the “younger man dressed as an old man” for the series yet plays it a lot better than Kenneth Waller played Old Mr. Grace in the BBC series. Back to the theme music, there is something sweet about the theme with nuances of the theme played throughout the entire episode.
Original TV Guide Listing from 1979
Beane’s of Boston is just like Are You Being Served?, a department store that is set in its old-fashioned ways while the rest of the world around it is changing. This is, in fact, depicted in the opening credits for Beane’s of Boston. As Mr. Beane sings his song, we see paintings of the exterior of the store from 1888 when it opened to present and the last few paintings show all the skyscrapers growing up around the store.

Tom Poston as Mr. Beane
Where we have Mr. Rumbold from the BBC series managing the Men’s and Ladies department, we have Mr. Beane’s nephew Franklyn running it….apparently into the ground. Ever since he took over the department, sales have been plummeting. Literally. The revenue chart shows such as downward spiral that old Mr. Beane says the sales figures for October are probably under the rug! Luckily, Franklyn has a plan. Even luckier for the elder Mr. Beane, he has a new secretary Ingrid who is very German. Unluckily for Ingrid, Mr. Beane is a dirty old man.

Larry Bishop as Mr. Lucas and Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Slocombe
We get to the ladies and gentlemen floor and it is immediately recognizable to what we are used to in the BBC series. We have the entire cast and although it is surreal to see these iconic characters played as Americans and by different people, at least to me, it is mostly right. Captain Peacock becomes Mr. Peacock and is played by John Hillerman. Mr. Peacock does not seem particularly pretentious like Captain Peacock could be in the series. In fact, he kind of reminds of the Captain Peacock we get by the end of the BBC series. One who is no longer “drinking the Kool-Aid” and now has no problem saying what’s on his mind. I really enjoy what Hillerman brought to the episode. Mrs. Slocombe is played by Charlotte Rae. This is an inspired choice. Rae has great range and has the right look to play the part of a senior person in the ladies department. It is Miss Brahms’ first day and after Mr. Peacock introduces Brahms to Mrs. Slocombe, Slocombe says to Mr. Peacock, “She is wearing better clothes than I am” to which Mr. Peacock responds, “No, she just wears them better.”

It’s interesting to see the series started with Miss Brahms’ first day and it feels like to me that the series would have probably focused more on Franklyn and his struggles to try and keep his department afloat as a young executive. I really think that the series would have moved to a stronger relationship between Miss Brahms and Franklyn.  Alas, we will never know…..unless we start writing fanfic.

"Men's Wear!" Alan Sues as Mr. Humphries
I bring up this fact because when the BBC series started as an episode of Comedy Playhouse in 1972, the “star” of the show at that point would have been Trevor Bannister as Mr. Lucas. It soon became apparent that for the British original, that the cast could not be contained as just an ensemble and eventually Mollie Sugden and John Inman would come out as the leads. Here Larry Bishop plays Mr. Lucas as a true blue Bostonian but really has very little to do in the episode. Of course, what about Mr. Humphries? This is truly an iconic character made famous by John Inman. Here the role is played by Alan Sues most famously known from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. It’s interesting to watch Sues’ take on Mr. Humphries because Sues is a bigger man than Inman. I think this is an important distinction. Inman seemed like he could be blown away by the wind. Sues seems taller and bulkier but they kept in a lot of the gay innuendo. He has a deeper voice than Inman which makes some of the gags not work as well such as Mr. Humphries going on about something to Mr. Grainger or Lucas as the phone rings. Humphries then answers the phone with the famous lower voice, “Men’s wear.” Because of Sues’ voice, the gag just doesn’t work here. I think Sues almost plays it a little heavy handed where Inman did innuendo really well. Granted it was a pilot so it is a little unfair for comparison and the cast could have changed if the series went to air. It would have been interesting to see how far they would have taken it with Sues playing the role. 

John Hillerman has very little authority as Mr. Peacock in his German gear
It’s also interesting if Inman was ever considered for the role for the US series. It’s highly doubtful that was even a thought but there is precedent for it since Inman went over to Australia for 2 series of their version of Are You Being Served? in 1980 & 1982. Plus, as the story goes, John Hillerman was late for the reading of Mr. Peacock so Jeremy Lloyd read for the part and was offered the role by Garry Marshall. Lloyd was talked out of doing it by David Croft which is also interesting as Croft also did the same thing to Jimmy Perry while they were casting for Dad’s Army. Perry wrote the character of Private Walker for himself but Croft talked him out of that too. I wonder if the choice of Alan Sues was in any way suggested by Jeremy Lloyd as the two of them were both on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In? 

Miss Brahms was played by Lorna Patterson. Even though she plays it a little ditsy, I don’t feel that’s how the character would have progressed. If Lorna looks familiar to you, she appeared in Airplane! and Airplane II as the woman who would play the guitar to the kid who was sick and would accidentally suffocate the child by sitting on her tube of oxygen, etc. We even get a Mr. Harman like character in the form of Mr. Johnson played most splendidly by Don Bexley. Mr. Grainger is played by Morgan Farley and Franklyn Beane is played by George O’Hanlon Jr. 

It's German week at Beane's
So, what is this great plan of Franklyn’s to save his department? Well, have you ever seen the Are You Being Served? episode German Week? Well, it’s a little like that. Ok, I lied. It is exactly like that. This is where things become interesting as I always thought that idea of a department store selling just one country’s goods was a strange idea but I thought maybe that sort of thing was done in the UK but seeing that script translate over in the US is even odder. It is clear that they remade this episode for the very same reason the Dad’s Army US adaptation, The Rear Guard, remade The Deadly Attachment. It’s a good script, visually funny and was a famous episode from the series. 

Why are Mr. Humphries' eyes watering?
The problem is that I think what made German Week from the British series so good may have been lacking a little here. In the UK, there was a strong anti-German feeling still lingering from World War II to certain generations of the population. The characters from the series would have all been affected by the war in some way, whether seeing combat or just the fear of bombing, rationing or evacuation. Remember there is a melancholy sort of reminiscence to the war near the end of Camping In. This was still fresh in their minds and very close. This is not to say no one in the US had horrible struggles while fighting during the war but as a country, we really didn’t live under the constant threat of being invaded which is where the difference lies.

“I’m not selling German sex panties!”

From this point on, the episode takes on a very similar tone to the BBC version. There is the exchange between the cast about the funny names of German goods, the idea of dressing Mr. Peacock as Hitler, even the exchange of Mrs. Slocombe being flat on her back during the war but in the US version it was caused by the French and she was in the WAC (Women’s Army Corp)!  When Franklyn says he wants the store to have a more German atmosphere after a day of horrible sales numbers, Mr. Peacock responds very deadpan, “Well, there must be some barbed wire in the Hardware department.”

It was supposed to be a light tap!
The end of the episode results in a song and dance number very much like the British version with Peacock and Slocombe getting into a fight about how hard they should slap each other. This time it ends in more chaos as the drunken Slocombe hits Franklyn instead of Peacock accidentally but hard enough for him to get knocked into a table where the whole thing falls down. At that point Mr. Humphries looks at old Mr. Beane and asks, “How do you like it so far?” That was a laugh out moment for me. Of course as with the UK version, the dance number takes place with the cast not facing the customers who are on the floor in the store watching this but to us the viewers. So the customers and Old Mr. Beane would have just seen their backs during the whole dance number. What saves Franklyn from being fired is that although it was a disaster, Ingrid (Mr. Beane’s secretary) loved it which means Mr. Beane loved it!

Instead of Mr. Harman, we get Mr. Johnson
The bottom line to this episode is that it is funny. A lot funnier than I would have thought. By the time the episode was over, I was quite sad. I knew there was no more made after this and I would never see this “alternate universe” Are You Being Served? again. I obviously don’t know why it was never picked up by CBS. I don’t know if a decision was made to not pick it up before it was aired. It seems to me that if it was going to be picked up that it would have done so with a whole set of episodes in motion. Showing something like this in May is a really strange time to do something like that. Perhaps the humor itself had something to do with it? The humor in this episode has a lot of sexual innuendo to it. It has a dirty old man in it in the form of old Mr. Beane.

Mr. Beane: “I’m going to the club.”
Franklyn: “Oh, the bridge club.”
Mr. Beane: “No, the strip club….its amateur night!

It may have been a little “naughty” but it was harmless comedy. It was probably on par with something like Three’s Company. They did try to use the “Mr. Peacock, are you free?” line but like the “menswear” line, it fell flat. I would have loved to see a full series of episodes of this series. I think it would have been very funny; I felt the cast was already gelling together. That being said, how long would they have based the series on scripts of Are You Being Served? or would the series have gone a different direction? It lists David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd as writers and producers of Beane’s of Boston in the credits, would they have stayed on? Like I said above, I could easily see them developing a possible romantic storyline between Franklyn and Miss Brahms. She was the only one who showed him any kindness and believed in him but, it was just her first day.

The German dance makes Ingrid very happy which bodes well for Mr. Beane!
We were robbed that this pilot did not going to series. We missed out on them all coming back together years later for a reunion series. They could have called it Beane’s of Boston….Again! or maybe they retire to a pig farm and called it Beane’s & Bacon or something. Alright, I’ll get me coat!

To me, this is one of Garry Marshall’s forgotten masterpieces.

I would like to thank Mark Little for hunting the TV Guide listing for Beane’s of Boston from 1979. He runs a Facebook group where he shares TV Guide listings from his massive collection and also has a podcast devoted to TV Theme music called Tube Tunes and you can listen to that here:

Next time: I will take an unpublished article I wrote from 2011 talking about a Nigel Kneale story starring Bernard Lee concerning a witch. We will look at Against the Crowd: Murrain.

Have a great week!

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