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Mind Your Language (1977-79, 1986)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Mind Your Language (1977-79, 1986)
LWT for ITV, 30/12/1977-15/12/1979; Tri Films for Granada 4/1-12/4/1986
42 x 30 min in 4 series, colour
ProducerStuart Allen
ScriptVince Powell

Cast: Barry Evans (Jeremy Brown); Zara Nutley (Miss Courtney); George Camiller (Giovanni Capello); Kevork Malikyan (Maximilian Papandrious); Fran├žoise Pascal (Danielle Favre); Albert Moses (Ranjeet Singh); Dino Shafeek (Ali Nadim)

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Further education lecturer Mr Brown attempts to guide his students through the minefield of the English language.

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Promoted by the TV Times as 'the new multi-racial comedy series', Mind Your Language proved hugely popular with the viewing public.

Cheerfully basic and almost entirely devoid of subtlety, the programme was based around a simple premise that rarely varied. Episodes focussed on English language classes taken by Mr Brown, and involved his frustrated attempts to teach a class of diverse foreign students. Character development was kept to a minimum, with the comedy firmly fixed on misunderstandings of English language and customs, and the relentless exploitation of obvious national stereotypes.

To modern audiences, Mind Your Language and its depiction of cultural integration cannot but seem clumsy, banal, inept, wilfully ignorant and frequently offensive. There is little to recommend it, and in retrospect it is difficult to discern the reason for the series' widespread appeal. However, the cast is more competent and accomplished than the limitations of the series' scripts and one-dimensional characterisations will allow. Seemingly oblivious to the failings of their material, they approach their performances with energy, vigour and apparent enthusiasm.

Perhaps it was this likeable cast, serving up sizeable portions of ancient and uncomplicated schoolboy humour, presented with an absolute lack of pretension, that made the programme such a big hit in 1970s' weekend schedules. It ran for three series, was briefly revived in the mid-Eighties, and, apparently, even spawned a live stage show in Blackpool.

Barry Evans is well cast as the amiable Mr Brown, still exploiting the boyish innocence of his earlier roles in Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush (d. Clive Donner, 1967) and ITV's Doctor series. Evans had virtually vanished from the screen since his earlier successes, barring appearances in a couple of dubious sex comedies. Hard up and on the dole, he was offered the starring role in Mind Your Language when he wrote to LWT bluntly informing them "I'm still alive".

Also prominently featured in the series were former Top of the Pops dancer Fran├žoise Pascal; Gabor Vernon, Hungarian compiler of Rothman's Football Yearbook; Ricardo Montez, who had appeared with Topol in A Talent For Loving (US, 1969); Dino Shafeek, already performing a very similar and equally caricatured Indian role in It Ain't Half Hot Mum (BBC, 1974-81); and Anna Bergman, daughter of the great Swedish director, who had previously appeared with Evans in a less family-orientated role in Adventures Of A Taxi Driver (d. Stanley Long, 1975).

Vic Pratt

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