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'Allo 'Allo (1984-92)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of 'Allo 'Allo (1984-92)
BBC1, tx. 7/9/1984-14/12/1992
81 x 30/25 min in 9 series, plus 4 specials, colour
Directors includeDavid Croft
 Mike Stephens
CreatorsJeremy Lloyd
 David Croft

Cast: Gorden Kaye (René Artois); Carmen Silvera (Edith Artois); Vicki Michelle (Yvette); Kirsten Cooke (Michelle); Rose Hill (Mother); David Janson, Richard Gibson (Herr Flick); Kim Hartman (Helga)

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The adventures of café proprieter René and his friends in the resistance in occupied France, as they attempt to confound their unwelcome Nazi guests.

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Sexy French resistance girls in berets and raincoats, bespectacled Gestapo agents with pronounced limps and well-meaning but dim-witted British agents were just a few of the wartime stereotypes sent up in this French resistance comedy.

Most of the action took place in the Café René and followed the misadventures of its philandering proprietor René Artois and his mismatched assemblage of associates, including his tone-deaf singer of a wife, Madame Edith; her invalid mother Fanny; lovesick waitresses Yvette and Maria (later Mimi); the ineffectual bunch of German officers in charge of the town, and various other colourful local characters. The reluctant René finds himself repeatedly entangled in the exploits of both the resistance, who use his café as their local headquarters, and the occupying Germans, who treat it as a secret hiding-place for their lucrative war spoils.

The show featured a large cast, each member of which had at least one catch phrase to deliver per episode, which inevitably took up a significant proportion of the running time. Plots were often deliberately and farcically complicated (typically episodes would begin with René giving a direct-to-camera recap of recent unlikely events), and usually alternated their focus between two recurring storylines: repeated abortive attempts to return two stranded British airmen to London, and various shambolic endeavours to steal and hide the famous and valuable portrait of the 'Fallen Madonna With the Big Boobies', by Van Klomp, concealed in a Knockwurst sausage.

'Allo 'Allo was originally conceived as a spoof of the drama series Secret Army (BBC, 1977-79), and other similarly earnest occupation dramas like Enemy at the Door (ITV, 1978-80), from which it borrowed its situation, many of its characters, and even some of its actors. However, despite its repetitive, predictable gags and incessant crude innuendoes, 'Allo 'Allo surpassed its austere forerunners in both longevity and popularity, and has been much more widely and fondly remembered, enjoying nine series, frequent repeats, international success and a long-running touring theatre adaptation.

Hannah Hamad

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Video Clips
1. The ambush (4:41)
2. 'Good moaning' 2:35)
3.'For France!' (1:43)
Complete episode: 'Swiftly and with style' (31:24)
Dad's Army (1968-77)
Enemy at the Door (1978-80)
It Ain't Half Hot Mum (1974-81)
Secret Army (1977-79)
Chesney, Ronald (1920-) and Wolfe, Ronald (1924-2011)
Croft, David (1922-2011) and Perry, Jimmy (1923-)
Wolfe, Ronald (1924-2011) and Chesney, Ronald (1920-)