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Dick Emery Show, The (1963-81)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Dick Emery Show, The (1963-81)
BBC1, 13/7/1963-7/2/1981
166 editions in 18 series, black & white/colour
Producers includeHarold Snoad
 David Croft
Writers includeJohn Singer
 John Warren
 David Cumming

Cast: Dick Emery, Joan Sims, Deryck Guyler, Pat Coombs, Josephine Tewson, Roy Kinnear

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Sketch comedy featuring an array of bizarre and eccentric characters.

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After numerous roles supporting the likes of Tony Hancock and Eric Sykes, comedian Dick Emery was finally awarded his own starring vehicle in 1963, backed by writers David Cummings, John Warren and John Singer, with contributions from David Nobbs, Peter Tinniswood and sketches imported from America by Mel Brooks and Mel Tolkin.

Emery's memorable characters and their catchphrases quickly made the show a ratings winner. He demonstrated his flair for dialects and rhythms of speech with a galaxy of characters: a buck-toothed vicar; a hen-pecked husband thwarted in his attempts to dispose of his nagging wife; College, a gentleman tramp; biker Ton-up Boy; and the outrageously camp Clarence, with his catchphrase, "Hello Honky Tonks". In true music-hall tradition, Emery was never afraid to don drag; two popular characters were sex-starved spinster Hettie (loosely based on a producer's secretary), who would go to great lengths to achieve her ends - even breaking into a prison, only to be thrown out by the inmates - and buxom blonde Mandy, who mistook innocent questions for innuendo, eventually hitting the interviewer with the pay-off line, "Ooh, you are awful. But I like you."

Recurring vox-pop interviews (created by Cumming) allowed Emery to showcase his full array of characters. The interviewer (Peter Elliot - later Emery's agent) would ask each character the same question; invariably, Hettie jumped on him, Clarence flirted and Mandy sloshed him (one time so hard that Elliot's shoulder was dislocated).

To keep the series fresh, Emery and his writers tinkered with the format. 1972's series focused on a new theme each week. By the mid-1970s, the characters typically co-existed in a single setting - seaside, country fair, circus - while Emery's favourite character, the clucking war veteran Lampwick, appeared in a more conventional domestic scenario alongside his daughter Lily and her husband Ernie.

Emery worked with an array of comic foils over the years, notably Joan Sims, June Whitfield, Pat Coombs and Roy Kinnear, who played the crooked father to Emery's dim bovver boy, Gaylord ("Dad, I've got it wrong again.") Constant giggling from Emery and Kinnear generated countless outtakes. Originally shown to the studio audience, they proved so popular that producer Harold Snoad incorporated them into the series under the heading 'The Comedy of Errors'.

After 18 successful years, the show came to an end with Emery switching from broad sketch based comedy to the comedy thriller series Emery Presents (BBC, 1982-83).

Graham Rinaldi

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Video Clips
1. Street interviews (3:19)
2. Life policy (7:52)
Clement, Dick (1937-) and La Frenais, Ian (1936-)
Cryer, Barry (1935-)
Emery, Dick (1917-83)
Esmonde, John (1937-2008) and Larbey, Bob (1934-)
Feldman, Marty (1934-1982)
Kinnear, Roy (1934-1988)
Larbey, Bob (1934-) and Esmonde, John (1937-2008)
Rothwell, Talbot (1916-1981)