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Open All Hours (1973-85)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Open All Hours (1973-85)
BBC2/BBC1 tx. 20/2/1976-6/10/1985
25 x 30 min eps in 4 series, plus 1 special, colour
ProducerSydney Lotterby
 Robin Nash
WriterRoy Clarke

Cast: Ronnie Barker (Arkwright); David Jason (Granville); Lynda Barron (Nurse Gladys Emmanuel)

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The exploits of miserly shopkeeper Arkwright and his put-upon errand boy, Granville.

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The curmudgeonly, penny-pinching Doncaster shopkeeper, Arkwright, afflicted by a pronounced stammer and harassed by a vicious spring-loaded till, had his first outing in Ronnie Barker's series of comic plays, Seven of One (BBC, 1973), which had already spawned Porridge (BBC, 1974-77). Arkwright shared his corner shop with Granville, his unworldly nephew of uncertain parentage - though rumours abounded that he was of Hungarian origin - who was desperate for experience with the opposite sex and forever lamenting his repetitive mundane existence devoid of glamour, excitement or adventure. Open All Hours' episodes featured Arkwright's mercenary attempts to turn an easy profit, which frequently involved pulling the wool over the eyes of his hapless and gullible customers, and followed Granville's misadventures on the shop bike, from which he would invariably fall while making deliveries, as well as his unsuccessful pursuit of girls.

Arkwright carried a torch for his Morris Minor-driving neighbour, District Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, who was constantly fending off his lustful advances at the same time as affectionately tolerating the 'great fool'. She was originally played somewhat more sternly by Sheila Brennan in the pilot (tx. 25/3/1973), before being replaced for the series by Linda Baron in 1976. Gags often focused on the breadth of Nurse Gladys's bosom and behind, which, in addition to Arkwright's comedic speech impediment made for - especially by today's standards - distinctly politically incorrect humour, and a predictable laugh was always elicited by the timely delivery of Arkwright's catchphrase "Granville! Feh-feh-fetch a cloth!" Each episode was book-ended by Arkwright's inner monologue as he opened, then closed up shop.

More parochial and regional in its focus than contemporaneous shop-based sitcom Are You Being Served (BBC, 1973-85), Open All Hours was similarly reliant on often laboured innuendo, albeit of a rather gentle kind; in its wistful evocation of bygone days it more closely resembled writer Roy Clarke's seventh-age sitcom Last of the Summer Wine (BBC, 1973-). The performances of, and interplay between the principal trio of Barker, Baron and Jason were the show's strongest elements, and probably explain its enduring presence in BBC schedules. For its two leads, however, Arkwright and Granville were destined to play second fiddle to Porridge's Fletcher and Only Fools and Horses' (BBC, 1981-2003) Del Boy.

Hannah Hamad

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Video Clips
1. Two places at once (0:27)
2. The missing moneybelt (1:16)
3. Something boiling over (0:43)
Complete episode (29:24)
Are You Being Served? (1973-85)
Only Fools and Horses (1981-96)
Porridge (1974-77)
Barker, Ronnie (1929-2005)
Clarke, Roy (1930-)
Jason, Sir David (1940-)