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Hi-de-Hi! (1980-88)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Hi-de-Hi! (1980-88)
BBC, tx. 1/1/1980-30/1/1988
58 x (mostly) 30 min episodes in 8 series, colour
Production CompanyBBC Television
ProducersDavid Croft, John Kilby, Mike Stephens
WritersJimmy Perry, David Croft

Cast: Simon Cadell (Jeffrey Fairbrother); David Griffin (Squadron Leader Clive Dempster); Paul Shane (Ted Bovis); Ruth Madoc (Gladys Pugh); Jeffrey Holland (Spike Dixon); Su Pollard (Peggy)

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The staff of Maplins holiday camp do their inept best to provide fun and good value to their paying guests.

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Set in the 'Maplins' holiday camp in the fictional Crimpton-on-Sea, Essex, Hi-De-Hi! was the third sitcom from writing partners Jimmy Perry and David Croft, following their wartime efforts Dad's Army (BBC, 1968-77) and It Ain't Half Hot, Mum (BBC, 1974-81). Inspired by Perry's experiences as a Butlins 'Redcoat' (Maplins has its Yellowcoats), it attracted audiences of up to 13 million and won a Best Comedy Series BAFTA in 1984.

The show's eight-year run presented the events of just two holiday seasons - 1959 and 1960 - beginning with the arrival of new Entertainments manager Jeffrey Fairbrother, an upper-class Cambridge professor who, in the middle of a divorce, had abandoned academia and come to the holiday camp in search of new experiences. Simon Cadell's performance helped to define the programme in its early years, with the effete Fairbrother's hesitant delivery of the series' catchphrase, 'Hi-De-Hi, campers!', perfectly demonstrating his profound unsuitability for his post. A regular highlight was Fairbrother's attempt at staff meetings to read the over-critical, semi-literate bulletins of unseen camp owner Joe Maplin. Jeffrey soon earned the ire of working-class camp host Ted Bovis, but proved irresistibly attractive to both Chief Yellowcoat Gladys Pugh and leggy siren Sylvia.

Much of the plot was driven by shyster Ted's attempts to win the upper hand over the naïve Fairbrother, though he would occasionally come to his aid if it served his own ends. The regular cast was rounded out by eager new camp comic Spike Dixon, snooty ballroom dancers Barry and Yvonne, has-been jockey Fred Quilly, children-hating Punch and Judy man Mr Partridge, and excitable chalet maid Peggy Ollerenshaw, whose overriding ambition in life is to become a Yellowcoat.

Hi-De-Hi's broad humour - which all too often centred round people being launched into the Olympic-sized swimming pool - disguised a poignant commentary on postwar British society, with Maplins serving as a microcosm of the class system. In later series Fairbrother departed for a university post in Wisconsin, and was replaced by dashing Squadron Leader Clive Dempster, with whom Gladys at last found true love. The final episode saw Maplins close its doors for the last time, reflecting the new competition of cheap foreign package holidays. Perry and Croft's subsequent You Rang, M'Lord? (BBC, 1988-93) returned to the class barrier theme, uniting Hi-De-Hi veterans Shane, Holland and Pollard with several of their Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot, Mum predecessors.

Richard Hewett

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Video Clips
Holiday (1957)
Mining Review 2/12: Holiday Camp (1949)
Croft, David (1922-2011) and Perry, Jimmy (1923-)