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Worker, The (1965, 1969-70)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Worker, The (1965, 1969-70)
ATV for ITV, 27/2/1965-17/9/1970
23 x 35 min episodes in 4 series, black and white (colour from series 3)
Written byCharlie Drake, Lewis Schwarz
ProducersAlan Tarrant
  Shaun O'Riordan
DirectorsShaun O'Riordan
 Paul Annett
 John Sholtz-Conway

Cast: Charlie Drake (The Worker), Percy Herbert (Mr Whittaker), Henry McGee (Mr Pugh)

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A workshy layabout consistently fails to hold down a job.

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The incompetent or just plain lazy labourer has his roots deeply embedded in British humour - images of road crews leaning on their pickaxes rather than swinging them, or builders drinking tea rather than laying bricks, are continually recycled and reinvented, proving that some humorous stereotypes retain their potency despite changing tastes in comedy. As a result, British films and TV programmes are littered with images of the archetypal work-shy idler.

The unfortunate history of a repeatedly unemployed job seeker provided a hit TV vehicle for the diminutive actor Charlie Drake, whose portrayal of Charlie, an inept and unskilled labourer who cannot hold down a job, is probably his best remembered comic performance. Before the first episode of The Worker, Charlie has already lost close on 1,000 jobs, all through incompetence, but despite the best efforts of Labour Exchange clerk Mr Whittaker (Percy Herbert) to find him the ideal position, the cycle can't be broken - Charlie never lasts longer than a day before being fired.

The programme hit its stride in its second series, when Herbert was replaced by veteran comic foil Henry McGee as the new clerk, Mr Pugh, a name that Drake always mispronounces as Pe-ooh. This, along with Charlie's inability to hold down a job, riles McGee to ever-higher states of rage, often culminating in Drake being lifted bodily off the ground by his collar. The duo's comic sparring became the focus of the show and as a result the hapless but well-intentioned Charlie was once again pitted against Mr Pugh when the show returned for a third series in 1969. This batch of episodes includes the show's strangest script - Charlie encounters an alien resembling a person in a large white sack, an image borrowed from a TV advert of the time featuring dancing teabags.

The Worker reappeared in 1978, as a series of ten 15-minute mini-episodes included in Bruce Forsyth's Big Night (ITV 1978), and once again Charlie's inability to hold down a job tested Mr Pugh's patience and blood pressure to the limit.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Mr Pugh (3:08)
2. In the bookie's (3:03)
3. Winners and losers (3:06)
Complete episode (part one) (16:13)
Complete episode (part two) (15:57)
Title sequence (0:34)
Drake, Charlie (1925-2006)