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Classic TV Revisited: The Dick Emery Show



The many faces, male and female, of comedian Dick Emery.

Who were the principal characters?
Maybe because he was married five times, Dick Emery was particularly skilled at playing women. The most famous was Mandy the buxom blonde who would totter along the street in high heels, her chest seemingly defying the forces of gravity.

Quizzed for a vox pop, she would look blankly at the interviewer at first but then read some smutty hidden meaning into his questions. The interview would conclude with Mandy telling her interrogator ‘Ooh, you are awful…but I like you’ and then giving him a playful shove which would send him flying.

At the opposite end of the age and beauty range to Mandy was Hettie, the sexually frustrated spinster who was desperate for a man – any man.

Other characters included the toothy vicar, the artful wheezing OAP Lampwick, College the gentlemanly tramp, the leather-clad Ton-Up Boy on his motor bike, the effeminate Clarence and the dense skinhead Bovver Boy who, after another bungled job, would tell his equally thick-looking dad (played by Roy Kinnear): ‘Dad, I think I got it wrong again.’

Incidentally Emery played a journalist character called Lampwick in ‘Educating Archie’ back in 1957. He obviously liked the name.

Who were the star turns?
Emery was supported by excellent comic actors such as Roy Kinnear, Deryck Guyler, Joan Sims, Pat Coombs and Josephine Tewson

Who wrote it?
David Cumming created the vox pops and the rest of the shows were penned by a veritable Who’s Who of Writers with contributions by everyone from ‘Carry On‘ guru Talbot Rothwell to Harold Pinter.

How did it come about?
Dick Emery had been a rising star for some years, working alongside ventriloquist Peter Brough and his schoolboy dummy Archie Andrews in ‘Educating Archie’ and then with Michael Bentine in ‘After Hours’ and ‘It’s A Square World’.

‘It’s A Square World’ gave full rein to Emery’s versatility and he cemented his reputation as Pte. ‘Chubby’ Catchpole in ‘The Army Game‘. He was then cast in a Galton and Simpson ‘Comedy Playhouse’ entitled ‘The Reunion’ and the following year was finally given his own show.

Dick Emery Show

Who watched it?
Throughout the Seventies ‘The Dick Emery Show’ – with 18 million viewers – was a mainstay of BBC1’s strong Saturday evening line-up, following on from ‘The Generation Game’ and ‘Dixon of Dock Green‘.

Any catchphrases?
‘Ooh, you are awful…but I like you.’

Any spin-offs?
Emery’s characters switched to the big screen for a 1972 film unsurprisingly titled ‘Ooh, You Are Awful’. He played a con man who discovered that the key to a fortune was tattooed on a girl’s bottom. What it lacked in subtlety it made up for in buttocks.

After his long-running BBC series ended, Emery went to ITV for three specials before returning to Television Centre in 1982 for ‘Emery Presents’. His main character was hapless private eye Bernie Weinstock but inevitably he also cropped up in numerous other guises including old favourites like the Bovver Boy and the toothy vicar. Sadly his next vehicle was to be a hearse for he died on 2 January 1983, aged 65.

Any distant cousins?
Where Dick Emery led, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse have followed. Indeed Enfield has cited Emery’s range of comic characters as one of his chief inspirations.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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