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Six Dates with Barker (ITV 1971, Ronnie Barker, David Jason)

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Following on from Hark at Barker and the earlier Ronnie Barker Playhouse, Barker returned with another series of six individual comedies, each written by individual writers and at least half of them leading off to second lives.

The dates side of things sees Barker picking a different random date in time so first up its 1937 with The Removal Man (written by Hugh Leonard) and Ronnie playing a short sighted removalist. This is of course would end up becoming Barker’s 1980’s sitcom Clarence, Josephine Tewson co-stars here as she would in the series too. 1899: The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town is a typical piece of Spike Milligan surrealism about a raspberry blower (very much like the infamous Jack the Ripper in fact) stalking Victorian London, this would later turn up as the serial in The Two Ronnies.

It’s three out of three with 1970: The Odd Job which, written by Bernard McKenna, sees Barker playing Arthur Harriman who is so suicidal after his wife leaves him he arranges for a rather strange odd job man, brilliantly played by David Jason, to kill him. In the late seventies Graham Chapman and McKenna turned this into a film of the same name (Jason reprised his role after Keith Moon proved unreliable – no surprise there then!).

1915: Lola was written by sitcom staples Ken Hoare and Mike Sharland and was set during World war one and offers up a good chance for Barker to drag up. Next up is 1971: Come In and Lie Down written by John Cleese and featuring more than a few moments of Basil Fawlty style flights of genius and sees Barker playing a psychiatrist and the brilliant Michael Bates as his patient (who is actually posing as the gasman so that the psychiatrist doesn’t think he has a problem). Finally there is the future bound 2774AD: All The World’s A Stooge, written by Barker himself and focusing on a world where laughter is the new religion. A great cast also includes Michael Hordern, Victor Maddern and a young Lesley-Anne Down.

production details
UK | ITV – London Weekend Television | 6×25 minutes | Broadcast 8 January – 12 February 1971

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