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Sprout (ITV Comedy, John Alderton, Julian Holloway)



Out of work Darwin Sprout and his flatmate, John Russell, face rent, phone and every other bill imaginable. In his desperate search for work, Sprout has already failed nine interviews on the trot. But surely the tenth one, coming up, will be the answer to al their problems? After all his only weakness is for the truth… and women! And with John’s expert advice on what, and what not to say, success is only a mere interview away.

A pilot for a possible series that never eventuated.

There was a brief preview by Stan Sayer and called Jobless John, in the Daily Mirror (Mon 1 Jul 1974): John Alderton is, in my view, one of television’s best comedy actors. He proved it in “Please Sir,” “The Fenn Street Gang” and “My Wife Next Door.” John’s skill in portraying likeable, bumbling characters, comes to the fore again tonight in a half-hour comedy play SPROUT (ITV, 8.0). He plays Darwin Sprout, an out-of-work young man who has an unhappy knack of failing job interviews and an uncanny talent for winning girls. John says: ” I did the play because the script was good. I usually play the complete innocent, but as Sprout I’m also a guy who’s good with birds.” Julian Holloway plays his flat-mate, Geoffrey Chater the boss and Clare Sutcliffe the secretary.

Ariel reviewed the comedy in the Liverpool Echo the following day (Tues 2 Jul 1974) and didn’t find much to admire: WRITE DOWN a few old and trusted themes on scraps of paper, put them in a hat and pull one out. That seems to be Independent Television’s formula when it ventures Into the comedy field. The result of this sort of planning has been painfully obvious in its sitcom shows. Last night’s new effort ‘Sprout,’ was no exception. Darwin Sprout (would you believe?) was our hero. Someone should have told the scriptwriters that funny names went out with custard pies and exploding cigars. From the title, it was obvious we weren’t going to be treated to anything too demanding on the intelligence, but there weren’t even any good belly laughs. Sprout, a successful failure at his past nine job interviews, is confident of success at his tenth. As you can guess, he’s a tongue tied dolt in the interview room, but a glib smoothie when it comes to chatting up the girls. John Alderton of My Wife Next Door fame, played Sprout. Swap his new fiat-mate (Julian Holloway) for his old soul-mate, Hannah Gordon, and you wouldn’t know which show you were watching.

The day before the same paper had previewed the production noting that “like the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse the main object of this half-hour exercise seems to be to try out a comedy set-up that will pull the viewers and spin off into a nice little series.”

Mary Malone was more positive about the one-off in the Daily Mirror (Tues 2 Jul 1974): What is so endearing about Sprout, Thames’ latest bid for our affection and attention is that lies and whopper come about as naturally to him as walking on his hands. Darwin Sprout has big ideas. Or rather his flat mate John has them for him. To meet the rent and phone bills Darwin Sprout must land a cushy job. To this end Darwin (John Alderton) sails into a job interview armed with false credentials. All that’s missing is the fluent conviction of the practiced liar. Sprout takes no time at all to wreck his fragile make believe world with disastrous half truths. John Alderton of Please Sir fame, has that combination of nervous tic, guilt and flamboyance that your really bad liar harnesses to win a captive audience. It keeps Sprout well and truly on the boil.

Martin Hedges in the Birmingham Daily Post (2 Jul 1974) also reviewed the comedy, in fact he was convinced that a series was a definite possibility: There can be little doubt with Darwin Sprout, writers Anthony Matheson and Peter Tilbury have come up with a character destined for a series. Sprout (Thames), played by John Alderton, is one of those men who are ever hoping to land the plum job at the same time as they catch the perfect woman. He does not really want the job and the woman will only be for the time being, but to get both he will talk endlessly and cheerfully. Unfortunately, his wit is not as quick as his imagination and he has to lie his way out of the awkward situations created by his insistence of his form of truth. Using a fined-down version of the characters he played in Please, Sir and My Wife Next Door, John Alderton runs the gamut of double-takes and contradictions with what could, if he is not careful, become too great an ease.

Cast: John Alderton (Darwin Sprout), Julian Holloway (John Russell), Geoffrey Chater (Mr Barker), Clare Sutcliffe (Emily Braithewaite), Jenny Cox (Carol)

Writers: Anthony Matheson and Peter Tilbury / Production Design: Bill Palmer / Producer and Director: Anthony Parker

UK / ITV – Thames / 1×25 minute episode / Broadcast Monday 1 July 1974 at 8.00pm