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The Squirrels (ITV Sitcom, Bernard Hepton, Ken Jones)



Sitcom The Squirrels detailed the misadventures amongst the staff of a TV Rental company, especially the accounts department.

There was a pilot broadcast 8 July 1974, the actor Kenneth Cope wrote two episodes.

Early 1990’s sitcom Fiddlers Three was a rehash of this series with quite a few scripts from this series being reworked for that.

TV Times Week of 12 July 1975: Eric Chappell spent 22 years researching The Squirrels – without going anywhere near a tree. He was a travelling auditor for a nationalised industry, which gave an unequalled opportunity for observing office life at close quarters. Tonight’s new comedy series is all about offices and the people who inhabit them. Those hundreds of people Chappell met are rolled into five composite characters. The titles comes from a line in the first play Chappell wrote for radio on the subject: “We’re all caged squirrels, performing tricks though hoops and on the treadmill.” Chappell lets himself in for the obvious attacks from critics with his title. But his attitude towards them is: “Nuts!” He admits missing the social aspects of office life since he gave up auditing for full time writing, two and a half years ago. His wife, Miuriel, is a perfect test market for his scripts. But his seven year old daughter, Paula, is not so helpful. She complains that there aren’t any furry animals with bushy tails…

Jill Weekes reviewed the first episode in The Stage (24 Jul 1975): Unfortunately The Squirrels looks like being one of those series where actors and production team strain to squeeze the last drop from their material. In fact, they work so hard, they almost manufacture a few drops worth squeezing. Producer- director Shaun O’Riordan and an excellent cast do their best, but on first showing there seems to be little situation and less comedy. A misleading TV Times blurb sketched as background the type of office filled with “acres of paper, clattering typewriters and telephones that never stop ringing”; none of these featured in the programme. The location was apparently the accounts department of a TV hire firm, but this had little bearing on events. Eric Chappell’s script was contrived from the flimsiest material. Burke, a skiver of the first degree, was sacked by Fletcher, but reinstated when the rest of the office rallied round. What could have been a stretch of yawn-provoking tedium was brightened by characters which might yet have potential. Ellis Jones gave Burke a wide-eyed, ingenuous quality, while Bernard Hepton as Fletcher sported a stern facade, easily crumbling to the ridiculous. Alan David established an effective melodramatic angle as Harry; “I remember when you were milk monitor” he spat with comic venom at Rex (Ken Jones), delegated to implement the sacking. Karin MacCarthy as Carol! the ice-cool secretary, baring her midriff to advantage, and Patsy Rowlands, employing some telling deadpan expressions as Rex’s wife, Susan, were considerable comic assets. The whole half-hour very nearly came to life when Rex and Susan prepared to dull the shock of Burke’s dismissal with home-made wine. (“A pity we haven’t any hemlock he wouldn’t feel it at all.”) Perhaps subsequent episodes will reveal choicer comic kernels, but so far, the squirrels are hampered by dead wood, broken shells and bits of grey fluff.

Sunday Mirror (Sun 1 Aug 1976): The Squirrels (Fri ITV, 8.30). I sometimes wonder what else can happen to Mr. Fletcher (Bernard Hepton). He surely must be entitled to feel safe from disaster in his humdrum business. But the writers keep him in trouble.

The show was popular enough to make it into the top 10 Jictar TV ratings of the time, averaging 5.95 million households, Coronation Street, the top ranking show most of the time would average around 7 million households.

Cast: Bernard Hepton (Mr Fletcher), Ken Jones (Rex), Alan David (Harry), Patsy Rowlands (Susan), Ellis Jones (Burke), Karin MacCarthy (Carol)

Creator: Eric Chappell / Producer: Shaun O’Riordan

UK / ITV – ATV / 28×30 minute episodes / 18 July 1975 – 10 February 1977