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Army Game, The (ITV 1957-1961, Alfie Bass, William Hartnell)

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Extremely popular early comedy The Army Game was set in Hut 29 of the Surplus Ordnance Depot at Nether Hopping, somewhere in remotest Staffordshire, and featured the exploits of a mixed bag of army conscripts. At the forefront were Pte. ‘Bootsie’ Bisley, so named because he was allowed to wear plimsolls instead of boots; Pte. Hatchett, who knitted to pass the time and was known as The Professor’; Liverpudlian Pte. ‘Cupcake’ Cook, taking his name from the many food parcels his mother sent him; gormless Pte. Topeye’ Popplewell; and their Cockney spiv ringleader, Cpl. Springer.

Trying to knock them into shape were the bellowing Sgt-Major Bullimore and then (when future doctor who Bill Hartnell left to star in the very similar Carry On Sergeant) the pompous Sgt Claude Snudge. Toffee-nosed dimwit Major Upshot-Bagley was nominal head of the camp.

There were many personnel changes in the series’ four-year run. Upshot-Bagleywas replaced by other commandants (Pilsworthy, Duckworth and Pocket) and new conscripts were brought in. Popeye was succeeded by the equally dense Pte. Bone, Springer by another chirpy Londoner, Tlogger’ Hoskins, and other new arrivals included ‘Chubby’ Catchpole, Lance-Corporal Ernie Merryweather and Privates Dooley and Baker. Of the characters that remained, some changed actors. Barry Took and Marty Feldman were among the numerous writers involved. The Army Game was originally transmitted live once a fortnight, though when its popularity increased it switched to once a week.

In 1958, the series engendered a spin-off film, I Only Arsked (based on Popeye’s catchphrase). In the same year the signature tune of the Army Game was a top five hit for Michael Medwin, Bernard Bresslaw, Alfie Bass and Leslie Fyson, and in 1960 a sequel series, Bootsie and Snudge, was produced.

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production details
UK / ITV – Granada / 154×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 19 June 1957 – 20 June 1961

Creator: Sid Colin / Producers: Peter Eton, Eric Fawcett, Milo Lewis,

cast
ALFIE BASS as Excused Boots Bisley (Seasons 1-4)
GEOFFREY SUMNER as Major Upshot-Bagley (Seasons 1,2,5)
WILLIAM HARTNELL as Sgt Maj Percy Bullimore(Seasons 1,2,5)
MICHAEL MEDWIN as Cpl Springer (Seasons 1-3)
BERNARD BRESSLAW as Popeye Popplewell (Seasons 1-2)
NORMAN ROSSINGTON as Cupcake Cook (Seasons 1-3)
KEITH BANKS as Cupcake
BILL FRASER as Sgt Maj Claude Snudge (Seasons S2-4)
TED LUNE as Pte Leonard Bone (Seasons 3-5)
HARRY FOWLER as Cpl Flogger Hoskina (Seasons 3-5)
DICK EMERY as Pte Chubby Catchpole (Season 5)
MARIO FABRIZI as Ernest ‘Moosh’ Merryweather

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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