Daytime TV: Dead comedians’ channel

Man watching TV
Suzy Varty

OK. Yes. I do watch a fair amount of daytime TV. I admit it. I never used to, but self-isolation / shielding / lockdown forced it on me. And it’s not all nightmare-inducing; some of it is fun.

So what do I watch? Well, mainly Gold (or, as I prefer to call it, the Dead Comedians’ Channel) and my all-time favourite, which I’ve enjoyed since the first episode in January 1973 (and yes, I looked that date up) is Last of the Summer Wine.

Interesting fact 1 on daytime TV

At the time of writing there are only 11 members of the cast who played a significant role in the 295 episodes (1973 – 2010) still alive, the youngest being 61 and the oldest 95. That’s Robert Fyfe, who played Clegg’s neighbour Howard.)

I’ve watched every episode so many times – for Gold has repeated at least two episodes from every series every weekday for as long as I can remember – that I’m very close to being able to say every line along with the actors!

Interesting facts 2 and 3

Did you know that Gordon Wharmby (Wesley Pegden) was the only recurring member of the cast who had never had a professional acting job before LSW? And here’s interesting fact 3: visiting guest stars included Norman Wisdom, Bobby Ball, Tommy Cannon, Gordon Kaye, Shirley Anne Field, Eric Sykes, Liz Smith, Ron Moody and a brief but memorable appearance – dancing at a bus stop! – of Larry Grayson)

Moving on to other shows, you can follow the entire TV comedy career of David Jason on Gold from Open All Hours (also 1973) to Still Open All Hours (2013 – 2019) taking in Del Boy and Pa Larkin on the way. In fact, Saturdays and Sundays on Gold are almost wall-to-wall Only Fools and Horses. Of course, on other channels his time as Inspector Frost (A Touch of Frost) is often reprised, but usually in the evening, not during the day.

Interesting facts 4,5 and 6

David Jason has only ever appeared in one panto, Cinderella at Newcastle Theatre Royal; James Baxter (Leroy) comes from Sunderland; Tim Healy (Gastric) is from Newcastle and was one of the early members of Live Theatre.)

Gold regularly features comedy favourites like Fawlty Towers (it couldn’t not, could it?), Are You Being Served?, Waiting for God, Keeping up Appearances, Porridge, The Two Ronnies, Blackadder, The Vicar of Dibley, Hi-De-Hi, Dinnerladies, Jam and Jerusalem, Dad’s Army and many more, as well as the almost historical On the Buses, George and Mildred, Man about the House and Rising Damp.

I can’t watch On the Buses now! The way they treat poor Olive is misogynistic and reprehensible in so many other ways.

Interesting fact 7 on daytime TV

Brian Murphy (Man about the House, George and Mildred and Alvin in Last of the Summer Wine) is married to Linda Regan (April in Hi-De-Hi). Not a lot of people know that!)

Interesting fact 8

Stephanie Cole, who appeared in Waiting for God, A Bit of a Do, Doc Martin, Open All Hours, Still Open All Hours, Coronation Street and Tenko, won the 2012 Best Comedy Performance gong in the British Soap Awards and, in 2005, was awarded an OBE for services to drama, the elderly and mental health charities.

Interesting fact 9

The Victoria Wood Foundation funds two theatre directing bursaries, one of which this year is supporting Rachael Walsh from South Shields to be associate director on The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, this year’s major Christmas production at Northern Stage.

The more recent comedy shows – shall we say, post-The Young Ones and Bottom? – are reserved for evening showing, like the comedy on Dave, most of which is of the stand-up or panel show variety. Other channels, particularly Drama, do show the occasional comedy.

Occasionally both BBC and ITV will show repeats / compilations / specials featuring Morecambe and Wise but that’s usually in the evenings. As far as I am concerned they are always welcome at whatever time of the day or night. If you stop laughing at the breakfast sketch or the immortal “He’ll not sell many ice-creams going at that speed,” then, my friend, you’re probably dead!

Part 1

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