28 June 2017

SYKES: THE COMPLETE BBC SERIES. (1972-1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




SYKES: THE BBC TV SERIES. (1972-1979) STARRING ERIC SYKES, HATTIE JACQUES, RICHARD WATTIS, DEREK GUYLER AND JOAN SIMS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, bless, this BBC TV series is just the biggest, nicest and warmest slice of nostalgia I've tucked into in many a long day. Written by comedy genius Eric Sykes, a lot of it is actually based on his previous 1960s black-and-white series SYKES AND A... (insert appropriate name, such as SYKES AND A STRANGER or SYKES AND A FOLLOWING), in which he also co-starred with the marvellous Hattie Jacques, whom you'll particularly remember from the CARRY ON series of films.

Remember in CARRY ON CAMPING, one of the best-loved films in the series, in which her staid and virginal Matron of a girls' finishing school professes undying love for Kenneth Williams' starchy Headmaster, while a pert and minxy Barbara Windsor creates her own particular brand of breast-related havoc? 'Take them away, Matron...!' Indeed.

Anyway, SYKES, the full-colour television series which actually produced more episodes than both FAWLTY TOWERS and SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM put together, sees Eric and Hattie living together in an end-of-terrace house as twin brother and sister, using the names Eric and Harriet Sykes. 28, Sebastopol Terrace, East Acton, is home to some decidedly queer and hilarious shenanigans.

Hattie, of course, being female, is much more mature and unflappable than her brother, who is highly-strung, easily offended and occasionally irresponsible. Eric is constantly getting into scrapes in the same way that his contemporaries Frank Spencer and Basil Fawlty were also always doing. There's the same physical energy as in SOME MOTHERS DO 'AVE 'EM, while Eric's ability to dig himself into ever deeper and deeper holes purely by using his big fat mouth is pure Basil Fawlty.

Eric's main raison d'etre seems to be to outdo the snobby next-door-neighbour, Mr. Charles Brown, at all costs. No matter what it costs him in dignity and peace of mind for himself and the long-suffering Hattie, who's kind of a Betty to Eric's bumbling Frank Spencer. Charles Brown (Richard Wattis: 1912- 1975) is a marvellous character and the actor plays him so well.

Mr. Brown is fraitefully, fraitefully posh and snobby. He wears cravats and big glasses and nice blazers and is always looking down his nose at the somewhat more common Eric. He shows off his material possessions and social standing shamefully to Eric and Hattie, whom he obviously considers to be social inferiors. This drives Eric demented, but not only that.

It causes Eric to tell the biggest porky-pies to his uppity neighbour, and then when Mr. Brown actually calls him out on his lies, he feels obliged to tell ever bigger and better porkies until he's hopelessly enmeshed in a web of fibs of his own making. Not for Eric, the infinitely sensible motto, 'Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive...!'

Here's an example. In one episode, Mr. Brown buys a boat, so of course the very first thing he does is to hare round to Eric's gaff to boast about it. Eric, positively pea-green with jealousy, feels obligated then to pretend that he has more seafaring knowledge than the crews of the TITANIC, the PEQUOD and the BOUNTY put together.

Mr. Brown, taken in and even impressed by Eric's shameless boasting, then asks Eric to give his boat THE SAUCY GIRL the once-over, in his professional capacity as an expert in boats, of course. Eric agrees, after an initial show of reluctance, and so off trot himself and Hattie down to the canal where they proceed to completely total Mr. Brown's boat due to their incompetent buffoonery and an utter lack of any real knowledge of boating. Luckily for Charles, however, it's not exactly his boat they've been trashing so carelessly...!

Another example is when there's been a spate of burglaries in Sebastopol Terrace and the only house neglected by the robbers is... you guessed it... the Sykes' household. This leads to the usual one-upmanship from the crashing snob Mr. Brown, who is quick to surmise out loud in Eric's presence that the Sykes' have nothing worth stealing.

The mortally offended Eric isn't having that, oh no. Quick as a flash, he tells Mr. Brown that the reason they haven't been burgled is because they've got a vicious dog called Nero. Which, of course, they haven't. A sceptical Mr. Brown is eager to see this marvellous dog for himself. One gramophone recording of a dog barking later, and Eric's got himself inextricably tangled up in another fine mess entirely of his own making...

One of the funniest scrapes in which Eric becomes enmeshed is when he pretends that his Uncle is the local toff, Lord Hetherington, to gain him an entrée to Mr. Brown's posh and exclusive golf club. Two fine actors, Roy Kinnear (he plays Veruca Salt's Dad in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) and John Le Mesurier (DAD'S ARMY) turn up to add an extra pinch of confusion to the aristocratic fun and frolics.

Derek Guyler (1914-1999) does an excellent job of portraying local Bobby-On-The-Beat, PC Turnbull, in a number of episodes, and legendary CARRY ON comedy actress Joan Sims has an occasional role too as Madge Kettlewell, the lady behind the counter at the bakery who may or may not have a thing for the hapless Eric, believe it or not...

SYKES, the successful and long-running television series, came tragically to an end with the death of dear Hattie Jacques in 1980. Richard Wattis, who plays Charles Brown, also died in 1975 and was replaced by a female neighbour.

There are a whopping sixty-eight episodes of SYKES in existence, a fine body of work that will always stand as testimony to the unfailing and unstoppable work ethic of Eric Sykes, a comedy legend who was both partially deaf and partially blind due to various health complications that never stopped him from doing the comedy and acting work that he loved.

The good news is that this superb comedy series is available to buy now on DVD from NETWORK DISTRIBUTING and BLUE DOLPHIN PR & MARKETING. Twelve discs contain all sixty-eight episodes of the series and many of the discs contain special features as well.

It would make the most marvellous present for comedy fans or for yourself, if you've a mind to recapture a charmingly nostalgic era of television in which no-one swore or took stupid duck-faced pictures of themselves in their bathrooms with which to make their chums on Instagram 'jealous' of their 'superior' looks and lifestyle. That'll do for me, anyroad...!

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

 You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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