I recently caught the movie version of Please Sir! on TV, a UK sitcom from before my time, but entertaining enough for me to seek out the original episodes – which coincidentally, have just started to re-appear on DVD, starting with Please Sir! Series One and Two.
If it’s new to you, here’s a brief introduction. With the success of To Sir With Love in 1967, writers John Esmonde and Bob Larbey (known for a variety of shows since, including The Good Life) wrote a sitcom around a similarly unruly school, starring John Alderton as a newly-qualified teacher (Bernard Hedges), starting his first job at Fenn Street School.
Circumstances (another teacher being on the long-term sick – nothing changes) lead to him being given the unenviable job of teaching 5C – the worst class in the school. The show was a big success, ran for 56 episodes and even had its own spin-off show (The Fenn Street Gang) as well as the previously-mentioned movie.
But times (and tastes) change – and what worked 35+ years ago doesn’t necessarily work in 2006. Except in this case it does.
Please Sir! manages to mix Ealing-style comedy with the more traditional 60s/70s sitcom formula. John Alderton is excellent as the awkward teacher, the rest of the staff are typical eccentrics (the old sleepy gamesmaster, the angry Welshman, the disciplinarian deputy head and the liberal headmaster) and the caretaker – well, he’s the star of the show. Yes, Potter, played by Deryk Guyler, is the old soldier who gets all the best lines and most of the abuse. And of course, there’s the kids of 5C, decked out in the street fashions of the day (style spotters), most look older than school age and all, despite their reputation, twice as clever as the staff.
There’s not a lot of difference between the two series, except that the first one is in black and white – and the second series probably gets into its stride quicker. So if you’re a fan of 70s comedy, it’s worth checking out both of these, Great for late 60s fashion tips and still a genuinely funny comedy series after all these years.