Liam Rudden: Leave nostalgia in the past

Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford
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THE DVD release of Grace and Favour dropped on to my desk the other day. For those not familiar with the title, the series was the 1990’s Are You Being Served? spin-off. Like its predecessor, it’s an example of “low comedy” at its best . . . or worst, depending how you look at it.

Politically incorrect on so many levels, Mrs Slocombe is still the owner of a pussy, Mr Humphries is still camp and free, and Captain Peacock still has an eye for the ladies.

Low comedy is described as “a form of entertainment with no other aim than to create laughter through the likes of horseplay, slapstick or farce . . .” and no little innuendo. It enjoyed a renaissance in the 70s (just look at the success of the Carry On films) and no-one highlighted the physicality of low comedy better than Michael Crawford. His hapless Frank Spencer attracted millions to their tellies every week.

Today, such series are looked down upon, but that hasn’t stopped the BBC remaking some in celebration of the 60th anniversary of BBC comedy.

Are You Being Served?, Up Pompeii and Keeping Up Appearances are just three titles being given a new lease of life.

It’s a bizarre decision. Fun as they may be, most are of their time, and with their original stars no longer here to recreate “the magic”, there seems little point labouring over what has gone.

That said, Crawford’s return to the role of Frank Spencer, pictured, alongside Michelle Dotrice as the long-suffering Betty, for Sport Relief was the highlight of my viewing week.

It was great to see Crawford, now 74, bravely tackling stunts he first did as a young man, albeit at a slower pace. Unsurprisingly, there are now calls for more of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, which misses the point that the charm of the Sport Relief special was that it was a one-off slice of nostalgia, and while nostalgia is a powerful drug, TV bosses really need look to the future, not the past.