Cap’n Peacock, he of ‘Are you Being Served?’ fame. I really hated that series – as I did all sitcoms penned by Perry and/or Croft subsequent to ‘Dad’s Army’ – and I’m still trying to work out why it is that the same writing duo can go from subtle and intelligent comedy to crap that beats you about the head, in the space of about five minutes.
Jimmy Perry and David Croft came to fame with ‘Dad’s Army’. Though some of the plot rested on slapstick, what saved it from the predictability of later series was the subtle interplay of class and character: Sergeant Wilson being more intelligent and higher social status than his Captain. The characters were also more rounded: though they had their own oft-repeated tropes, they were believable as characters in their own right; they had range and humanity. We cared about them, just as Mainwaring – for all his pomposity and blundering – cared deeply about them, and about winning the war.
But subsequent sitcoms the pair were involved in tended to hit the viewer over the head. There was no subtlety in ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’, no nicely-nuanced social observation in ‘Allo-Allo’ or ‘Hi-de-hi’, and if I have to hear one more joke in the whole of my life about Mrs Slocum’s pussy I will go stark staring bananas. They left behind the good stuff and just went with the obvious slapstick.
It’s very disappointing. So I can’t find it in me to mourn too deeply for Cap’n Peacock’s demise. But there you go – he’s dead. I’m tempted to say that he died as he acted – peacefully in his sleep – but that would be cruel.
Today I shall be mostly… sweating at the laptop-face.