As long-time readers of this blog will know, I am a great fan of sitcom. I consider it to be one of the great art-forms of our age. It’s not just about making people laugh: it’s about creating believable characters and a world where those characters are at home. In these worlds you need to have key settings: the vestry in The Vicar of Dibley and Rev; the home or the pub in Ever-Decreasing Circles; the garden or the kitchen in The Good Life; the hotel reception in Fawlty Towers. This is the home scene; the place you keep coming back to – and in Open all Hours – now resurrected as Still Open All Hours – it’s the shop.
I have to admit, I was a little dubious when I saw this being revived. Could they possibly do it without Ronnie Barker and his stammer? The answer is, they could and they did. Still Open All Hours moves forward to the present day. Granville has inherited the shop and taken on all the crafty, greedy and ultimately doomed tactics of his uncle. Stooge to his shopkeeper is his son, Leroy. Abandoned by his mother after a one-night stand, Leroy is just as oppressed as Granville himself once was.
But what’s brilliant about the update is the range of characters they have. Roy Clarke’s writing is as delicious and inventive as ever, and all the better for having ditched the misogyny which blighted it in the original: in this version women as well as men mull over the characteristics they like in the opposite sex, and bemoan the lack of passion and romance in their lives. ‘There’s nothing wrong with plain – especially in subdued light,’ says Mavis.
But the best thing about this series is the re-emergence of forgotten comedy actors: in episode six we have revived Liver Bird Paula Wilcox, plus regulars Brigit Forsyth who was in The Likely Lads; two of the Goodness Gracious Me team (Gulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia) and a cameo from Mark Williams of The Fast Show. Plus of course old favourites Stephanie Cole and Lynda Barron as Nurse G-Gladys.
With a photo of Arkwright presiding over the shop and the till still refusing to relinquish money, this is a terrific remake and I hope they do more.