Its rare for writers' names to be incorporated into the titles of their shows - even Johnny Speight never managed it - but by 1977, Ray Galton and Alan Simpson had engendered enough respect and affection from within the industry and general public for it to occur.
Their faces were to be seen in the opening titles, with Ken Jones' brass-band signature tune incorporating the clicking of typewriter keys.
The series got off to a magnificent start with 'Car Along The Pass', boasting Arthur Lowe in sparkling form as a pompous xenophobe trapped in a cable-car over the Austrian Alps with assorted foreign tourists. His opening line to wife Mona Washbourne summed up his character: "This is the worst holiday we have ever had...we have both spent over £18 each.". With 'Dad's Army' about to end, it looked as though Arthur had a potential solo hit on his hands, but it was not to be.
None of the 'Playhouses' made it to series form, some such as 'Naught For Thy Comfort' and 'Variations On A Theme' seemed written purely as stand-alone affairs. 'Swap You One Of These For One Of Those' was a left-over from 'Casanova 73' ( hard to credit it now, but 'The Sun' complained before its broadcast that wife-swapping was not suitable for television! ). Another outstanding show 'I Tell You Its Burt Reynolds' featured Leonard Rossiter as a buffoon who becomes convinced he has spotted the macho movie star in a T.V. show. His madness escalates, and Rossiter turns in his best performance since Rigsby.
'Big Deal At York City' was good fun too, with Warren Mitchell as a lucky soul who's had a good day at the races, only to be preyed upon by card sharks on a train. Neat twist at the end.
The seven shows were as good as any of their past work, had high production values, and were wonderfully cast. 'The News Of The World' invited readers to select the episode with the best series potential. What the result would have been we shall never know, because Alan Simpson retired suddenly, leaving Ray to team up with Johnny Speight. However, they reunited briefly in the mid-90's to update some of their material for Paul Merton.
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