Bringing back a much-loved programme after a long hiatus is a rarely a good idea. Though many will tune in for pure nostalgic reasons, the quality of the show is never as good and often one of the stars of the show has already passed away. The latter fact is certainly true of Open All Hours with its larger than life lead actor Ronnie Barker having passed away some years ago. Despite this, writer Roy Clarke has revived the corner shop sitcom primarily at the request of Barker’s co-star David Jason.
Jason’s Granville is now front and centre of the action and running the shop that his Uncle Arkwright once owned. The shop has changed little since we saw it last and Granville has now seemingly morphed into Arkwright. He now wears the same greengrocers’ uniform once made famous by his uncle while he is as tight with his money as Arkwright once was. We witness Granville’s thriftiness first hand as he uses the store’s bacon slicer in an attempt to create the world’s smallest slice of bacon. Meanwhile, Granville is accompanied in the store by his son Leroy, the result of a one-night stand in Blackpool twenty-five years ago. There’s a running theme throughout tonight’s show that Leroy isn’t quite sure that Granville is his father even though they have the same earlobes. Granville hasn’t raised Leroy all alone though and has had the help of all of the women of the local community during his upbringing. Now all of his female customers constantly ask him how the lad is and really don’t care about Granville all that much. In fact Leroy has sort of become a bit like Granville was in the original series, a hit with the ladies and someone who often spends too long delivering groceries. He also comes across as someone who thinks he’s a lot cooler than he actually is, as witnessed by the fact that he often wears sunglasses indoors.
Despite having fathered a child, Granville is still yet to find that elusive right woman to settle down with. One lady who Granville has always had a soft spot for is Mavis, and she’s still visiting the store on a daily basis. The conversations between the pair are some of the more engaging parts of the programme and are definite highlights for long time fans of the show. The only problem for Granville is that Mavis’ sister Madge really doesn’t want the pair to have a relationship and does her best to dissuade her sister from falling for Granville’s lines. Mrs Featherstone is also sniffing around Granville and is looking for a third husband after already sending two men to an early grave. But Granville’s first love is definitely is uncle’s shop and he is still struggling to keep it afloat. This episode’s running gag is Granville’s over-ordering of anchovy paste and his need to get rid of it in a community who are staunchly tinned meat. Eventually he decides to promote it as a stimulating product and flogs a couple of pots to the dopey Wet Eric who is having trouble pleasing his wife. The results of this sale are fairly predictable but then I would say that’s a recurring theme of the programme as a whole.
Indeed, this air of predictability runs rife throughout Still Open All Hours, but it’s a matter of debate whether or not that’s a bad thing. Open All Hours was definitely a programme that was of its time and I don’t think that Roy Clarke has done much to really update the humour. I have to say that I was expecting there to be a lot of jokes about supermarkets pinching the business of the corner shop and how Granville has had to update the iconic store. Instead the jokes wouldn’t have been out of place in the original series and the majority of it seemed like material from a script that had been left over from the 1970s. Even Leroy, who is supposed to be a contemporary character, doesn’t act like someone who grew up in the 21st century. His idea of cool is very dated and I do think that Roy Clarke would have benefited from having a younger co-writer working on the script. That being said there wasn’t anything that particularly offended me and I feel it’s very rare to have a likeable pre-watershed sitcom in this day and age. While I feel there was a need to please older fans of the show, the jokes were at least accessible enough for those who had never seen the show the first time around.
I do feel that David Jason did a great job of emulating Ronnie Barker’s original persona, but I don’t know if that’s what I particularly wanted to see. In fact Jason seemed to be playing the second coming of Arkwright rather than an older version of Granville. I do feel that Jason had a lost a lot of the qualities that made Granville such an enjoyable character the first time round. That being said, Jason is a lot funnier here than he ever was in the woeful The Royal Bodyguard. I have to say I personally wasn’t a particular fan of James Baxter as Leroy and felt he added little to the overall humour of the show. While I understand the need to have a younger actor in the cast, Baxter really didn’t share that much chemistry with Jason to make them a believable double act. The sketch show like nature of the episode meant that a lot of familiar faces were on hand to lend a bit of vitality to the script. Amongst those I found Nina Wadia, Johnny Vegas and Mark Williams to be incredibly game and their respective scenes provided some of the episode’s funnier moments. Meanwhile original cast members Lynda Baron, Stephanie Cole and Maggie Ollerenshaw all relish playing their characters once again, even if none of their scenes were particularly humorous.
The big question is whether Still Open All Hours will return for a full series. There definitely seemed to be a hint that Jason, Clarke and company would be willing to return for a series if the ratings and reviews were positive. I personally think that there is room for a pre-watershed sitcom that will be liked by old and young alike. If it were to run for a full series, Still Open All Hours needs some contemporary references and less nods to the original series. But after watching this very old-fashioned instalment I’m doubtful that this could ever happen.
What did you think to Still Open All Hours? Do you feel it could return for a full series?
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