UK, BBC, Sitcom, colour, 1980
Starring: Simon Cadell, David Griffin, Paul Shane
Another period-piece drawn from the real-life experiences of writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft. (The former had been a Butlin's Redcoat, the latter had worked as an actor/producer of summer shows for a holiday camp.) Building a sitcom around the comical trials and tribulations suffered by an entertainment troupe at a typical British holiday camp at the end of the 1950s was a brilliant notion, and the fictional ideas - calling the camp Maplin's and the entertainers Yellowcoats - was an almost transparent veil behind which lay the truth: this show was all about the larks to be had, or not had, at Butlin's, and later Pontin's holiday camps, in their kiss-me-quick 'golden' post-war heyday.
The pilot episode set the scene, with the entertainers returning for the 1959 holiday season only to find that the camp is now being run by a former college professor, the well-meaning but dreamy academic Jeffrey Fairbrother. He is a character in stark contrast to his team: the bluff, ale-guzzling working-class comic Ted Bovis, and his hapless understudy Spike; Gladys Pugh, the ambitious and passionate senior Yellowcoat from Wales; the dipsomaniacal, child-hating Punch And Judy Man, Mr Partridge; the snobbish dance instructors Barry and Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves; the diminutive, sour-faced jockey Fred Quilly; and the gormless, nervy Peggy, a lowly chalet maid with a burning ambition to become a Yellowcoat. After initial clashes, the team realise that they are on the same side and face far greater challenges from the holiday-makers and the never seen but ever-watchful head of Maplin's, the odious Joe Maplin. Personal relationships soon develop: Ted fails to be a father-figure to Spike; Gladys forms a smouldering but unrealised passion for Fairbrother; and Peggy increasingly exasperates the others with her nervous energy and Yellowcoat ambitions. But no seismic changes occurred in the show until Fairbrother left and was replaced by the wilier but still misplaced Clive Dempster. Two years later, Kenneth Connor joined the regular cast as the children's entertainer Uncle Sammy, who seemed to have a strange hold over Joe Maplin, but otherwise things continued much as before, with the 1959 holiday season eventually giving way to the 1960 holiday season. Plots became somewhat outlandish during the latter episodes and by the time the BBC called it a day, in 1988, it is arguable that the show had already outstayed its welcome by a good couple of years.
All in all, though, this was a good British sitcom, not aspiring to the heights and so not failing when it ascended to just above the half-way point. Its period setting had just the right degree of nostalgia and comedy potential, and the characters, as usual for Perry and Croft, were very well cast. Granted, the style was broad - too broad for some tastes - with a distinctly garish Carry On touch in places, and the female Yellowcoat uniform shorts were short by 1980s standards let alone those of the 1950s, but a fascinating era in 20th-century British social history was humorously explored, and - for those not around at the time - explained.
The title Hi-de-Hi! (changed from the unhyphenated and unexclaimed Hi de Hi of the early episodes) was the campers' rallying call, broadcast over Maplin's internal radio PA by Gladys Pugh. The campers' response was the at first enthusiastic but later weary 'Ho-de-Ho'.
Notes. Some of the TV cast also appeared in Hi-de-Hi - The Holiday Musical, a stage show mounted in Bournemouth and Blackpool in the 1983 and 1984 summer seasons respectively and also in London during the intervening Christmas.
On 23 August 1982 Paul Shane revisited places that figured in his formative years in the BBC1 series Comic Roots.
Researched and written by Mark Lewisohn.
Gallery Images - Click for a bigger image
Simon Cadell - Jeffrey Fairbrother (series 1-4)
David Griffin - Sqdn-Ldr Clive Dempster DFC (series 5-8)
Paul Shane - Ted Bovis
Ruth Madoc - Gladys Pugh
Jeffrey Holland - Spike Dixon
Su Pollard - Peggy
Felix Bowness - Fred Quilly
Diane Holland - Yvonne Stuart-Hargreaves
Barry Howard - Barry Stuart-Hargreaves (series 1-6)
Ben Aris - Julian Dalrymple-Sykes (series 6 onwards)
Leslie Dwyer - Mr Partridge (series 1-5)
Nikki Kelly - Sylvia
Rikki Howard - Betty
Chris Andrews - Yellowcoat Boys
The Webb Twins - Yellowcoat Boys
Penny Irving - Mary (series 1)
Linda Regan - April (series 5-8)
Laura Jackson - Dawn (series 5-8)
Julie-Christian Young - Babs (series 5-8)
Susan Beagley - Tracey (series 3 & 4)
Johnny Allan - Charlie Dawson (series 4)
Kenneth Connor - Sammy (series 7 & 8)
Ewan Hooper - Alec Foster (series 7)
Jimmy Perry - Writer
David Croft - Writer
John Kilby - Director
David Croft - Director
Robin Carr - Director
Mike Stephens - Director
David Croft - Producer (45)
John Kilby - Producer (7)
Mike Stephens - Producer (6)
Number of episodes: 58
Length: 53 x 30 mins · 3 x 45 mins · 1 x 60 mins · 1 x 40 mins
Pilot (40 mins) 1 Jan 1980, BBC1 Tue 7.30pm
Series One (6) 26 Feb-2 Apr 1981, BBC1 Thu 8pm
Series Two (6) 29 Nov 1981-3 Jan 1982, BBC1 Sun 7.15pm
Series Three (12 x 30 mins, 1 x 45 mins) 31 Oct 1982-23 Jan 1983, BBC1 Sun 7.15pm
Series Four (7) 27 Nov 1983-22 Jan 1984, BBC1 Sun 7.15pm
Series Five (6) 3 Nov-25 Dec 1984, BBC1 Sat 8pm
Series Six (6 x 30 mins, 1 x 60 mins) 25 Dec 1985-16 Feb 1986, BBC1 mostly Sun 7.15pm
Series Seven (5 x 30 mins, 1 x 45 mins) 8 Nov-27 Dec 1986, BBC1 Sat 7.40pm
Series Eight (5 x 30 mins, 1 x 45 mins) 26 Dec 1987-30 Jan 1988, BBC1 mostly Sat 6.20pm
The information in the bbc.co.uk Guide to Comedy is complied from 'The Radio Times Guide to Television Comedy' by Mark Lewisohn, published by BBC Books. More information about the book is available from the BBC Shop.
(The BBC is not responsible for the content of external links.)
Reviews supplied by Radio Times © 2003 BBC Worldwide - used under licence from BBC Worldwide.
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