1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 8 (UK)
19 x 30 minute episodes
3 x 50 minute Christmas specials
The slapstick adventures of childlike, accident-prone Frank Spencer, resplendent in mac, tank top and beret.
Frank was the ultimate loser – unemployable, unable to cope with even the simplest technology and the victim of his surroundings.
His nervous, effete movements and tremulous voice gave Frank Spencer a childlike quality that might have become tedious if it wasn’t for the fact that these affectations were combined with some of the most amazing and hilarious physical comedy ever seen on TV.
Every well-meaning attempt he made to come to terms with the world ended in disaster, be it learning to drive, getting a job, or realising some long-cherished dream.
What saved him was his innocence, his dogged persistence, and his outrage at the injustices he felt he had suffered . . . and his patient, understanding girlfriend (and eventually wife) Betty. Against all the odds, they later had a daughter, Jessica.
Little known young actor Michael Crawford (real name Michael Dumble Smith) did all his own stunts and was involved in some hair-raising slapstick antics – dangling over a cliff-edge from the exhaust pipe of a Morris Minor, roller-skating underneath a moving articulated lorry, dangling underneath a helicopter and risking destruction under the wheels of a moving train in a way that would not have been tolerated by television companies and their insurers a few years later.
Crawford was to prove to writer Raymond Allen, who said he was the real Frank Spencer – someone for whom everything always went wrong – that luck could change.
At first, the BBC weren’t so confident. When Raymond asked them if he should risk giving up his job cleaning in a cinema, they said he should keep it for a while to see how things went.
But Crawford’s Frank, and his disastrous effect on machinery, was a success from the start and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em was a huge hit.
Frank looked funny because of Raymond Allen’s own admitted lack of style.
“I’ve always lived on the Isle of Wight where fashions are way behind,” Allen said. “I’d never earned more than £4 a week so I rarely bought clothes. When the BBC asked me to come to London to the rehearsals, I went out and I bought this long mac I thought was really smart. Michael Crawford saw it. I’d told him that I thought Frank should look really quaint, but I was horrified when he turned up in one just like it for the recording the next week and it became his trademark”.
There were three series of the hit comedy as well as three Christmas specials from 1973-1978. The episode aired on Christmas Day 1978 had a hefty 25 million viewers and a repeat of one episode in 1979 managed to attract 20.4 million viewers.
The introduction of baby Jessica, delightful though she was, was not a good idea. Frank was really better when battling with bureaucracy, haughtily demanding, “To what are you alluring?” or pleading his case with the exasperated Betty than proving his aptitude for fatherhood.
The character already had a Chaplinesque quality without the addition of extra sentiment.
Frank Spencer transformed Crawford into a household name but these days he is much better known for his singing and his successful roles in the stage hits Barnum and Phantom of the Opera.
The Job Interview | George’s House | Love Thy Neighbour | Going On Holiday | The Hospital Visit | The Psychiatrist | The Labour Exchange | Cliffhanger | The RAF Reunion | The PR Course | Frank And Marvin Fathers’ Clinic | The Baby Arrives | Jessica’s First Christmas | Learning To Drive | Moving House | Wendy House | Scottish Dancing | Men As Women | King Of The Road | Australia House | Learning To Fly