Home Television Comedy Porterhouse Blue

Porterhouse Blue

1 9 8 7 (UK)
4 x 50 minute episodes

David Jason starred as priggish Head Porter Skullion in the four-part Channel 4 serial Porterhouse Blue, Tom Sharpe’s super satire of the upper-class elitism of Oxbridge life.

The title refers to a stroke brought on by over-indulgence in rich food and drink, the defining characteristic of Porterhouse, a college otherwise only known for its strong rowing team and low level of academic attainment. The few decent grades its rich students achieve are the result of cheating arranged by Skullion.

In the most fantastical and strangely beautiful scene of the series, troubled student Lionel Zipser (John Sessions) – a sexually frustrated postgraduate student who lusts after Mrs Biggs, his cleaning lady (Paula Jacobs) – had to dispose of several hundred condoms.

His solution was to fill each with gas from his fire and float them up his chimney.

From there the teated balloons floated and settled on the college lawn, forcing a horrified Skullion to rush around frantically trying to puncture them.

Meanwhile, Zipser is seduced by massive Mrs Biggs but their night together is fatally curtailed when she turns the gas fire on, killing herself and Zipser and destroying part of the college in a massive explosion.

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The condom set-piece proved to be a series of headaches for producer Robert Knight. First, Durex had refused to supply the condoms because they disapproved of the frivolity of the project. Luckily Duet, a rival firm, saw the joke and sent ten thousand.

Then the dons at Cambridge – where they planned to film – objected. A suitably scholarly square was located in Peterborough.

Finally, the hoped-for still moonlight in which the ‘balloons’ – filled with a little water – would hang ‘like lost sperm in the air’ turned out a night of gale-force winds. What viewers didn’t see were about 20 people releasing 15 condoms each, while others sewed dozens into the lawns.

In the event, the wind made things funnier, David Jason won the BAFTA Best Actor award, and the night of the flying condoms lives in British television history.

Skullion
David Jason
Sir Godber Evans 

Ian Richardson
Dean 

Paul Rogers
Senior Tutor 

John Woodnutt 
Bursar 

Harold Innocent
Lady Mary 

Barbara Jefford
Praelector 
Ian Wallace
Professor Siblington 

Willoughby Goddard
Chaplain 

Lockwood West
Walter 

Bob Goody
Arthur 

Roy Evans
Lionel 
Zipser 
John Sessions
Sir Cathcart D’Eath 

Charles Gray
Mrs Biggs 

Paula Jacobs 
Chef 

John Rogan
Dr Messmer 

Tim Preece
Gimingham 
Miles Richardson
Foxton 
Earl Rhodes
Hearty 

Charles Millham
Cornelius Carrington 

Griff Rhys Jones