1 9 9 1 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Originally scheduled for autumn 1990, this short-lived ITV comedy series gathered dust in Central Television’s Nottingham studio vaults for over a year before finally airing in July 1991.
Hi-de-Hi star Paul Shane played down-at-heel showbusiness agent Harry James, who worked from a small office above a cafe and represented a motley collection of struggling no-hopers such as Randolph the Escapologist (Matthew Devitt).
Asked by a client for a double act, the quick-thinking Harry paired opposites in veteran variety artist (and bingo caller) Ernie Chester (Tim Wylton) with a young “alternative” comic called Matthew Kite (Andrew MacLean), to produce Chester and Kite.
Harry was one of life’s eternal optimists, but despite his frizzy perm, camel hair coat and his wheeler-dealer ways, he had a heart of gold.
Harry didn’t like to let anybody down and would do almost anything to avoid it – which, in most cases, landed him in an even bigger mess.
For example, when stripper Rocky Rambo the Rampaging Viking was knocked out of action, Harry had no choice but to don a blonde wig and a strategically-placed viking helmet and stand in for the ‘erotic dancer’.
Harry assured all his acts that he would make them “very big very soon” and, between puffs at his cigar, proudly explained that he had pioneered the double reverse swivel on stage until his back went!
Money was short, and Harry’s grasping voluptuous ex-wife, Avril (Sheila White) wanted the first claim on that.
Meanwhile, Harry’s underpaid and downtrodden secretary, Beattie (Kate David) – who adored her boss and would go to any lengths to protect him – proved that big could be beautiful.
Paul Shane died on 16 May 2013 in a hospice in his hometown of Rotherham, South Yorkshire. He was 72.
Randolph the Escapologist
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