I like to pretend to myself that I am a cultured individual. I’ve read books that don’t feature Nazis fighting dinosaurs on the front cover, I’ve listened to music where orchestras play tunes that haven’t been used to advertise paint, I’ve watched films where everyone’s French and speak in French and I’ve watched them in their original French because I can speak French too (if extraordinarily badly) … shit, I’ve even watched BBC Four once or twice and last year I read The Guardian (though to be fair that last one didn’t work out terribly well). I like to think I have risen above the cultural gutter inhabited by the likes of Walker, Texas Ranger, Barry Manilow and John Grisham … I like to think this but in fact I’m talking shit.
Y’see, I have harboured a filthy secret for years and it is this: I, a man who has attended not one, not two, but three Mozart festivals, have loved just about everything Jimmy Perry and David Croft have ever done.
Unfamiliar with the names? Then let me enlighten you so you can understand the full horror of the previous statement. Either together or on their own, Croft and Perry are the creators of Dad’s Army (well that aint so bad, you’re thinking … but wait!), It Aint Half Hot Mum (bloody hell!), Are You Being Served? (fuck a duck!), Hi-De-Hi (CHRIST ALMIGHTY!), ‘Allo ‘Allo (PHONE THE POLICE!), You Rang M’Lord? (SHOOT HIM! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHOOT HIM!), and Oh, Doctor Beeching! (THOU ART A SERVANT OF BAAL! HIGH THEE TO THE VERY LOWEST CIRCLE OF DAMNATION, SERPENT!).
That’s right ladies ‘n’ gentleman! Set it in the old days, stick Paul Shane in it, shove ‘You Have Been Watching’ at the end and I’m happier than a pig in shit. I only have to hear the phrase ‘The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies’ and I’m transported back to those gay, carefree days of the brutal Nazi occupation of northern France. Sing me the opening bars to The Holiday Rock and I’m relaxing in my chalet after winning the knobbly-knees competition, looking forward to tonight’s cabaret and Ted’s risque jokes. Come up behind me and bellow ‘YOU LUVVERRLY BOY!!’ into my ear ‘ole and I’m looking around for the Japs.
I always loved these shows even after becoming drenched in the blood of ‘proper’ comedy such as Monty Python and The Day Today. Dad’s Army is, of course, a bona-fide comedy classic and even the most Ben Elton-minded, 80s-centric, Young Ones-fixated miserabilist will harrumph and grudgingly agree. But to openly admit you love rubbish like He-De-Hi and ‘Allo ‘Allo is to invite ridicule from almost every corner … you might as well say you enjoy Birds Of A Feather (though I understand this is stretching it a bit) or that arch-enemy of cutting-edge comedy, The Last Of The Summer Wine.
I can offer no excuses and no concrete explanation for this adoration. Perhaps it’s the evocation of a gentler age that leaves me incapable of criticism? Perhaps it’s familiarity breeding content (they do tend to have the same cast in them)? Or perhaps it’s just that I can’t help enjoying myself everytime Rene’s hopes for a quiet war are dashed by that bastard Herr Flick (I am not ‘appy about zeeeeeees!)? Or maybe it’s the fact that a lot of the younger women featured in the shows wore stockings and suspenders and were randy little vixens and I happened to be twelve when I watched them the first time around?
Whatever the reasons, I am happy to confess this deep-held affection for low-grade comedy. Give me Ted Bovis pushing Spike in the swimming pool (AGAIN!), Officer Crabtree’s ‘Goooood Moaneeeeng’, or Sergeant Major Williams bellowing ‘SHAAAAAAAAAT AAAAAAAAAAAAP!” and I’m transported back to a time when all I had to worry about was homework and trying to get into Abi Titmuss’s knickers. Maybe that’s what it is? These shows make me feel young again … which is a hell of a tribute considering the jokes were about at the time of the dinosaurs.