Friday, September 17, 2010

TV Tie-ins: 'Allo 'Allo

As we began the week with Secret Army it seems only fitting to end the week with a show that spoofed the series.

One of the longest-running British comedy shows which continued to be successful on the stage (with many of the original cast appearing) after it had finished a 10-year television run. Also popular abroad, it broke away from the usual short series format with the 26 episodes of series 5 which was hoped to break the show into the US market (it failed). The show was a typically British innuendo-filled farce with a large interwoven cast of stereotyped characters set against the backdrop of the German occupation of Nouvion, France. Café owner Rene becomes involved unwittingly in the Resistance when he is persuaded to hide two British airmen until they can be safely returned to England. Married to the demanding Edith and involved in affairs with both his young waitresses, Yvette and Maria, René's life is complicated enough; the patronage of various Germans to his café only makes matters worse, whether it be the smitten (with René) effete Lieutenant Gruber, Gestapo officer Herr Flick forever searching for a rare painting—The Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies by Van Clomp—or the often ludicrous plans dreamed up by Resistance leader Michelle. Despite its tortuous accents and a habit of repeating various plots, the show succeeded; after a while the silly trappings fell away and the audience hoped that poor, put-upon René would be able to snatch more than a few moments with his darling Yvette.

Following on from a pilot broadcast on 30 December 1982, the regular series of 'Allo 'Allo! ran for nine seasons—Series 1: 7 Sep-26 Oct 1984, 7 eps; Series 2: 21 Oct-25 Nov 1985, 6 eps; Series 3: 5-Dec 1986-9 Jan 1987, 6 eps; Series 4: 7 Nov-12 Dec 1987, 6 eps; Series 5: 3 Sep 1988-25 Feb 1989, 26 eps; Series 6: 2 Sep-21 Oct 1989, 8 eps; Series 7: 5 Jan-16 Mar 1991, 10 eps; Series 8: 12 Jan-1 Mar 1992, 7 eps; Series 9: 9 Nov-13 Dec 1992, 6 eps; 81 x 30m eps + 1 x 35m + 3 x 45m Specials—but not without its problems, not the least of which was the shifting cast: Francesca Gonshaw left after three series, Sam Kelly after four; Jack Haig died in 1989, his character (LeClerk) replaced by his brother, played by Derek Royle, who died in 1990, to be replaced by Robin Parkinson; Gavin Richards was replaced by Roger Kitter and Richard Gibson by David Janson, the latter explained away by the character Herr Flick having plastic surgery.

The series became a little too repetitive for me but I still find the first three seasons funny. Stars of the show included Gorden Kaye (René Artois), Carmen Silvera (Edith Artois), Vicki Michelle (Yvette), Kirsten Cooke (Michelle), John D. Collins (Fairfax), Nicholas Frankau (Adamson), Richard Marner (Col. Von Strohm), Sam Kelly (Capt. Hans Geering, to series 4), Guy Siner (Lieut. Gruber), Kim Hartman (Helga), Rose Hill (Mother), Richard Gibson (later David Janson, series 9) (Herr Flick), Franchesca Gonshaw (Maria, to series 3), Kenneth Connor (M. Alfonse, from series 2), Hilary Minster (Gen. Von Klinkerhoffen, from series 3) and John Louis Mansi (Von Smallhousen, from series 3). See IMDB for the full cast and here for the complete DVD collection.

The show was produced by David Croft, John B. Hobbs and Mike Stephens, directed by David Croft, Mike Stephens, Susan Belbin, Martin Dennis, Richard Boden, Sue Longstaff and John B. Hobbs from scripts by Jeremy Lloyd & David Croft, Jeremy Lloyd & Paul Adam, John Chapman & Ian Davidson and Ronald Wolfe & Ronald Chesney.

I wasn't so enamoured of the 2007 special The Return of 'Allo 'Allo!, which was neither episode nor documentary but an uncomfortable mixture of both; I would have been happier with one or the other. In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed the stage version with Vicki Michelle and Jeffrey Holland when I saw it a couple of years ago.

'Allo 'Allo! The War Diaries of René Artois, translated by John Haselden.
BBC 0563-20688-8, (Oct) 1988, 164pp, £5.95. H/C. Cover designed by Grub Street Design
A romp through the popular BBC series touching on many of the most memorable moments, including René's death by firing squad on 26 March. We also discover what happened to Yvette, Fairfax (one of the escaping British airmen) and the Fallen Madonna with the Big Boobies by Van Clomp.

'Allo, 'Allo! The War Diaries of Rene Artois Volume 2, translated by John Haselden.
BBC 0563-20842-2, 1989. H/C.

'Allo 'Allo! The complete war diaries of Rene Artois, edited and with an introduction by Rene Fairfax, translated by John Haselden.
BBC 0563-36327-4, (Nov) 1991. H/C.


  1. Wasn't there a Channel 4 series based on the Jimmy character played by Geoffery Palmer fom Reginald Perrin called something like "Not The Secret Army"?

  2. Hi Mike,

    Are you thinking of Fairly Secret Army? There's a brief entry for it on IMDB. Palmer played a character called Major Harry Kitchener Wellington Truscott, but he was a bit Jimmy-ish if memory serves.

    Looking through Palmer's credits I spotted two series that I'd really love to see again: Whoops Apocalypse and Hot Metal. Almost impossible to think that both shows were broadcast over 25 years ago.

    And the good news is they're both available... in fact, the complete Hot Metal is due shortly. A coincidence too far... I haven't thought of that series for years. I'm obviously meant to order a copy or the cosmic balance might shift out of whack!



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