The BBC has commissioned a number of one-off sitcoms for a celebration of the genre, with some being recreated from original scripts - the tapes having been wiped long ago - and others having new editions written specially. The Mail, as I noted at the time, was ready and waiting to have a go at the Corporation, and then there was the Sun, which passed its own judgment without bothering to do any viewing.
You think I jest? The first thing that leaps off the page in the paper’s predictable rant at the one-off remake of 70s and 80s staple Are You Being Served? is that Louise Randell, the paper’s “Senior Showbiz Reporter”, has based her entire piece on a trawl of social media, and particularly Twitter. This technique - trawling for opinions that match the agenda already decided upon - has the benefit of cheapness. And, er, that’s it.
What is also clearly evident is that Ms Randell’s memory of the original show, which ran from 1972 to 1985, is at the very least sketchy: after commenting that “Viewers of the original were outraged by the remake”, readers are told “The original series captivated viewers with its charm”. What have the Sun’s hacks been watching? There was little charm, and zero subtlety, about the show. That was the whole point.
Are You Being Served? was wall-to-wall in-your-face grotesque characterisation and double entendre from start to finish. Whether it was Mr Humphries telling anyone in earshot that “I’m free” - and putting on a mock deep voice to answer the phone “MENS’ WEAR” - or Mrs Slocombe calling her pet cat “My pussy”, charm was nowhere to be seen. Crudity, yes, and more of that double entendre, but no charm.
Still, the Sun did manage to find some Twitter users who claimed to have seen the remake and were not happy about it. In fact, the Murdoch doggies manage to find about a dozen such users. And how many tuned in to watch the remake? That would be around 5.2 million. That means the Sun’s sample is around a quarter of a hundredth of one per cent of the actual audience. And there is another problem.
Although the Mail has dutifully rubbished the show, and an updated one-off episode of the Ronnie Barker vehicle Porridge, its account conceded “However, despite several critics to the one-off programmes, some fans were delighted their favourite shows had been revived and called for both series to return”. The Sun presenting a one-sided view just to kick the main competition to Sky? That’s, sadly, all too predictable.
What the Sun is going to find so much more challenging is when the Beeb recreates episodes of Steptoe And Son and Till Death Us Do Part from original scripts. It will be difficult to claim that they are poor remakes, or that political correctness has somehow run riot. In an audience of over five million, it is never going to be difficult to find a dozen disappointed viewers. And that is why the Sun is being utterly dishonest with its readers.
Still, Rupe will throw his obedient doggies a biscuit for that. No change there, then.