Did we like it?
Anything BBC can do, ITV can do worser. A poor imitation of BBC1’s brilliant Comedy Connections.
What was good about it?
• The subject of this opener was On The Buses, which we’ve got a little bit of affection for, even though it was dominated by dirty old men chasing crumpet. One of the spin-off movies outgrossed Diamonds Are Forever, so it must have been doing something right. Doris Hare as mum was a sensation and Stephen Lewis as sour inspector Blakey was one of sitcom’s best love-to-hate characters.
• Hearing Anna Karen speaking with her South African accent, which showed how accomplished she is at turning on the Cockney for her roles as Olive in On The Buses and Aunt Pat in EastEnders.
• Ronni Ancona’s narration of a humdrum script.
What was bad about it?
• Unlike Comedy Connections which can tell the stories of many memorable sitcoms, this ITV version has only a small pool of “classic” shows to feature. Coming up in the series are Rising Damp, Doctor in the House, Brass, the dismal Duty Free and The New Statesman. What? No George & Mildred?
• Comedy Connections steers clear, wisely, of talking heads. Comedy Classics didn’t and therefore we had to suffer pointless comments from Wendy Richard (the best of the bunch), too orange Helen Lederer, bland Antony Cotton, Ian Wright (featured in the programme’s taster simply remarking “Blakey!”) and shiny-gobbed June Sarpong who was born long after On The Buses had ended and had nothing to say (Highlight: “Olive’s glasses? I mean. Hello”).
• The glossing over of the sexism and racism in the programme – although we did laugh when “Wrighty” said “Why couldn’t they just call him Derek?” when black driver Chalkie was mentioned.