Saturday, 10 December 2011

Magic our Maurice! Oh, No. It's Selwyn Froggitt! (1974-1977)

As a kid I loved, Oh, No. It's Selwyn Froggitt! the Situation Comedy from ITV that ran from 1974 to 1977.

It starred the great Bill Maynard long before his Greengrass days as the council labourer, Scarsdale Working Men’s Club secretary, hapless handyman and all-round public nuisance Selwyn Froggitt. It was created by Roy Clarke, who wrote the pilot episode transmitted in 1974, though the series was mostly written by Alan Plater. It was made for the ITV network by Yorkshire Television.

Set in the fictional Yorkshire Town of Scarsdale UK, the show was centred around the bungling exploits of Selwyn Froggitt, a burly, balding, good-natured council labourer (Maynard) usually clad in a donkey jacket, with pretensions to intellectual competence (he carried the Times rolled up in the pocket of his donkey jacket, although was hardly ever seen reading it, preferring to tell people that "There was an article about it in the Times") and an urge to improve his life and that of everyone around him. Froggitt was on the committee of his local Working Men's Club, serving as concert secretary in charge of booking 'turns'.

Selwyn Froggitt was fundamentally and spectacularly incompetent at everything he turned his hand to, being equally inept at his day job (digging holes and filling them in), do-it-yourself at home, and booking acts for the club.

The show featured a number of catchphrases, the most memorable being: Maynard's "Magic, our Maurice!" accompanied by two thumbs up, his mother's (Megs Jenkins) "Don't open that cupboard, our Selwyn, things fall out!" and almost everyone at the club's "A pint of cooking and a bag of nuts, Raymond." Raymond the barman (Ray Mort) was fond of answering the telephone with a number of highly fictitious and fanciful addresses. All decisions taken by the club committee were taken on a "Show of hands..." and "Carried unanimous".

Froggitt's accomplices on the committee included the dour Scouser Jack (Bill Dean) later to play Harry Cross in Brookside, Harry (Harold Goodwin) and excitable, stereotypical Welshman Clive (Richard Davies). His brother Maurice was played by Robert Keegan.

The show's humour included a fair measure of slapstick alongside Alan Plater's typical northern humour.

In 1978 after three successful series under the title of Oh, No. Its Selwyn Froggitt. Yorkshire Television changed the format of the show radically. The new version of the series was entitled Selwyn; all of the regular cast bar Maynard departed to focus on other work and the Froggitt character became entertainments manager at a seedy holiday camp on the east coast. Alan Plater was no longer involved with the show during that series. Selwyn ran for only a single series with disappointing audience reactions, a planned second series was cancelled. And so, another comedy classic disappeared into the sit-com grave yard!

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