Series: It Ain't Half Hot Mum

Clockwise from top: BSM "Shut Up" Williams, "Lofty" Sugden, and "Gloria" Beaumont.

Meet the gang 'cause the boys are here,
The boys to entertain you!
With music and laughter to help you on your way,
We're raising the rafters with a hey-hey-hey!
With songs and sketches and jokes old and new,
With us about, you won't feel blue!
So meet the gang 'cause the boys are here,
The boys to entertain you!
B-O-Y-S - boys to entertain you!

Yet another vintage BBC sitcom from before the days of political correctness. It Ain't Half Hot, Mum was written by the creators of Dad's Army and featured many of the same tropes and stock characters. The show, which broadcast between 1974 and 1981, was about the adventures of a Royal Artillery Concert Party stationed in India (later Burma) during World War II.

Nominally in charge of things were officers Lieutenant Colonel Charles Reynolds (Donald Hewlett), a stereotypical, stiff-upper-lip British army officer, and Captain Jonathan Ashwood (Michael Knowles), Reynolds' none too bright second-in-command. Actually in charge of things was the hard-as-nails Battery Sergeant Major Bryn "Shut Up" Williams (Windsor Davies), the only true soldier among the main cast, and always quick to seize any excuse to berate the motley assortment of actors and musicians under his command.

The performers included Jewish Bombardiernote  "Solly" Solomons (George Layton), the resident leading man; effeminate Gunner/Bombardier "Gloria" Beaumont (Melvyn Hayes), the resident leading lady; comically short and fat Gunner Harold "Lofty" Sugden (Don Estelle), who possessed a remarkable singing voice; inept but eager ventriloquist Gunner Nigel "Parky" Parkins (Christopher Mitchell), whom Williams suspects might be his son as he had a romantic affair with Parkins' mother years earlier; upper-class, university-educated pianist Gunner Jonathan "Paderewski" Graham (John Clegg); tough Scottish strongman Gunner "Atlas" Mackintosh (Stuart McGugan); bird caller and later George Formby impersonator Gunner "Nobby" Clark (Kenneth MacDonald); and the perpetually eating paper tearer Gunner "Nosher" Evans (Mike Kinsey).

Natives included "bearer" Rangi Ram (Michael Bates),note  a confidante to all; "char wallah" Mohammed (Dino Shafeek), who sold tea from a kettle and later replaced Rangi as bearer following Bates' death; Indian "punkah wallah" Rumzan (Babar Bhatti), who frequently displayed Hidden Depths of intelligence and savvy; and Chinese cook Ah Syn (Andy Ho), who replaced Rumzan in the final series.

Common plot devices included conflict with the Indian locals, Sergeant Major's belief that Gunner Parkins might be his son, and his attempts to have the Concert Party "posted up the jungle". Eventually he was successful, and from the fifth series onwards the action relocated to Burma. The Concert Party would usually perform a musical number Once an Episode.


Tropes included:

  • Armed Farces: The officers are Upper Class Twits, the non-commissioned officer is a brute, the enlisted men are various flavours of liabilities, layabouts, and ne'er-do-wells... it's the armed farces, all right.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the episode "Monsoon Madness", Sugden is driven insane by the heat and attempts to kill Sergeant Major Williams.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Williams is pretty much the king of this trope, to the point that his nickname among the Concert Party is "Shut up".
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Urdu spoken by the Indian characters is real.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Rangi dismisses the other Indians as 'ignorant natives' and uses phrases like 'we British' when talking to the crew. Michael Bates based this aspect of the character on similar encounters he'd had with social-climbing Indians in British India.
  • British Stuffiness: Colonel Reynolds and Captain Ashwood.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • Sergeant Major Williams has several: "SHUT UP!", his stock reaction to attempts by the men to protest against his orders or outwit him; "Lovely Boy", his preferred nickname for Parkins (whom he looks on as a son, even though he finds out Parkins' mother's husband is his father); "Oh dear. How sad. Never mind", his stock dismissal of excuses offered to get out of following his orders; and "Mr La-di-da Gunner Graham", his reaction to the university-educated Graham's eloquent attempts to reason with him.
    • Captain Ashwood's catchphrases included "That's rather a tricky one, sir", his reaction to the many questions or explanations for which he had no immediate answer, and "Carry on, chaps!", his favourite valediction as he left the performers and Williams to their own devices.
    • Rangi Ram's catchphrases include "You know, there is an old Hindu proverb which say ..." followed by a "proverb" which may or may not be relevant to the current situation, and "Don't be such clever dickie!", his preferred way to chastise Mohammed or Rumzan.
    • "Gloria" Beaumont's words of choice for expressing his anguish at the conditions in the jungle are, "I can't stand it!"
  • Character Outlives Actor: Michael Bates, who played bearer Rangi Ram, died of cancer in 1978 between Series 5 and 6. The character was written out of the remaining three series.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sergeant Major Williams.
    (a visiting officer has tasked the Concert Party with delivering the monthly bribe to a local bandit leader)
    Captain Owen: In his own words, he wants it to be delivered "by the ladies who dress up as soldiers during the daytime."
    Ashwood: (looks confused) Surely he means the soldiers who dress up as ladies?
    Williams: That's a matter of opinion, sir.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Williams never misses a chance to belittle and berate the men under his command, determined to make real soldiers out of these pansy performing artists.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Slight twist on this one with Beaumont, who in several episodes is mistaken for a real woman by sex-starved soldiers.
  • Frozen in Time: The series lasted seven years, one more than the real World War II.
  • Grand Finale: Series 8 covers the last weeks of the war in 1945; in the final episode, the characters return to Britain to receive the ration books and complimentary suits of clothes given to all demobilised soldiers, and they discuss what they have planned for their returns to civilian life. Mohammed, meanwhile, writes to Beaumont that he is gearing up to follow them back to England and open a restaurant.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rangi deriding the Indian locals as "coolies" and "natives".
  • It Will Never Catch On: Reynolds and Ashwood's plans for after the war involve television and laundromats. Neither thinks the other has much chance of success.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sergeant Major Williams may be loud and blustery, but he'll defend those he cares about to the death, especially Parkins (whose mother is a former girlfriend of his).
  • Modern Minstrelsy: Rangi was played by a white (though Indian-born) actor in "blackface".
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Reynolds.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Williams repeatedly threatens to have the Concert Party "posted up the jungle".
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors: In one episode where four of the men think they have arranged a romantic tryst with Mrs Waddilove-Evans and/or her maid. All go over to the house and rush in and out of the various doors to the same room, narrowly missing each other every time.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Beaumont, at ear-shattering pitch.
  • The Short Guy with Glasses: Sugden. To quote Williams, "Is it a mushroom? No. Is it a soldier? No. It's Gunner Sugden!"
  • Shout-Out: At one point, Williams says, "What about that ventriloquist? He did a turn with a fox. I mean, whoever 'eard of a fox talking?" This is a poke at popular children's series The Basil Brush Show, the title character in which is... a fox puppet.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted when George Layton (Solomons) left and Michael Bates (Rangi) died. No one was brought in to replace them but Gloria and Mohammed were promoted to Bombardier and Bearer respectively. When the actor playing Rumzan left in the final series, he got a Suspiciously Similar Substitute in the form of the cook Ah Syn.
  • Swing Low Sweet Harriet: In one episode of the show Gloria is desperate to get right a number that involves him playing a beautiful girl on a garden swing. He gets hurt when Sergeant Major pushes him off the swing, and Sergeant Major is forced to take his place!
  • The Unintelligible: Rumzan, at least to those who don't speak Urdu.
  • Upper-Class Twit: Captain Ashwood.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Mackintosh, who had an extreme temper and performed a "strong man" act in the Concert Party's shows.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Mohammed and Rangi appear to be a Type 1 example, with Mohammed blissfully oblivious when Rangi calls him a "coolie", "ruddy fool" and "damn native".
  • We Need a Distraction: The Concert Party would sometimes be called upon to perform a show in order to distract bandits, facilitate an escape, or some other mission (such as trying to foil an assassination). Became Show Some Leg if Beaumont's drag act was used instead.