Arkwright, Nurse Gladys and Granville.
A late 1970s-mid 1980s sitcom by Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine
, Keeping Up Appearances
). Along with Porridge
, it was based on one of the more successful items from a series of sitcom try-out pilots by Ronnie Barker called Seven of One
The miserly, late-middle-aged Arkwright (first name unknown; in one episode Granville calls him 'Albert' but the situation suggests he may have made it up) runs a general store in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster (both the shop and the street are real life places). An Honest John
, he prides himself on never letting anyone leave his shop without buying something, and seems to take more pleasure in the thrill of the chase than becoming rich. His work obsession causes friction between him and his love interest/fianceť Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, a buxom midwife whom Arkwright attempts to convince to finally marry him (or at least to let him have his way with her.)
Arkwright is aided and abbetted by his long-suffering nephew Granville, possibly the son of a displaced Hungarian noble and certainly the son of a woman whose promiscuity is the butt of many of Arkwright's jokes, whose romantic and exotic dreams are invariably crushed by the grim reality of life in 1970s South Yorkshire.
Ronnie Barker played Arkwright (a very common remark is that it's hard to believe he was simultaneously playing the very different character of Fletcher in Porridge
) while Granville was one of the first major roles of a young David Jason (who also played the very
old Blanco in Porridge!). Production was done on a very small budget, with the result that the vast majority of the show takes place on the same shop set - this arguably forced the programme to devote its full attention to the verbal comedy, which is often praised.
Barker also contributed Arkwright's famous stutter
(absent in the original scripts). The character himself lampshades it at times:
Arkwright: Ger-granville? How do you spell per-per-per-per-potatoes? Is it six P's or seven?
Ran for 4 series and 26 episodes
, although there were actually thirteen years between the pilot and the final episode, and nine years between the first and last series.
Came eighth in Britain's Best Sitcom
Contains examples of:
- Catch Phrase: "Granville! Fetch your cloth!"
- Dawson Casting: The character of Granville (obviously meant as an inexperienced youth in a low-status "school leaver" job for his uncle) is played by David Jason, who was in his mid-thirties to mid-forties during the series' run.
- Eccentric Townsfolk: About half of the customers.
- Expy: Kathy Staff's character Mrs Blewitt is, as the actress herself noted in a making-of documentary, essentially the same character as the one she plays in Last of the Summer Wine, Nora Batty (also written by Clarke).
- A reverse example - Last of the Summer Wine got the character of Auntie Wainwright, who is an obvious gender-flipped expy of Arkwright (and note the similar name) but less sympathetic and with the 'sell anything to anyone' ability turned Up to Eleven.
- The Faceless: Mr Bristow, never seen outside his motorcycle helmet and leathers. Actually, The Voiceless, too. Come to think of it, are we sure he isn't The Stig?
- Honest John's Dealership: Arkwright
- Hurricane of Euphemisms: Pretty much everything Arkwright says to Nurse Gladys is riddled with Unusual Euphemisms.
- Manipulative Bastard: Arkwright is highly skilled in conning people into buying useless junk, especially strangers or newcomers to the area. On one occasion he even manages to sell trayloads of groceries to a professional salesman - without, of course, ever buying any of the gentleman's products in turn.
- Not What It Looks Like: Mr Bristow's head is stuck in his helmet, so Granville bends him over the counter and Arkwright produces a large axe (intending to prise it off with the handle)...then one of his best customers walks in.
- Porky Pig Pronunciation: Arkwright.
- Product Placement: More for realism than any money being given for the exposure, many British and British versions of American company products can be seen in the store and advertised on the walls and door.
- Reverse Psychology: Arkwright gets rid of unwanted ginger cake by immediately announcing to customers as soon as they come through the door "I'm sorry, but I can only let you have one!" before implying they're an aphrodisiac.
- Revival: "Still Open All Hours", a one-off Christmas special in 2013. Granville is now the proprietor of the shop (and every bit as miserly as Arkwright was), with his son as the new errand boy.
- Running Gag: The till's tight spring that snaps back as soon as money is put into it, nearly chopping off fingers as it does. (This was originally just a spring clip inside the till, but the gag evolved.) In later episodes this always dislodges a tin that's balanced on top of the till, but Arkwright usually manages to catch it in mid-air.
- Schmuck Bait: A lot. For example, in one episode Arkwright cons a condescending customer into believing that the town is infested with "frats" (ferret/rat hybrids) and that an old lantern he's been trying to get rid of is a "frat detector".
- Stalker with a Crush: At times Arkwright, even though he and Nurse Gladys are supposed to be engaged.
- Title Drop: At the end of the final episode of the third series, while he's wondering if Nurse Gladys will ever marry him, Arkwright mutters, "I'll just have to stay open all hours."
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The very short lived mid 80s ABC sitcom Open All Night was an American adaption of the show, changing the local to a 7-11/Kwik-E-Mart type of establishment.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Averted, despite everything counting against Arkwright like his treatment of Granville, his Scrooge-level miserliness and his Stalker with a Crush attitude to Gladys Emmanuel. Clarke's writing and Barker's acting are good enough that Arkwright can be a sympathetic character even when his plans work (so he doesn't end up as The Woobie).