Follow TV Tropes


Series / Please Sir!

Go To

Please Sir! is a London Weekend Television situation comedy created by writers John Esmonde and Bob Larbey and starring John Alderton with Deryck Guyler, Noel Howlett, Joan Sanderson, Erik Chitty, Richard Davies, Richard Warwick, Vivienne Martin, and Bernard Holley. The series ran for fifty-five episodes between 1968 and 1972.

The programme was set in the fictional Fenn Street Secondary Modern School, following Bernard "Privet" Hedges (Alderton), a young teacher fresh out of training college, assigned to Form 5C, the worst in the school. The rest of the staff include ineffectual headteacher Maurice "Oliver" Cromwell (Howlett), stern deputy headmistress Doris "Rotten" Ewell (Sanderson), aged geography teacher Osborne "Smiffy" Smith (Chitty), sarcastic Welsh chemistry teacher Vaughan "Pricey" Price (Davies), officious caretaker Norman Potter (Guyler), and Hedges' replacements from Series 4, flashy progressive David Ffitchett-Brown (Warwick), timid Gloria Petting (Martin), and down to earth John Hurst (Holley).

The students of 5C are their tough and brash leader Eric Duffy (Peter Cleall), sharply dressed Peter Craven (Malcolm McFee, Leon Vitali in Series 4), educationally subnormal Dennis Dunstable (Peter Denyer), overly imaginative Frankie Abbott (David Barry), religious and hot for teacher Maureen Bullock (Liz Gebhardt), and flirty Sharon Eversleigh (Penny Spencer, Carol Hawkins in the film and Series 4). When 5C graduated, a new 5C transferred from Weaver Street, the main members of which were the thuggish Terry Stringer (Barry McCarthy), his right-hand man Robin "Gobber" Gibbon (Charles Bolton), terrible musician Des Ridley (Billy Hamon), pretty Indian Celia (Drina Pavlovic), and her platonic admirer Daisy Pratt (Rosemary Faith).

A spin-off series, The Fenn Street Gang, followed the adventures of the former pupils in the adult world after leaving their schooldays behind them. It ran for forty-seven episodes between 1971 and 1973. Bowler (1973) was a spin-off from the spin-off, following The Fenn Street Gang crime boss Stanley Bowler (George Baker); there were thirteen episodes.

Like many situation comedies of this era, a film version was released in 1971. This was set in an outdoor pursuit centre which 5C were visiting on a school trip.

Please Sir! contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: While not always in effect, there was sometimes this feeling with the teachers for certain cases. Justified in that it is often repeated that teachers can only do so much without parental permission and are in a very dangerous situation if they appear too close to their students.
  • Aftershow: When Hedges and 5C were replaced by a new teacher and pupils for the final series, The Fenn Street Gang showed what happened to the original pupils after they left school. It ran for 47 episodes between 1971 and 1973, with John Alderton making guest appearances in three of them.
  • Asleep in Class: This didn't happen to pupils, but old Smithy would fall asleep in class allowing them to screw around to their hearts' content.
  • Big Man on Campus: Duffy in the first three series. He's the toughest member of 5C, leads them in many of their schemes, and has the respect of all the other pupils.
  • Book Dumb: Many of 5C, struggling with math, science, and English among other subjects.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: 5C gave off the feel of this trope at times.
  • British Brevity: Surprisingly averted: the series had 4 seasons, making up 55 episodes, and a film before it was finished.
  • Class Trip:
    • 5C took one to London Zoo in "Norman's Conquest", where Dennis tried to take a chimp home with him.
    • The film also features one to an outdoor pursuit centre.
  • Class Reunion: "Old Fennians Day" from Series 4 brought back the original 5C students for an Old Fennians Day. They hadn't changed much.
  • Cool Teacher:
    • Bernard "Privet" Hedges, at least when he wasn't trying so hard. He's one of the few people at Fenn Street who can get through to 5C.
    • Series 4 has David Ffitchett-Brown, who is a much more straightforward example of this trope. He dresses flashy, has long hair, loves taking the pupils out on trips, and is generally relaxed when it comes to schoolwork and discipline.
  • Corporal Punishment: Caning is often referred to but is banned at Fenn Street. Mr. Dix breaks the rule on caning and does so to Georgie in "A Rather Nasty Outbreak", leading Duffy to try and fight him.
  • Dreadful Musician: Des is always trying to interrupt lessons with his guitar, but unfortunantly for everyone around him, his playing is tuneless and raucous.
  • The Good Old British Comp: Fenn Street is a Secondary Modern (one of two types of school which preceded the comprehensive, which was coming into being at the time when the show was made note ). That said, Fenn Street does have quite a few attributes of a comp — quite a few of which used to be secondary moderns. One episode in the later series deals with the prospect of the school becoming part of a comprehensive.
  • Delinquents: In general, the students of Fenn Street are often described as this, with 5C being the best examples. Among other infractions, they drink, smoke, steal, vandalise, and are generally rude to all authority figures.
  • Food Fight: In the film.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Duffy and Sharon slowly get together throughout the series. They eventually got married in the last series of The Fenn Street Gang.
  • Hot Teacher:
    • Hedges is seen as one by Maureen, whose love for him borders on obsession.
    • Ann Collins, the student teacher from "Student Princess", caught the eye of not only Hedges, but all the male pupils in 5C.
  • Inner City School: Fenn Street is one of these. Though granted, they were a lot more common at the time.
  • The Movie: Like many British sitcoms of the 1970s, Please, Sir! had its own movie. In it, Hedges and 5C went to an outdoor pursuit centre.
  • New Transfer Student: "Panalal Passes By" introduces Indian transfer student Panalal. True to the episode's title, Panalal transfers out by the end of the episode.
  • Sadist Teacher: Gregory Dix in the fourth series, one of the new teachers. The gym master, ex-commando from the Korean War, holder of the DSO, terrorises both the students and the teachers and Potter. He's particularly notable for breaking the no-caning rule in place at Fenn Street in "A Rather Nasty Outbreak". It's just a pity the kid caned was Georgie, Duffy's little brother...
  • School Is for Losers: The attitude of many of the students. In "Ag Bow Rumber", Maureen is the only one who bothers to come back for the new term, leaving Hedges to track down the rest and bring them back to Fenn Street.
  • School Newspaper News Hound: In "Vive La Revolution", an alternative paper (The Fenntasy) is set up to rival the official one put out by the teachers, with students involved who are determined to get stories more exciting than Cromwell's.
  • School of Hard Knocks: Though it's not actually encouraged, the teachers are very aware that this is the type of school Fenn Street is. Or at least, the students seem to think of it this way.
  • Stern Teacher:
    • Miss Doris "Rotten" Ewell. Deputy Headmistress, described in "A Rather Nasty Outbreak" by Duffy as "fair, but hard as nails, and clever with it".
    • Hedges also has shades of this, being capable of putting the 5C pupils in their place when needed.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Maureen has a long-standing crush on Hedges. She never gets anywhere, but everyone assumes a relationship is in place during "Maureen Bullock Loves Sir".
  • Two-Teacher School: Fenn Street has four prominent teachers (Hedges, Miss Ewell, Price, and Smith), a few extras (most notably Mr. Wyatt and Miss Blakesey), an ineffectual Headmaster (Cromwell), and a caretaker (Potter).
  • Writing Lines: The most common form of detention at Fenn Street, often given by Hedges or Miss Ewell.