Please Sir! is a London Weekend Television situation comedy created by writers John Esmonde and Bob Larbey and featuring the actors John Alderton, Deryck Guyler, Joan Sanderson, Noel Howlett, Erik Chitty, Richard Davies, David Barry, Peter Cleall and Malcolm McFee. The series ran for fifty-five episodes between 1968 and 1972.
The programme was set in the fictional Fenn Street school, and starred John Alderton as Bernard Hedges, a young teacher fresh out of training college. The supporting cast included Deryck Guyler, Joan Sanderson and Richard Davies. The students of class 5C were played by Malcolm McFee (as Peter Craven), Peter Cleall (as Eric Duffy), Peter Denyer (as Dennis Dunstable), David Barry (as Frankie Abbott), Penny Spencer (as Sharon Eversleigh; played by Carol Hawkins in later episodes and in the movie), and Liz Gebhardt (as Maureen Bullock). Several well-known character actors and actresses formed the supporting cast, including Barbara Mitchell as Frankie Abbott's mother, and Ann Lancaster as Mrs. Rhubarb in a 1968 episode.
A spin-off series, The Fenn Street Gang, followed the adventures of a group of 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 played by George Baker; there were thirteen episodes.
Like many situation comedies of this era, a film version was released in 1971 which, unlike most films based on sitcoms of that era, was actually rather good. This was set in an outdoor pursuit centre, but starred most of the TV cast.
Please, Sir! contains examples of:
- Adults Are Useless: While not always in effect, there was sometimes this feel 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.
- Asleep in Class: More likely to happen with the oldest member of staff, Smithy.
- Big Man on Campus: Eric Duffy in the first three series, albeit it in an entirely British way.
- Book Dumb: Many of 5C however...
- Brilliant, but Lazy: ... They also gave off the feel of this trope at times.
- British Education System: Fenn Street School is a great example of the old Secondary Moderns. One episode in the later series deals with the prospect of the school eventually becoming part of a comprehensive.
- British Brevity: Surprisingly averted: the show had 4 seasons, making up 55 episodes, and a film before it was finished.
- Class Trip: To London Zoo in one episode. The movie also features one to an outdoor pursuit centre.
- Class Reunion: An episode in series 4 brought back the original 5C students on the basis of an Old Fennians Day. They hadn't changed much.
- Cool Teacher: Bernard "Privet" Hedges, at least when he wasn't trying so hard. Series 4 has David Ffitchet-Brown, who is a much more straight-forward example of this trope.
- Corporal Punishment: Mentioned as being banned at Fenn Street.
- The Good Old British Comp: Fenn Street is actually 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, it does have quite a few attributes of a comp quite a few of which used to be secondary moderns.
- Delinquents: In general the students of Fenn Street are often described as this, with 5C being the best (worst?) examples.
- Food Fight: In the movie.
- High-School Sweethearts: Eric and Sharon. Eventually got married in the last series of the spin-off
- Hot Teacher: The student teacher in series one. In show, Hedges has this with the female students and it's also implied David Ffitchet-Brown seems this way to the students as well.
- Inner City School: Fenn Street is one of these. Though, granted, they were a lot more common at the time.
- The Movie: Like many of the shows from the '70's, Please, Sir! had its own movie.
- New Transfer Student: Played with. The transfer student, Panalal, only stays for an episode.
- Sadist Teacher: Gregory Dix in the fourth series, one of the 'replacement' teachers. The gym master, ex-commando from the Korean War, holder of the DSO, terrories both the students and the teachers and Potter. He's particularly notable for breaking the 'no caning' rule in place at Fenn Street. Really, it's just a pity the kid was Eric Duffy's little brother.
- School Is for Losers: Implied to be the attitude of many of the students. They still turn up though
- School Newspaper News Hound: Not entirely a straight trope, but in series 4 there is an episode with an alternative paper set up to rival the official one put out by the teachers. The students involved are certainly examples of this. Pity they were only in for one episode
- School of Hard Knocks: Though it's not actually encouraged, the teachers are very aware that this is the type of school Feen Street is. Or at least, the students seem to think of it this way.
- Stern Teacher: Miss Doris Ewell. Deputy Headmistress, described in-show by a student as: "fair, but hard as nails, and clever with it." Hedges also has shades of this as well at times.
- Stock British Characters: For the majority of the show, came in the form of the offscreen wife of Mr. Potter, the Fenn Street School caretaker.
- Teacher/Student Romance: Maureen's long standing crush on Hedges. Never really goes anywhere, but pretty much everyone assumes a relationship is in place during the series 1 episode Maureen Loves Sir.
- Two-Teacher School: Four actual teacher (three when Hedges leaves], an ineffectual Headmaster, and Potter, king of the Lavs.
- Writing Lines: The most common form of detention.