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"Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner. We therefore feel constrained to commit you to the maximum term allowed for these offences — you will go to prison for five years."
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Named after the slang for being imprisoned ("doing porridge"), Porridge is a prison comedy that aired on The BBC between 1973 and 1977 with three seasons, two Christmas specials and a film. It was written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who also wrote The Likely Lads and its sequel Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Set in the fictional Slade Prison, Porridge starred Ronnie Barker as Fletcher, a cynical and streetwise career criminal, and Richard Beckinsale as Godber, a naive first-time inmate. The plot centred around the prisoners' attempts to negotiate everyday life in prison and make it more bearable with "little victories" over the guards (primarily the stern Mr Mackay and the soft Mr Barrowclough), avoid trouble with the Prison Governor (who thinks he runs the place) and avoid the wrath of Harry Grout (an East End gang boss who really does).

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For reference and interest, the prisoners and their crimes are:

  • Fletcher - Probably breaking and entering, although a speech that may have been a joke claims it was the theft of a lorry (five years).
  • Godber - Breaking and entering (two years).
  • Blanco - Wrongly convicted of murdering his wife, although in the episode "Pardon Me" he claimed he did kill his wife's lover, a crime for which he was not convicted (sentence unknown, had served 17 years by the time he was released).
  • "Genial" Harry Grout - Crime and sentence unknown but required extradition from Italy.
  • Heslop - Robbery (three years).
  • McClaren - Crime unknown (three years).
  • Harris - Mugged an old lady but it went wrong when he found she had a brick in her handbag and successfully pinned Harris down (sentence unknown).
  • Rawley - Three charges: "Party to criminal conspiracy, forgery of legal documents under the Forgery Act of 1913 - 1948, and accepting an illicit payment as an officer of the crown" (three years, quashed at appeal. The judge who sent Fletcher down).
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  • "Lukewarm" - Crime and sentence unknown but shown to be able to steal a man's watch off his wrist with a handshake.
  • Bernard 'Horrible' Ives - Fraud (sentence unknown). Universally loathed.

Came seventh in Britain's Best Sitcom. The sequel, Going Straight, depicting Fletcher's life after his release, was also popular (though less so) and won a BAFTA but was limited to one series by actor Richard Beckinsale's very untimely death. In 2003, a Mockumentary, Norman Stanley Fletcher: Life Beyond The Box, gave a complete history of Fletch's life before and after the series, ending with him running a pub in Muswell Hill. This was Ronnie Barker's final TV appearance.

Inspired a short-lived American TV sitcom, On The Rocks. In 2016, a one-off special, simply titled Porridge, starred Kevin Bishop as Fletcher's grandson Nigel, who finds himself in prison for computer hacking and has similarly savvy gifts as his grandfather. A six-episode series followed in 2017.


Tropes used in Porridge include:

  • Absentee Actor: Godber doesn't appear in "Ways and Means", "Men Without Women" and "No Peace for the Wicked". "A Night In" only focuses on Fletcher and Godber.
  • And a Diet Coke: Fletcher is offered cocoa, which he accepts, and then sugar. He refuses the biscuits, citing watching his weight, as he dumps at least four heaping spoonfuls of sugar in his already-sweet cocoa.
  • Anti-Hero: Fletcher mostly means well, and isn’t truly a bad man at heart. However, he is a shameless thief and habitual criminal.
  • Anti-Villain: Mackay may be harsh, but he sincerely believes it is in his prisoners' best interests.
  • Artistic License – Law: The opening narration in which Fletcher receives the maximum possible sentence after pleading guilty doesn't reflect the reality of UK sentencing guidelines - one of the incentives to plead guilty is a mandatory sentence reduction of at least 10% and possibly up to 33% depending on the exact circumstances. Exact Words may be in play though, as "maximum term allowed" could suggest that the mandatory reduction is being applied.
  • As You Know: Played With in "Pardon Me", with Barrowclough informing the prison governor of a way they can get out of a huge media event over one of the prisoners' proposed hunger strike. Instead, they can simply pardon said prisoner (his goal). Barrowclough prefaces every statement about the Penal Code with "As I'm sure you know...", but only out of politeness; it's patently obvious that the prison governor does not know:
    Barrowclough: There may be a way out of this, you see, a solution to our problem. As I'm sure you're... well aware, given your deep knowledge of the Penal Code.
    Governor: Yeeeeesss ... Refresh my memory, would you, Mr Barrowclough, please?
    Barrowclough: Well, you see, it's Subsection 23, Part 3, Paragraph D.
    Governor: Yes, D, of course, D... Jog my memory again, would you, Mr Barrowclough?
    Barrowclough: Well, as I'm sure you... know, sir...
  • Batman Gambit: Fletcher once wrote to his wife from prison, advising her to start growing vegetables and to dig up the garden as soon as possible. The next day a dozen policemen showed up at Fletch's house with shovels.
    McLaren: Typical. Did they find the stuff?
    Fletcher: Course they didn’t, it was in the bottom drawer of the wardrobe. Just my way of getting the garden turned over, see. Why let Isobel do it when you’ve got twelve great big nosey coppers with spades?
  • The Bet: In "The Hustler", Fletcher bets Ives that he can run an illegal gambling game without being caught. Ives, of course, snitches on them and wins the bet. But it turns out Fletcher had also bet the entire wing that he'd get moved to a single cell by Monday, and gets his wish when the governor decides that his gambling activities make him a bad influence on his cellmates.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Blanco is one of the gentlest inmates in the entire prison. However it’s revealed in his final appearance that he killed the man who murdered his wife and framed him for the crime years earlier.
  • The Big Guy:
    • In the event anything physical needs to be done, such as dragging Harris to a mock trial or starting a riot, it always falls to McLaren to do it. Not that he complains.
    • There's also Crusher, the huge inmate who serves as Grouty's enforcer.
  • Blah Blah Blah: Fletcher does this when reading out a letter from Warren's wife.
  • Bottle Episode: "A Night In" may be the ultimate example. It consists almost entirely of two men talking in a darkened room.
  • The Boxing Episode: In "The Harder They Fall" Godber takes up boxing, culminating in a Double Knockout.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: According to Fletcher, the prison football team has a good mix of "youth, experience, flair and brutality".
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In "A Storm in a Teacup", when a bottle of pills is found in Fletcher and Godber's cell, they engage in a brief round of Stereo Fibbing around "indigestion" and "nerves" before finally settling on the pills being for Fletch's "nervous indigestion. And sometimes vice versa."
  • British Brevity: 21 episodes. The show came to an end at the height of its popularity, at Barker's request.
  • Bungled Suicide: Reg Urwin reveals that while stealing in a supermarket, he decided to commit suicide and charged the glass doors. However, the doors were automatic and opened before he hit them, so instead he just crashed into a policeman, who arrested him for attempted theft.
  • The Butcher: In The Movie, Fletch warns Godber that another prisoner is "The Butcher of Eastgate".
    Godber: (nervously) "So what did he do?"
    Fletch: "Fiddled the VAT on his sausages."
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Ives often suffers from this, for example getting badly stung by a rare insect while out on a working party, and he almost always brings it on himself.
    • Generally Harris' unpleasant deeds come back to bite him. He was even arrested when he tried to mug a little old lady, only for it to turn out she had a brick in her handbag.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: When Harry Grout is forced into organizing the digging of an escape tunnel for another prisoner, the noise of the tunneling is covered up by a choir singing Christmas carols.
  • Canon Foreigner: Warder Mr Beale and cons Oakes and Rudge only appear in the movie.
  • Character Tics:
    • Fletcher had a habit of looking to the ceiling when someone entered his cell.
    • Mr Mackay's neck twitch.
  • Chronic Villainy: Fletcher is described as an "habitual criminal" in the opening narration, and has spent a large portion of his adult life in prison. Explored more in the sequel, as Fletcher attempts to "go straight".
  • Circular Reasoning: In "Rough Justice", Judge Stephen Rawley, convicted of corruption, gets out on appeal. Fletcher notes that Mackay is now calling him Mister Rawley (he only refers to prisoners by their surname).
    Mackay: Certainly. If the appeal court judges say his nose is clean, that's good enough for me. They are men of the highest integrity in the land.
    Fletcher: What're you talking about? He's one of them!
    Mackay: Precisely. And he's innocent, which proves my point.
  • Cool Old Guy: Blanco is a friendly, cheerful and in many ways a cunning man. He used his prison allotment to secretly make alcohol and he is quite well liked by most of the inmates.
  • Criminal Procedural: Of the convict variety.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: Episodes 3 and 4 are "A Night In" and "A Day Out".
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Double Subverted. Fletcher strongly disapproves of his daughter Ingrid dating and becoming engaged to Godber. However, Fletch doesn't hate Godber, he actually likes him a lot, but he's also painfully aware that he was a poor husband and father due to being in and out of prison his whole life, and fears the same thing happening again.
  • "Dear John" Letter: The storyline of "Heartbreak Hotel" is Godber getting a letter from his girlfriend Denise.
    Fletcher: A "Dear John" letter?
    Godber: No, a "Dear Lenny" letter.
  • Decision Darts: Fletcher mentions that in his previous prison they used to run a roulette game by bribing a warden to turn a blind eye, blindfolding the "croupier" and spinning him around when he threw a dart at a dartboard covered with a list of numbers. It came to an end when the croupier got careless one night: "now the screw turns a blind eye to everything".
  • Diegetic Switch: Inverted in Going Straight. As Fletcher finally steels himself to start an honest job for the first time in his life, the suitably dramatic overture to The Yeomen of the Guard accompanies his determined walk to his new workplace. Cut to the workplace in question, where the radio is playing the same piece.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Grouty mentions an inmate who put four prison guards in hospital because someone knocked over his jigsaw puzzle.
  • Disregard That Statement: In "Rough Justice" former judge Stephen Rawley keeps saying this in his futile attempt to stop the ad hoc trial of Harris being a Kangaroo Court. No-one pays any attention.
  • The Ditz:
    • Heslop. Warren too, to a lesser extent.
    Warren: "Objection!"
    Rawley: "... Well go on, Warren. What is your objection?"
    Warren: "... I don't know."
    • Blanco also has his moments:
    Blanco: There was me and two brothers. There was Jack Barrett, and Harry... er...
    Fletcher: Barrett, was it?
    Blanco: That's right! Did you know him?
    Fletcher: Well only through his brother, like.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Amongst the Prison guards, Mackay holds this reputation, as he is easily the harshest and toughest of them all.
    • Harry Grout is feared throughout the prison, simply because everyone knows displeasing him will end with him sending one of his many heavies after you, or worse. Even Fletcher is terrified of him
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Mackay, he even was a sergeant in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment, before he was a prison officer. He likewise still acts like he is.
  • Double Knockout: During their boxing match, Godber and Nesbitt knock each other out with the first punch, having both been bribed to lose. It works out well for Fletcher, though, as he was the only person in the prison to bet on a draw.
  • Exact Words: An exchange between Mackay and Fletcher:
    Mackay: "Alright Fletcher, just don't let me catch you thieving!"
    Fletcher: "I won't."
    Mackay: "You won't what?"
    Fletcher: "I won't let you catch me Mr Mackay!"
  • Expy: Harry Grout something of a resemblance to a certain Mr. Bridger, is apparently doing time for some sort of job in Italy...
  • Extreme Omnivore: Evans, one of Fletcher's early cellmates, liked to eat light bulbs and even ate Fletcher's shaving mirror.
  • Fakeout Escape: This is the resolution of "No Way Out", where boss-prisoner Grouty is strong-armed by contacts outside the prison into organising an escape tunnel for a stupid but well-connected inmate. The tunnel progresses and the noise is masked by a choir singing Christmas carols. Grouty is pessimistic about pulling it off, while crafty convict Fletch frets that if a prisoner escapes so close to Christmas, privileges will be withdrawn to everyone and Dec 25th will become just another grim, grey, day inside. Fletch eventually comes up with a face-saving solution allowing Grouty to keep his cred with the London gangs who are pressuring him; allow the warders to discover the tunnel. They will be so pleased at finding it that they will not be looking for the escapee being smuggled out by other means, ie hidden in a garbage truck.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Genial Harry Grout, a high up London Crime boss. He is always charming, polite and never even raises his voice. If you do a job especially well for him, he'll pay back the favour and he's in a good mood, he might even be willing to bribe others. But fail him, anger him or just simply annoy him and he'll have one of his many heavies break your arms or beat you to blood.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: As nice as Blanco is, there is still the fact his wife's lover killed her, he killed the lover and then he got sent down for the murder of his wife.
  • Freudian Excuse: McLaren is aggressive and resorts to violence far too quickly. However, his life hasn’t been a happy one, growing up in Scotland as a half-black illegitimate orphan. Fletcher even acknowledges he’s had it “harder than most”.
  • From the Latin "Intro Ducere": Fletch averts it for humorous effect in this exchange with Warden Barrowclough:
    Fletcher: If you want to do something for us, give us more freedom, better grub, conjugal visits.
    Mr. Barrowclough: What?
    Fletcher: Conjugals. From the Latin "conjugari", meaning "to have it away".
  • Gambit Roulette: Fletcher's plan to get moved to a single cell involves: 1. Ives betting him that he won't be able to set up an illegal betting game without being caught. 2. Ives informing on him to the guards. 3. The guards catching them while the game is in progress. 4. The prison governor deciding that Fletcher is a bad influence on his cellmates and moving him to a single cell. It works.
  • Gentle Giant: At 6ft 3, Barrowclough is the tallest prison officer, and easily towers over the rest of the cast. Nevertheless he is an all-around gentle and friendly man.
  • Going in Circles: Fletcher does this in the pilot episode. After getting Barrowclough drunk in the abandoned cottage they've taken shelter in, Fletcher sees a chance to escape. He spends the night running across the moors until he comes across another cottage. It's the very same cottage.
    Barrowclough: Fletcher what are you doing here?
    Fletcher: That's what I'd like to know!
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The writers came up with the word 'Naff/Naffing' for the inmates to use as an expletive. It made front-page headlines when Princess Anne told a troublesome photographer to "Naff off!" Naff is apparently also a mild swear word in South Africa. It appears to predate Porridge. But the British Royal Family (including a juvenile Anne) used to regularly visit until it was advised it might be better if they stayed away.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: McLaren will get aggressive at the slightest provocation. It’s especially bad in his first appearance, where he even grabs Fletcher by the collar for simply knocking into him. Deconstructed, as this trait effectively ruined his life, and is the reason he’s in prison in the first place. Fletcher outright spells out to him how if he turned the other cheek a few more times he wouldn’t be in his present situation, and it isn’t worth sacrificing so much just for his pride. As such he mellows out in later appearances, but it never completely goes away.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Mackay
    Mackay: I want you to know that I treat you all with equal contempt.
  • Hellhole Prison: Averted here. As prisons go, Slade isn't that bad.
  • Holier Than Thou: Mr Banyard, a former dentist who was arrested over a possibly lethal accident involving some patients and some laughing gas, takes this attitude when Fletcher is investigating the theft of a tin of pineapple chunks from his cell, making the point that he's not a career criminal like everyone else and is therefore above suspicion. Fletch calls him out on this, pointing out that one way or another he's still a convict, and that regardless of what he thinks of his own crime, "for the ladies in question it was no laughing matter, was it?"
  • How Many Fingers?:
    [Godber bangs his head on a goalpost]
    Mackay: [holds up one finger] How many fingers am I holding up?
    Godber: You can't fool me, sir. Five.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Fletcher lectures Godber for making personal remarks about other people:
    Fletcher: I was saying to Jackie, too many youngsters poke fun at people cos they've got short legs or long legs.
    Godber: Who's Jackie?
    Fletcher: Jackie. Him in the hobby shop. Little fat poof with ears like jug handles.
  • I Drank WHAT?!: Warren's reaction when he learns that Fletcher and Godber put anti-freeze in their prison moonshine.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: In "A Day Out":
    Godber: You talk with your mouth full. You whistle out of tune. You snore. You spit.
    Fletcher: How dare you! I do not whistle out of tune!
  • I Won't Say I'm Guilty: A variation: Long-time convict Blanco is granted parole but bitterly refuses to accept it, insisting that he was wrongly convicted all along and wants a pardon instead.
  • Insane Troll Logic: One of Fletcher’s skills acquired over his years in prison, how to give an answer that is seemingly satisfactory but on later examination is either nonsensical or raises more fridge logic than it settles...
    Q: What became of the soil that was excavated from the tunnel?
    A: We dug another tunnel and put it all down there.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: In "The Desperate Hours", Fletch tastes the brew made by the local moonshiner which comes served in a disinfectant bottle. Fletch remarks that they're supposed to take the disinfectant out first.
  • Jerkass: Ives is a lazy, cowardly, snivelling cheat and snitch; as such, he is despised by most of the prison. Even Mackay calls him "Horrible Ives."
    • Norris and Harris also qualify.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Fletch is a morally bankrupt career criminal who's prone to being demanding, manipulative, and rude, and views his own arrest and imprisonment as an occupational hazard in a career of housebreaking, but he takes first-timer Godber under his wing and gives him useful advice to get him through his two-year sentence, and while he does admit to having been unfaithful to his wife at one point, he does seem to care about his family.
    My youngest has just got into grammar school... It's nice, but it costs a lot - you know, books, equipment, all that sort of thing. When my son started there, he didn't want for nothing - rugby boots, blazer, the lot. He wouldn't have had them if his dad was just a clerk. He had them because his father had just robbed a school outfitter's.
  • Kangaroo Court: In "Rough Justice" Fletch puts Harris on trial for stealing from his fellow inmates. While the judge (an actual judge, convicted of corruption) tries to maintain some degree of fairness, he's hampered by everyone else's disregard for proper procedure and firm conviction that Harris must be guilty because he's Harris. (Including the defence counsel.) It turns out they're right, and he returns the watch when MacLaren threatens to "extract" a confession.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: 'Genial' Harry Grout dishes this out to unpleasant inmate Harris.
  • The Killer in Me: Blanco is in prison for murdering his wife years ago and repeatedly protests his innocence. After eventually being granted a full pardon, he reveals he knows exactly what happened to the actual murderer: He killed him before being arrested for the wrong murder.
  • Knight of Cerebus: Harry Grout. Peter Vaughan was told not to play it like he was in a comedy. Whenever he appears the threats hanging over Fletcher's head get a lot more serious and the show dips into more Black Comedy.
  • "L" Is for "Dyslexia": "Bunny" Warren is severely dyslexic, and indeed illiterate. He blames his condition for his incarceration.
    Fletcher: Oh, here it comes, the sob story.
    Warren: No, Fletch, it's true. I couldn't read the sign.
    Fletcher: What sign?
    Warren: The one saying "Warning, Burglar alarm".
  • Likes Older Women: While Godber's main relationships are with young women, in "The Desperate Hours," he talks about liking mature women when admiring the governor's middle-aged secretary. He also talks at length about his crush on his Auntie Pauline.
  • London Gangster: Genial Harry Grout, an East London crime boss, serving time for an unspecified big job that required him being extradited from Italy. Grouty pretty much runs the whole prison: rigging sports matches, organising escapes of other high up criminals who can afford to get out and being completely in control of the entire prison drug trade. Likewise you really don't want to get on his bad side. His only rival in the prison, is another London crime boss, the two compete through betting on prison sports matches then rigging them in their favour.
  • Lovable Coward: Mr. Barrowclough is much more timid than Mr. Mackay, and lets his fear slip out during situations he believes to be tense. He is noticeably worried when Mackay leaves him alone to supervise the prison work party, and he spends his entire encounter with the unstable Reg Urwin trembling. However, he is such a nice and friendly guy it’s hard to dislike him.
  • Loveable Rogue: Fletcher has been in prison for much of his life, is described as a habitual criminal and is quite immoral. However, he is constantly supportive to the other newer inmates: he helps Godber adapt to his incarceration, made McLaren realise that his temper was causing him most of his problems, and wrote several of their letters to their lovers (including Lukewarm's boyfriend) due to the others were worrying that their imprisonment would wreck their relationships. Likewise, his quick wit provides a lot of the show's humour.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: We see Harry Grout only three times (four if you count The Movie), each time in his large, well-furnished cell. Apparently when he was extradited he paid for himself and the policeman to be bumped up to first class.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Fletcher is something of a master at manipulation, adapting his tactics depending on his target. He plays on Mr Barrowclough’s gentle nature and sympathy towards the inmates to get him to agree to things he shouldn't, such as letting him run off to town while out on a workday on a supposed mercy mission, when instead he sneaks off to the pub, or getting him extra blankets for his cell. With the Governor, he uses charm, and carefully pays attention to every piece of information he finds out about him. He finds him the perfect sized book to fix his wobbly cabinet distracting him long enough to steal several items off his desk. When it comes to the other inmates, Fletcher just convincingly lies, knowing most of them are too stupid to realize till it’s too late. For example, he gets Ives to believe that "Little Women" was about a tribe of sex starved female Pygmy's in South America, so that Ives would pay Fletcher to reserve the book for him.
  • Master Forger: Whilst never seen, "Inky" Stevens, described by Harry Grout as "the finest forger in the country", is serving a term in Slade prison. He's so good that, when Grouty needs to arrange an inmate's escape, he has a blank passport smuggled into Slade for Stevens to forge, rather than trust his contacts on the outside.
  • Master Poisoner: Riggs, who now works in the prison kitchens.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Fletcher is adept at this:
    Mr Beale: Long to do?
    Fletcher: Long enough.
    Mr Beale: What are you in for?
    Fletcher: Got caught.
  • Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: "Genial" Harry Grout wasn't necessarily shown to be running any business outside the prison, but he certainly was more in control of the prison itself than the governor was.
  • Military Moonshiner: Not military, but still a strictly regimented, all-male institution. "The Desperate Hours" features one of the prisoners distilling hooch in one of the shower blocks. Served in a disinfectant bottle, its taste causes Fletch to comment that they should have taken the disinfectant out first.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Subverted. Lifer Blanco Webb was wrongly convicted in 1957 for killing his wife. Fletch manages to get him pardoned and he was released, but it turns out he is guilty of murder, just not the murder he was convicted of.
    Fletch: Listen, we all know that you didn't kill your old lady, see. Which means that some other bloke did. And you've paid the penance for it, right? But I don't want you going out there harbouring any thoughts of revenge, alright?
    Blanco: No. I know 'im wot did it. It were the wife's lover. But don't worry, I shan't go round searching for him, 'e died years ago.
    Fletch: Well, that's alright then...
    Blanco: That I do know. It were me that killed him!
  • Moral Dissonance: Blanco, a kindly older prisoner who insisted for years that he was innocent of murdering his wife, later telling Fletcher it was his wife's lover who had actually done it. As he's now paroled pardoned, Fletcher tells him not to go looking for revenge, but Blanco replies that the lover is long dead, and he should know.
    "It were me that killed him".
  • The Movie: aka Doing Time in the U.S. Made in 1979, featuring the same cast and writers but with no BBC involvement. Not as well-received as the series, though not as bad as some TV spin-offs. This was Richard Beckinsale's last performance before his untimely death.
  • Mugging the Monster: Fletcher claims that Harris is in prison for attempting to mug an old lady, but unfortunately for Harris she had a brick in her handbag and kept him pinned down until the police arrived.
  • My Nayme Is: Reg Urwin repeatedly mentions that his surname is spelt with a "U".
  • Never Learned to Read: "Bunny" Warren claims to be in prison because he could not read the sign: "Warning, Burglar Alarm". He also gets Fletcher to read him letters from his wife. It is strongly implied that he is actually dyslexic.
  • Noodle Incident: Mr Baynard, the ex-dentist, is in prison for an incident involving laughing gas, "which was no laughing matter for the ladies involved". We never find out exactly what he did.
  • No Theme Tune: The opening is the top-of-the-page quote (voiced by Barker as the judge) over a locking-the-prisoners-up montage. There is a closing theme tune.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Often. Fletcher delivers lines like:
    Godber: I mean, we're all here for different reasons, aren't we?
    Fletcher: With respect, Godber, we are all here for the same reason... we got caught.
  • Odd Couple: Both Fletcher (cynical old timer) and Godber (naive young criminal), and Mackay (strict and nasty as they come) and Barrowclough (soft as ice cream in a Californian heatwave.)
  • The Old Convict: Fletcher to some extent, but Blanco plays this more straight. He's completed a replica of Muffin the Mule in the prison workshop: "You know, him what's on television". (Muffin the Mule was broadcast from 1946 to 1957. The Porridge episode was broadcast in 1975.)
  • Opening Narration: See the top of the page.
  • Ordered to Cheat: In "The Harder They Fall", Fletcher is forced to tell Godber that Grouty wants him to take a dive in the fifth round of the prison boxing championship. Godber says he can't do it; before proving he has become more prison-smart by revealing that's because he's already promised a rival gangster to go down in the third.
  • Pardon My Klingon: "Naff". Fletcher has also referred to Warden Mackay as a "charmless Celtic nerk" at least once.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mackay is sometimes supportive of Godber due to his willingness to study and take part in physical activity, unlike Fletcher.
    • Despite claiming to hate all inmates, Mackay is shown to be softer on more well behaved inmates. He for instance was encouraging toward Kegan, even making him a trustee and giving him the job of serving the Governors coffee, despite him murdering his wife.
    • Following Fletcher revealing the existence of an escape tunnel to him and defusing a very tense situation between the inmates and the guards, Mackay gave Fletcher a bottle of Scottish Whiskey as a Christmas present.
    • A literal example is discussed where Mackay stroked the Governor's dog, but hilariously the dog bit Mackay.
  • Pet Homosexual: "Lukewarm".
  • Pilot: Porridge was one of seven pilot episodes commissioned by the BBC as a star vehicle for Ronnie Barker. Entitled "Prisoner and Escort", it saw the newly-convicted Fletcher being escorted to Slade prison by Mackay and Barrowclough. Another of the pilots, Open All Hours, was also made into a full series.
  • Playing Gertrude: The then thirty-five year old David Jason played the extremely elderly Blanco Webb.
  • Prison: The setting, though unlike most examples its a comedy, there is very little violence or focus on the more dangerous inmates. Instead the focus is on more average people dealing with being imprisoned, and winning the occasional little victory.
  • Prison Rape: Averted. While sexual tensions and possible assaults are touched upon, they are not dwelt upon, and the main homosexual character, Lukewarm, is a harmless Pet Homosexual. Prison Rape is much rarer in the UK penal system — that's not to say it doesn't happen, but there's a lot less of it about. This is at least partially because the gang culture in UK prisons is less pronounced.
  • Properly Paranoid: Mackay's suspicions about the inmates are so extreme, that he can’t watch a man tie his shoes without suspecting he’s hiding something in his sock. However, when it comes to Fletcher, he’s nearly always right.
  • Queer People Are Funny: Done occasionally with Lukewarm. For example, when Fletcher composed letters to a number of prisoners' wives, he handed them back to the men, "To Mary, my Dear Sharon, (handing letter to Lukewarm) My darling Trevor..."-> Huge audience laugh. Later in the same episode, the wives are seen on the bus comparing their suspiciously identical letters and there is another huge laugh when the camera shows a man reading another such letter.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Barrowclough is a fair and reasonable man, he even tells a new Prison guard not to ask what a new inmate is in for, as that would lead to you judging them for they have done instead of as a person.
  • Rule #1: According to Mr. Mackay, there are only two rules in Slade Prison. Rule number 1: Do not write on the walls. And rule number 2: Obey all the rules. Though strangely in the same scene he also mentions a rule against more than three prisoners congregating in a cell.
  • Scary Black Man: Jock McLaren (though he's more of a scary Scot who happens to be black).
  • Scary Minority Suspect: Ditto.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Godber, and all other prisoners except Fletcher himself, does not appear in the pilot.
  • Sparse List of Rules: According to Mackay, there are only two rules in Slade Prison. The first is that you do not write on the walls. The second is that you obey all the rules.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted. Fletch is sentenced to five years; as the original series had run for four, the sequel Going Straight focused on Fletch's release back into society.
  • Stereo Fibbing: In "A Storm in a Teacup", the cellmates have to explain a bottle of pills found in their cell.
    Godber: They're Fletch's. They're for his...
    Fletcher/Godber: ...nerves/...indigestion.
    Fletcher/Godber ...indigestion/...nerves.
    Fletcher: I get this nervous indigestion. And sometimes vice versa.
  • That Was Objectionable: In "Rough Justice", Stephen Rawley (a judge convicted of corruption) finds his watch has gone missing, and Fletcher decides Harris stole it, and arranges a trial with himself prosecuting, Warren defending and —Rawley (against his better judgement) on the bench. It starts well:
    Rawley: How do you plead?
    Harris: Not guilty!
    Fletch: Oh, a liar as well as a thief!
    Warren: I object!
    Rawley: What is your objection?
    Warren ...I dunno.
    Harris: You was objecting to the fact that I was called a liar and a thief!
    Warren: No I wasn't, we all know you're a liar and a thief.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Football hooligan Jarvis, who tells a derogatory, sexual joke to prison heavy Crusher about the latter's wife. Needless to say, Crusher is not amused and reacts violently.
  • Tragic Villain: Reg Urwin from the Christmas Special "Desperate Hours". He takes Fletcher, Godber, Mr Barrowclough and the Governor's secretary hostage and threatens to kill them. However, he turns out to be quite a pathetic figure with psychiatric issues, for which he never received treatment despite being recommended. After Fletcher disarms Reg, he and Godber even decide to Throw the Dog a Bone and let him surrender on his own terms rather than take credit for stopping him.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: ABC's short lived On The Rocks.
  • Treasure Map: Blanco has a map showing where his ill-gotten gains are buried, though it turns out to be a fake. Another inmate, Norris, gets caught trying to dig it up under a football pitch.
  • Twofer Token Minority: McLaren, a man with anger management issues, is both Scottish and black. He is universally known among inmates as Black Jock.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: In "Disturbing the Peace", Mackay is sent away, only to be replaced by the sadistic Napper Wainwright.
  • Unishment: Fletcher spends "No Peace for the Wicked" just wanting some peace and quiet alone in his cell but being constantly bothered by visitors, including other prisoners, warders and a fact-finding team from the Home Office. When the prison chaplain comes to see him he finally snaps and attacks him. He is brought before the prison Governor... who punishes him with three days' solitary confinement.
  • Unusual Euphemism: Retasked the existing word 'naff' as an expletive, as in "naff off". Also created 'nerk' (presumably in place of 'berk') and possibly 'scrote'.
  • Vapor Wear: Played for Laughs in "Heartbreak Hotel". When Fletcher's daughter, Ingrid, pays him a visit (in the open-plan visiting room), he is outraged that she's not wearing a bra and all the other prisoners can see it. Next time she visits, she puts a bra on, and just to make sure he knows it, she lifts up her t-shirt to demonstrate.
  • Vehicular Sabotage: In the pilot episode, Fletcher urinates in the prison van's fuel tank. The van breaks down soon afterwards. It doesn't go unnoticed by Mackay:
    Mackay: It appears the petrol tank had more in it after our journey than before. Only what was in the tank was certainly not five star!
  • Vetinari Job Security: When Mr Mackay is promoted, a stricter and crueler screw from a prison Fletcher had been in earlier in his life replaces him and bullies both the criminals and Mr Barrowclough. The prisoners get rid of him by orchestrating an achievement for Mr Barrowclough and welcome back Mackay with a rendition of "For he's a jolly good fellow".
  • Violent Glaswegian: Jock McLaren, again.
  • Wardens Are Evil: Averted. Barrowclaugh is a all around genial, cheerful and friendly man, who firmly believes in treating the prisoners correctly and rehabilitation. While the inmates aren't above taking advantage of his occasional naivete he never the less even strikes up a reasonably friendly relationship with Fletcher.
  • We Meet Again: Fletcher and Mr Wainwright. Fletcher and Judge Rawley.
  • We Want Our Jerk Back: As mentioned under Vetinari Job Security, Mr Mackay's overly-cruel replacement had the prisoners getting nostalgic.
  • What Are You in For?:
    Fletcher: Got caught.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Heslop, Fletcher's original cellmate, disappeared after the first series. Evans, another of Fletcher's early cellmates, also disappeared after a few episodes.
  • Worthy Opponent: Fletcher and Mackay, make no mistake both of them will never miss a chance to get one over or humiliate the other, but there is a clear unspoken level of respect between the two. It says something that when they meet up after Fletcher is released, while starting off hostile they are soon cheerfully drinking together and reminiscing about their past. They even part on mostly friendly terms.

Tropes used in Going Straight include:

  • Expository Theme Song: "I'm going straight, along the straight and narrow, and I don't mean straight back to crime..."
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: All the episodes begin "Going..."
  • Noodle Incident: The hotelier who gives Fletch a job has never regretted giving prisoners a second chance "except on... two unfortunate occasions".
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Fletcher is sincere in his efforts to "go straight", but no one really believes him. Additionally, as a middle-aged ex-convict, he is doomed to a life of low-paid menial work and finds the temptation to commit another crime pervasive. Ultimately averted as at the end of Going Straight, he rejects an offer to take part in a robbery. According to Norman Stanley Fletcher: Life Beyond the Box, he stayed out of prison thereafter and ended up running a pub with his childhood sweetheart, before earning a £250,000 reward for helping the police recover some stolen jewellery.* Spinoff Sendoff: In the first episode Fletcher says goodbye to McLaren (the only one of his friends from Porridge still in Slade) before he gets out and catches the train to London. Then Mr Mackay turns out to be on the same train.

Tropes used in Norman Stanley Fletcher: Life Beyond The Box include:

  • Character Outlives Actor: Ingrid (Fletch's daughter, who married Godber in Going Straight) gets a phone call from her husband to say that he can't make it back for the documentary. Richard Beckinsale died shortly after Going Straight completed filming.
  • Distant Finale: Quite literally.
  • Fake Charity: "Horrible" Ives, the most despicable and untrustworthy character in Slade Prison, is now supposedly collecting for "Help The Blind Doggies".
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Featuring McLaren, Warren, Lukewarm, Ives, Grouty and (right at the end) Fletcher himself.

Tropes used in the 2016 Porridge special include:

  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Fletch's reaction to having to share his cell with Joe Lotterby.
    Fletch: Can you confirm that you're none of the following: a) a hypochondriac, b) a religious freak, c) a homicidal psycho, or d) a Millwall supporter.
  • Brick Joke: Throughout the episode, Fletch tries to get a pineapple tin, only for it to be taken away from him. At the end, Officer Meekie leaves the cell with a pineapple tin again, only for Fletch to reveal to Lotterby that he succeeded in smuggling a second tin under his pillow.
  • Call-Back: Loads, since Fletch is Fletcher's grandson through his son Raymond, making him Ingrid's nephew. Lotterby mentions that he briefly served time with Fletcher 40 years ago in Slade, and learns that he passed away five years ago, in 2011.
    Lotterby: Eh, "little victories", that's what your granddad used to say, and by God, you need them inside.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character:
    • Nigel Fletcher, compared to his grandfather Norman Fletcher. While inheriting his quick wit and a good portion of his savvy, Nigel is young and still learning about being incarcerated, compared to his grandfather (a habitual criminal and Experienced Protagonist). Likewise, unlike his grandfather (who was Book Dumb but very Street Smart and a cunning manipulator), Nigel is highly intelligent, being an accomplished cybercriminal, managing to build a device to remotely hack into the system from inside his cell and even quoting The Other Wiki from memory. He is nevertheless a fast learner though.
    • Joe Lotterby, compared to Leonard Godber, who was young, idealistic and naive, having never been to prison before. Lotterby is a cynical (but cheerful and harmless) The Old Convict, who knows several tricks about being imprisoned, but is still quite Book Dumb, especially compared to the more academically interested Godber.
  • Continuity Nod: Ingrid and Godber are still married, and he had made the arrangements for Fletcher to run a "real pub, you know for geezers".
  • Dead Guy Junior: Fletch's middle name is Norman, after his grandfather.
  • Generation Xerox: Nigel Norman Fletcher, or Fletch, as he preferred to be called, has similarly savvy gifts as his grandfather for gaming the prison system to make life a little easier for him and his fellow inmates. He even manages to give the V-sign to Meekie, just like his granddad did with Mackay.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Fletch is a gifted computer hacker convicted of cyberfraud. Naturally, his reputation precedes him and he's forced into employing his valuable skills into cleaning up Weeksy's record so he can be paroled early. Officer Braithwaite regularly asks him for computer advice and even the prison governor comes to him when the prison's systems go berserk courtesy of Fletch accessing Meekie's computer and triggering the fire alarms through it because the system was still being run in Windows XP.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Fletch easily bonds with his new elderly cellmate Lotterby, especially since he knew his grandfather. He then reveals to Lotterby that while he was snooping in the prison records, he gave him an Age Lift so that he'll be released three years sooner.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: While working the graveyard shift, Braithwaite is about to click on a pinup site when Fletch triggers the fire alarms from Meekie's computer.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Wakeley Prison is a high tech 21st century minimum security prison, with a Foosball and pool table in the common area, a clean gym, and televisions in the cells. The cells slightly resemble dorm rooms with a bunk bed, table, some shelves and a bulletin board.
    • Officer Meekie is suspicious how Fletch managed to get himself a single cell within a month of arriving at Wakeley.
    • In exchange for fixing Wakeley's computer systems, Governor Hallwood has Braithwaite install a new television in Fletch's cell.
    • Aziz is seen listening to an mp3 player while eating breakfast with Shel and Fletch.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Governor Hallwood's password is Porridge. The look on her face when Fletch realizes it indicates that she's a bit embarrassed by this.
  • Playful Hacker: What Fletch sees himself as, arguing (unconvincingly) that everything he has done amounts to a series of victimless crimes and that he’s donated a lot of money to charity (just not his own money). The law however sees him as a dangerous The Cracker.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Mr Meekie to Mr MacKay, both being overly suspicious, harsh Scottish prison officers who have their eyes fixed upon Fletcher. Although Meekie isn’t as sharp or as experienced as MacKay.
    • Mr Braithwaite to Mr Barraclough, fitting the softer, more caring prison officer dynamic in contrast to MacKay and Meekie’s harsher one. Although Braithwaite is noticeably less naive and more cunning than Barraclough ever was.
  • What Are You in For?:
    • Everyone knows that Fletch is a hacker and that he's banned from all electronics. Another inmate, Aziz, says that he stole more money than all the other inmates at Wakeley combined.
    • Shel is convicted of drug possession, despite him claiming that he bought the drugs for his wife. He did sleep through the fire alarms because he had smoked some very strong weed.
    • Lotterby is convicted for involuntary manslaughter, for accidentally backing his gang's heist van into another member.
    • Weeksy is a member of a Manchester crime family, and is impressed that the clan is notorious enough to have a page on The Other Wiki.

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