The Army Game is a British sitcom that was broadcast on ITV from 1957 to 1961. It was the very first ITV sitcom and was made by Granada, and created by Sid Colin. It follows the exploits of Hut 29, a dysfunctional group of soldiers and their National Service conscription into the British Army during the post war years.
The original cast consisted of William Hartnell, Michael Medwin, Geoffrey Sumner, Alfie Bass, Charles Hawtrey, Bernard Bresslaw and Norman Rossington. The cast would change over the years with actors such as Bill Fraser, Ted Lune, Frank Williams, Harry Fowler and Dick Emery appearing in subsequent series.
The show centres on a group of National Service army conscripts who are based in Hut 29 at the Surplus Ordnance Depot, Nether Hopping, Staffordshire. The sitcom follows the antics of the privates, who are determined to dodge work and create some amusement out of a situation they'd rather not be in, and the attempts of their superior officers to stop the fun and keep the showers clean.
Voted #84 in Britain's Best Sitcom.
"What are the tropes of The Army Game?!" "I only arsked!"
- Armchair Military: Brigadier Stubbs, who is Captain Pockett's superior officer, is a pompous 'Colonel Blimp' type who appears to have been in the military since World War One. Fortunately, commanding the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire, it is unlikely he will ever have to send men into battle.
- Armed Farces: The show centres on a group of conscripts assigned to the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire. Billeted in Hut 29, the men are determined to work little and have fun.
- The Bus Came Back: The characters of Maj. Upshot-Bagley and Sgt. Maj. Bullimore left at the end of season 1, but returned for the fourth (and final) season.
- Catchphrase: Pvt. "Popeye" Popplewell (Bernard Bresslaw)'s "I only arsked!", which was even used as the title for The Movie.
- Conscription: The show centres on a group of National Service army conscripts assigned to the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire in Britain's post war years. Billeted in Hut 29, the men are determined to work little and have fun.
- Cue Card Pause: Ted Lune, as Pvt. Len Bone, would often read out a letter from his mother. The letter relied heavily on all different kinds of reading-out-loud tropes, and invariably finished with an inversion of this particular one; for example, "Mrs Jones next door has bought six pigs. She keeps them in the back yard and there's an awful smell from your loving mother." This was based on a popular bit from his stand-up routines.
- Dead Pet Sketch: In "Snudge's Budgie", the boys from Hut 29 attempt to replace Snudge's pet budgerigar with a lookalike after Bootsie lets the original one escape. They might have got away with it if their replacement 'male' budgie hadn't laid an egg.
- Drill Sergeant Nasty: Initially Company Sgt Major (CSM) Percy Bullimore, played by William Hartnell, was the bane of Hut 29's army life. Later Bullimore was replaced by Bill Fraser's Sgt Claude Snudge.
- Eat the Evidence: In "The Take-Over Bid", Dooley is typing up a letter from Hut 29's fake company offering to buy the camp for 3 million pounds (It Makes Sense in Context) when Snudge enters. Dooley hurriedly rips the paper from the typewriter and stuffs it in his mouth. Although he doesn't manage to swallow it, the fact it is now slobbered on, combined with Dooley's explanation that it was a racy love letter to his girlfriend, persuades Snudge he doesn't want to read it.
- Embarrassing Cover Up: In "The Take-Over Bid", Dooley tells Snudge that he letter he was typing on Snudge's typewriter was lewd love letter to his girlfriend. Snudge decides that he doesn't want to read that; especially after Dooley has slobbered all over it in a failed attempt to Eat the Evidence.
- Fowl-Mouthed Parrot: In "Snudge's Budgie", the boys from Hut 29 have to acquire a budgie to replace Snudge's after Bootsie lets it escape. They invoke this trope by using ventriloquism to make a tea shop owner believe her budgie has suddenly acquired a very foul mouth and offering to dispose of it for her. At the end of the episode, Snudge's real budgie is returned to him by a sailor who captured it, and has been trying to teach it to speak, with the result that it now swears like, well, a sailor.
- Friend in the Black Market: No matter what the boys of Hut 29 need for their latest Zany Scheme, it seems that Cpl. "Flogger" Hoskins always knows somebody who can supply it at a knockdown price.
- Fun with Acronyms: In "The Take-Over Bid", the boys from Hut 29 create a fake company as part of a Zany Scheme to prevent the camp from being sold. They name the company 'Happiness Unity Trust, 1929'. It is only much later, when things have gotten completely out of hand, that Sgt. Snudge is looking at the paperwork for the complicated web of deals now flying around and realises that the abbreviation for 'Happiness Unity Trust, 1929' is 'H.U.T. '29'.
- Good Luck Charm: In "Snudge and Jimmy O'Goblin", Dooley buys a good luck charm called Jimmy O'Goblin. After Snudge confiscates, he experiences a run of good luck, so Hut 29 embark on scheme to make Snudge believe that he is cursed so he will get rid of Jimmy O'Goblin so Dooley can reclaim it.
- High-Class Glass: A monocle is worn by Brigadier Stubbs, the Upper-Class Twit Armchair Military officer in overall command of the Surplus Ordnance Department at Nether Hopping, Staffordshire.
- "Join the Army," They Said: In "The Take-Over Bid", Boots is looking at a recruiting poster showing a heroic tanker and reading "The Army Is A Grand Life", and comments that it shows him happily riding around in the open air but doesn't show his little mate: shut up and suffocating down below.
- Mock Millionaire: In his first appearance in "Enter a Dark Stranger", Dooley receives a series of letters from his family that make it appear that he is from a wealthy family who own a string of hotels in swanky areas of London. This results in the rest of Hut 29, and even Sgt. Snudge, attempting to suck up to him. When the truth comes out (i.e. he is as broke as the rest of them), he claims that the letters were part of a play-by-mail game of Monopoly he was involved in with his family.
- The Movie: 1958's I Only Arsked!, directed by Montgomery Tully and made by Hammer Films. In it, slapstick ensues when the inept army recruits from Hut 29 are transferred to a post in the Middle East.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: Sgt. Snudge would sometimes threaten to send the misfits of Hut 29 to some unpleasant overseas posting, such as Singapore. Time Marches On and that no longer sounds the threat it once was.
- Right Behind Me: In "The Take-Over Bid", Flogger is using Sgt. Snudge's phone to call his bookie and tells the others to keep the noise down so they don't attract Snudge's attention. He gets so caught up in his call that he doesn't Snudge enter and stand behind him till he reaches behind himself and tugs excitedly on Snudge's leg.
- Soldiers at the Rear: The show is about a group of conscripts stationed at the Surplus Ordnance Depot at Nether Hopping. The are all very keen to see out their National Service while avoiding anything remotely military and making a little cash on the side.
- Strange Salute: When Dooley joins Hut 29, Flogger attempts to convince him that he is a special rank of 'Corporal-Captain', and that Dooley needs to give him a special salute that includes patting his head and waving his hand in front of his face. Dooley adopts the new salute, but is actually playing along for a joke of his own. By the end of the episode, several other servicemen are doing it.
- Trash of the Titans: Hut 29 gets like this in its worst moments. In "Enter a Dark Stranger", there are branches and vines growing through the windows and along the wall; piles of dirt of the floor; and Bootsie has a pile of rubbish, including bones and old tyre, in his bed.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In "Snudge's Budgie, the boys from Hut 29 attempt to replace Snudge's pet budgerigar with a lookalike after Bootsie lets the original one escape. They might have got away with it if their replacement 'male' budgie hadn't laid an egg.