Finally demobbed from The
Army Game, Private 'Excused Boots' Bisley and his bullying Sergeant, Claude Snudge, return to
civvy life where they find employment in a Pall Mall gentleman's club called The Imperial. The
characters stayed true to their original Army Game personalities with the eternal dreamer Bootsie
(here being employed-appropriately-as the boot boy) and Snudge as the stuttering apoplectic,
(employed as the Major Domo) who tries to keep Bisley on the straight and narrow path. The series
explored the relationship of two men thrown together by circumstances, who, whilst not relishing
each other's company, are resigned to the fact that they are equally reliant on the other. It was
a sitcom premise that was returned to with great success in later shows such as Steptoe and
Son and Porridge. And like those classic shows it wouldn't have worked as well without
the sparkling interplay between the co-stars, in this case Alfie Bass as Bootsie and Bill Fraser
as Snudge. Whatever the two stars were doing they were sure to fall foul of the blustering,
shouting and stamping Robert Dorning, who played Hon. Sec of the club, Hesketh Pendleton. Also
joining them was 38-year old character actor Clive Dunn who specialised in playing older men. Here
he was the bespectacled doddery octogenarian waiter Henry Beerbohm Johnson, an employee of The
Imperial for some forty years whose addled mind convinced him that Snudge was Lord Kitchener and
who often reminisced of his soldiering days when he faced the 'fuzzy-wuzzies'. It was a theme that
Dunn would return to before the end of the decade as Corporal Jones in Dad's Army.
The scripts were written, in the early days, by the team of Barry Took and Marty Feldman but later on other writers such as John Antrobus, Jack Rosenthal, ventriloquist Ray Alan and Harry Driver created the situations for the un-dynamic duo. And a number of stars passed through The Imperial on their way to lasting television stardom and these included Warren Mitchell, Mollie Sugden and Honor Blackman. The series was hugely popular with the British public and ran successfully for 98 half hours between 1960 and 1963. In 1964 Bootsie and Snudge were briefly moved into the diplomatic service for a series called Foreign Affairs although that only lasted for 8 weeks. Then in 1974 the two stars were reunited for 6 more episodes of Bootsie and Snudge where, in a reversal of fortunes, Bootsie wins a million pounds and 27 pence on the football pools and Snudge, as his financial advisor becomes the subservient partner.
Published on November 30th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus (23 January 2005) for Television Heaven.