There is little that Bernard Cribbins hasn’t tried his hand at during his long career. Even his autobiography said that it was about ’75 years of doing almost everything.’ There’s been films aplenty, musicals, Dr Who, Jackanory, The Wombles and a sketch show.
Writing in that autobiography, Bernard says “Not many people know this’ when beginning to discuss Cribbins. He had previously starred in a 45-minute one-off special in 1965 for the BBC. The show was written by Morecambe and Wise writers Sid Green and Dick Hills and produced by Dennis Main Wilson, but it was another four years before Thames Television offered him a full run of shows - which launched the same week that ITV transmitted in colour for the first time. Two series were made in 1969 and 1970 with 12 episodes and some sketches for the All-Star Comedy Carnival Christmas show.
On board for this series were scriptwriters Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke, already enjoying success with Father Dear Father. The series certainly produces a fair number of giggles. Like many shows of this nature, there is a little bit of a hit and miss element. With so much happening, it’s difficult for each and every sketch to be a success. The hits strongly outweigh the misses though.
It’s an ideal format for an actor such as Bernard Cribbins. One moment he can be a burglar, the next a sailor or a bank employee with some very dodgy references.
There’s an excellent supporting cast in this series. Bob Todd is best known for his work with Benny Hill. He was an absolute comic genius and Bob is on top form whenever he appears in Cribbins. Patrick Cargill (the star of Father Dear Father) is another guest star who does the best with the material that is given to him by Cooke and Mortimer who were later to write the classic sitcoms Man About the House and George and Mildred.
You can never go wrong with Sheila Steafel either (try to see her in the Sykes Christmas special) and Madeline Smith is always a welcome addition to any show. Also appearing were Terence Brady, Tim Barrett and Carmel McSherry, later to be seen in series such as Beryl’s Lot and In Sickness and in Health.
It’s not just about quickfire comedy sketches (though some do go on a bit too long), the singing talents of Bernard Cribbins are also on show here. Over the two series we hear him singing hit songs such as ‘Right Said Fred,’ ‘Hole in the Ground’ and ‘Gossip Calypso.’ Oh, and there’s also a song for National Hate Day to enjoy.
A lot of the sketches in this series could have gone into Tales of the Unexpected. Many have punchlines that you won’t see coming. Sketches such as reporting an elephant missing on the London Underground, an Eskimo in London and Superscouse have echoes of Cooke and Mortimers’ work on the last series of Round the Horne.
Cribbins is a series that you can settle down and watch and be thoroughly entertained. It’s not of a satirical nature and it’s easy to see why the writers went on to have further success with sitcoms. Bernard Cribbins (why not Sir Bernard?) is a joy to watch as ever. Is there nothing this man can’t do?
Review: Steve Ashfield
Steve was probably born watching television. Great fan of everything from comedy to Christmas shows. Loves writing about the great shows of the past.
Published on May 11th, 2021. Written by Steve Ashfield for Television Heaven.