London Weekend Television’s End of Part One is really a sketch show of two halves. Series one appears to be an attempt to revive the comedy of ‘Python’, whereas series two is an all-out comedy assault on every television programme that was popular at the time, sending them up unmercifully whilst adding a healthy dose of satirical political comments. As a result, viewers were presented with parodies of That's Life, Doctor Who, Call My Bluff, The Generation Game, Nationwide and Barry Norman's Hollywood Greats. But the real highlights were Hawaii Five-0 presented as ‘Stiff Actors Five-0’, Star Trek: ‘Star Cheque’ (aboard the star ship Economise), To The Manor Born: ‘To The Mannerisms Born,’ and Are You Being Served?: ‘Are You Being Stereotyped?’ and with a ruthless determination to bite the hand that feeds it, the series also went for the jugular of LWT’s Mind Your Language with their own version titled ‘Mind Your Foreigners.’
The series was based on Andrew Marshall and David Renwick’s more Pythonesque inspired radio programme ‘The Burkiss Way’ where the writers produced the novel idea of a husband and wife, Norman and Vera Straightman, whose dogged efforts to achieve a quiet life are constantly shattered by the unwelcome intrusions of guests from the world of television, and other natural disasters. The first series was billed as a ‘soft soap opera’ – with laughs, but the two central characters possibly didn’t gel the series in the way in which the writers had hoped. So in series two they were dropped and the show took on a style more akin to the much earlier children’s comedy series Do Not Adjust Your Set, which itself was one of a number of forerunners to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
DNAYS’ Denise Coffee starred alongside Tony Aitken and a pre-Only Fools and Horses Sue Holderness appeared regularly alongside Fred Harris, Dudley Stevens and David Simeon.
The series was very much a mixture of the surreal – an LWT logo appeared on screen minus the middle letter while a voiceover announced; "London eekend Television have vacancies for a qualified 'W'. Applicants should be between the 22nd and 24th letters of the alphabet. Or an 'M' with experience of yoga, or Siamese 'Vees'” whilst the satirical showed an advertisement for a Radio Times type magazine called the ‘Otherside Times’ (this week featuring the joke from 'Are You Being Served?') Some of the humour did seem very childish at times but the more cerebral sketches would have gone over a youngster’s head. LWT certainly didn’t seem to be certain of its target audience and inexplicably opted for the younger one.
The writers, who were making their television debut, were unhappy that LWT decided to air the series on a Sunday afternoon, lamenting in an interview that it was "a show no-one knows about, at a time no-one would watch it anyway". Series 1 was transmitted between 15 April and 27 May 1979 at 5.30pm with series 2 being transmitted between 12 October and 23 November 1980 at 4.00pm.
The writers decided not to write another series because LWT would not move it to a more favourable timeslot (something which a later episode rather bluntly pointed out). It didn’t halt their careers. They went on to write The Steam Video Company (a low budget spoof of the horror genre, intermingled with spoofs on contemporary television programmes) before contributing many sketches for the BBC’s satirical series Not The Nine O’Clock News, and penned such classics as Hot Metal and Whoops Apocalypse. Renwick went on to greater fame still with One Foot in the Grave and Jonathan Creek.
Published on August 11th, 2020. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.