Something of a rarity in the TV life of Richard Briers-an unsuccessful sitcom which came sandwiched between two successful ones, namely, The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles.
In fact, Briers had almost decided to retire from TV sitcom at the end of The Good Life, when the scripts for Goodbye Mr Kent landed on his doorstep. "How on Earth was one going to follow that success?" he pondered in an issue of the Radio Times to reporter Madeleine Kingsley. But then quickly dismissed the idea of going completely straight by stating; "here was a strong situation comedy, with plenty of character scope, a series I felt would help me do the job I'm here for - making the public laugh through the long cold winter."
The character that he saw so much potential in was Travis Kent, a dishevelled journalist who Briers freely admitted was "a sponging parasite, one of life's passengers who hopes to secure a free roof over his head." The roof in question belongs to attractive divorcee Victoria Jones (played by actress Hannah Gordon-no newcomer to TV sitcom herself), who is obliged to take in a lodger to help maintain herself and her racy teenage daughter, Lucy-played by Talla Hayes. Travis Kent sets out to impress the good Mrs Jones - "I cook a marvellous omelette...I can make a ping-pong ball appear out of my ear" and he smarms and charms his way to persuading the lady to accept him as her lodger, foregoing the chance to take in the "quiet female person" whom she so sensibly advertised for.
The character of Travis Kent was based on another famous stage, movie and successful TV sitcom character as writers Peter Vincent and Peter Robinson admitted. Together, the duo had reworked the script of Neil Simon's The Odd Couple for German screening and it was from that movie that Travis was born, as Peter Vincent explained: "We were both struck by Oscar, the hopeless slob, fleshed out in the movie by Walter Matthau. We wanted to write about a similarly hopeless character who is also a great optimist, always certain that the next thing he touches will turn out right because the last blunder was definitely someone else's fault! Travis has great charm, or at least he thinks he does. Richard Briers now, really does have charm and he plays Travis with a wonderfully false sort of charm, vainly lavished on Victoria. She finds him not at all attractive, but oddly compelling. She misses him when he is not there, which makes life awkward for her."
There was an underlying hint of a romance to come, but as the series never went beyond the first seven-episode run, this was never developed. But why would a woman fall for this type of wastrel? Richard Briers: "He must have something about him to save him from being exactly the sort of man who makes you send at once for the police. A vulnerable quality perhaps."
Published on December 19th, 2018. Written by Based on original Radio Times article. Adapted for Television Heaven.