One of two tales from Seven of One, the collection of single comedies that was spun-off into a full series (the other was Porridge) starring Ronnie Barker, in this case playing the part of stuttering Yorkshire shop-keeper, Arkwright. The show only received modest ratings on its first showing on BBC2, but a subsequent repeat run on BBC1 took it straight to the top of the charts.
Penned by former schoolteacher and corner-shop worker Roy Clarke, who had also utilised his experience as a policeman to write the comedy series Rosie, Open All Hours was another of Barker's finest comedy half hours as the mean, penny-pinching corner shopkeeper who, in between hoodwinking his customers and bullying his nephew/assistant, Granville, lusted after the buxom nurse Gladys Emmanuel. Had Barker relied solely on Arkwright's stutter for laughs the BBC would no doubt had been deluged by complaints. But this was only one facet of a well-rounded comedy character that employed physical as well as verbal humour, not least of all in his attempts to place money in the shop's till, which, when closed would snap shut with all the ferocity and speed of a hungry killer shark's jaw, symbolically reflecting the character of its user, who would stoop to whatever level necessary in order to save money, whilst divesting others of their own hard earned cash.
Equally adept at both verbal and physical comedy was Barker's co- star, the talented David Jason, as Granville - the nephew of questionable parentage (at least on his father's side), who was resigned to a life devoid of the excitement, foreign travel and romantic relationships that he so longed for (although there was a brief romance with the milkwoman (Barbara Flynn). Making up the quartet of regulars was Lynda Baron (Sheila Brennan in the pilot), as the district nurse who lived opposite and tended after her sick mother (who was oft mentioned but never seen), whilst fighting off the (not always unwanted) attentions of Arkwright. Although their relationship was never consummated, there was always the suggestion that given the right circumstances...
External shots for the series were filmed outside a corner shop in Lister Avenue, Doncaster and the premises was actually a hairdressing salon given a make-over by BBC designers.
In 2013 Arkwright's corner store was found still to be open for business in a one-off special called Still Open All Hours. Following the death of Albert Arkwright the business had been inherited by Granville who had also inherited many of his uncle's traits, especially frugality. Now in charge but still very much in Arkwright's image, Granville is helped by his son, Leroy. Many of the regular customers are still around including the 'Black Widow,' Mrs Featherstone (Stephanie Cole) and Nurse Gladys who laments that the old man had died "rather than pay for a wedding."
Critics were divided on this revisit perhaps unfairly harking to Barker and his absence. Who hasn't often wondered what happened to their favourite TV characters after a series has ended? As a nostalgic one-off visit to characters and (generally) situation comedy of the past Still Open All Hours more than stood on its own merit. So much so that the BBC commissioned a full series which debuted on 26 December 2014. At the time of writing (2019) the sixth series is in production.
Published on January 16th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus & SRH (2001 - 2019) "Granville - fer-fetch your cloth!" for Television Heaven.