After facing bankruptcy, being defeated in the local Weatherfield elections and finally being left at the altar, Leonard Swindley packed his bags and moved out of Gamma Garments to take up the post of assistant manager in a branch of Dobson and Hawks national chain stores.
In its 50+ year history, British supersoap Coronation Street has only produced two spin-offs. Pardon the Expression was the first. Actor Arthur Lowe brilliantly played on Swindley's comic self- importance as a floundering supervisor in charge of up to thirty staff, mostly female. Whilst trying to work his way up both the managerial and social ladder, Swindley, as played by Lowe was given a red-faced pomposity that would soon become the actors trademark.
The first series of this half hour sitcom was screened immediately before Coronation Street and also starred Betty Driver as manageress of the firm's canteen. A few years later she was pulling pints behind the bar of the Rovers Return as Betty Turpin. Also passing briefly through Dobson and Hawks front doors were future 'Corrie' regulars Julie Goodyear and Amanda Barrie and Lowe's Dad's Army mates John Laurie and John Le Mesurier. Other notable customers were Dandy Nichols, Warren Mitchell, Pauline Collins, Wendy Richard and future Oscar winner, Ben Kingsley. Paul Dawkins played Lowe's boss, Ernest Parbold, but a real-life car crash precluded the actor from series two and Robert Dorning as Wally Hunt replaced him.
The Dorning/Lowe partnership proved popular enough for a further spin-off: Turn Out The Lights, which saw the duo turn to amateur sleuthing following their dismissal from Dobson and Hawks. A year later Arthur Lowe would memorably confirm his lasting comedic immortality and public endearance by donning uniform and taking command of the nation's last, and most eagerly hapless line of defence, in the evergreen classic Dad's Army.
The series title came from Leonard Swindley's oft used phrase "If you'll pardon the expression."
The next Coronation Street spin-off wasn't until 1999. It was called After Hours.
Published on January 17th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (February 2003) for Television Heaven.