Porridge

Porridge

1974 - United Kingdom

Originally sentenced in 1973 to a one-off stretch under the alias Prisoner and Escort, in a series showcasing the inimitable character acting skills of veteran star Ronnie Barker, entitled Seven of One, co-creators Ian La Frenais' and Dick Clement's inspired comedic concept was granted an extended term of servitude by the BBC in 1974, under its more notorious moniker of Porridge.

Porridge cell-mated millions of appreciative viewers with the brilliant comic creation of Barker's whilly old lag, Norman Stanley Fletcher, a middle-aged habitual offender vainly trying to bide his time, serve his term, and score a few points against the rigid prison system in the process. 

The majority of Fletcher's 'little victories' were achieved at the expense of arch nemesis Mr. Mackay, embodied in a superbly regimented and unbendingly authoritarian form by Scots actor Fulton Mackay. Aiding, abetting, (and occasionally hindering) these twin titans of comic incarceration, was a supporting cast of incomparable talent amongst which such characters as Brian Glover's brain-dead Mr. "I read a book once-green it was" Heslop, Fletcher's young and naïve cell mate Lenny Godber, (the talented and much missed Richard Beckinsale), weak-willed Warder Mr. Barrowclough (Brian Wilde), and perhaps most portentously of all, Barker's protégé and co-star from another hugely successful Seven of One spin-off: Open All Hours, David Jason

Sadly for us, Fletcher's term of imprisonment ended in 1977. We revisited him in 1978 to witness his life on the outside in Going Straight, however, the loss of confinement had also signalled the loss of the original concept's magic. A feature film version allowed us one final hark back to Fletcher's glory days behind the high Victorian walls of Her Majesty's Prison Slade in 1979, before the unwelcome combination of Beckinsale's untimely death and Barker's opting for early retirement, ended the series chances of continuing forever. 

Porridge may be no more, but rest assured, Norman Stanley Fletcher will continue to serve an indefinite and on-going sentence at his admirers pleasure.

Published on January 21st, 2019. Written by SRH (1999) "I'm only in prison because of my beliefs. I believed the night watchman was asleep." for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

The Jensen Code

Children's drama series broadcast over 13 episodes from February 1973.

Also released in 1974

A Warning to the Curious

A ghostly tale in which a treasure hunter visits the English coast in search of a lost, fabled crown that supposedly helps protect Great Britain against invasion, but uncovers something much more sinister

Also starring Peter Vaughan

Faces of Jim

Jimmy Edwards series of one-off sitcoms that introduced a minor supporting character actor who would go on to become 'the guv'nor' of British comedy...Ronnie Barker.

Also starring Ronnie Barker

The Gathering Storm

It's the mid-1930s and MP Winston Churchill (Albert Finney), once the most dynamic Member of Parliament, finds both his public and private life in turmoil in this award winning co-produced UK & US drama.

Also starring Ronnie Barker

Send in the Girls

Short-lived female-led series following the adventures of a group of ‘girls for hire’ as promoters for live sporting events or sales promotions, to add a bit of glamour to proceedings

Also starring Brian Glover

It's A Square World

Former Goon Michael Bentine in a surreal sketch show; combining satire, zany slapstick and animated models.

Also starring Ronnie Barker

Six Dates With Barker

Series of six self-contained sitcoms starring Ronnie Barker

Also starring Ronnie Barker