Whilst Dad's Army followed the exploits of the men who were unable to fight for king and country as active servicemen during the Second World War, it didn't speculate on what happened to the men that did go away to fight, and specifically what happened to them once they returned. Shine on Harvey Moon did.
After being demobbed from his post as a stores clerk for the RAF stationed in Bombay, former professional footballer Corporal Harvey Moon returned home to the east London district of Hackney only to discover that his family, friends and neighbours had assumed him 'missing in action'. Accordingly his wife, Rita, had mourned his passing by accommodating as many American GI's as possible, whilst his 17-year old daughter had become romantically involved with his best friend, Lou Lewis. His youngest child, Stanley, had become a street-wise kid with a street-wise mouth and as if Harvey didn't have enough to contend with his house had also been flattened in a bombing raid.
And so, through the eyes of Harvey Moon, writers Maurice Gran and Laurence Mark's were able to illustrate how post war Britons went about reassembling their shattered lives amid rationing and rebuilding whilst reflecting accurately the social attitudes of the day-not only towards family life, sex and marriage but British life in general.
Although written as a comedy, the series benefited greatly from being shot without the intrusive laughter track of a studio (real or otherwise) audience. So successful was it that following it's initial 30-minute run of episodes it returned for a second season extended to a full hour and continued through seasons 3 and 4 following Harvey up to 1948. During that time Harvey had rebuilt his life, dated his son's school headmistress and been elected a Labour councillor. Unfortunately there were still setbacks-his new home was destroyed by an unexploded wartime bomb and although Harvey and Rita were eventually reunited, the relationship was a shaky one.
Ten years after the last episode, Shine on Harvey Moon was revived for one more series of six 30-minute episodes and thankfully the writers had lost none of their edge in their depiction of changing British attitudes in the 1950's. The post war blues not yet been replaced by the optimistic outlook of the coming decade, as the story rejoined Harvey (in 1953) having again split from Rita and now living at home with his mother, Nan, whose objections to the influx of coloured immigrants to the country was compounded by Harvey's decision to give room and board to his Jamaican friend, Noah. Harvey's son had grown up and been conscripted into the RAF and his daughter was set to marry Lou.
More than just a comedy series, Shine on Harvey Moon was also an entertaining historical record of changing attitudes and changing lifestyles in a drastically changed world. Taking the approach that a good idea can never be exploited too much and having used a spin on a famous song title ('Shine on Harvest Moon'), writers Gran and Mark's returned to another song title for yet another wartime series, Goodnight Sweetheart (which was also the title of a 'Harvey Moon' episode) in which an unsuspecting television engineer in the 1980's discovers a 'time corridor' to the war torn East End of London. However, and far more successfully, whilst working on Shine on Harvey Moon the writers picked up on the special chemistry that existed between two of it's stars; childhood friends Linda Robson and Pauline Quirk, and as a result wrote a series specifically for them - Birds of a Feather.
Published on January 29th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (2001) for Television Heaven.