Derek Nimmo excelled in playing weak, distracted and inadequate young men and was much in demand in the 1960s appearing in a string of hit sitcoms. It had bought him, by his own admission, "a near-impossible quantity of parts" which he readily admitted were "such good ones that I've been unable to refuse them even though it meant some careful organising. "I haven't had a day off for weeks," he told the Radio Times in July 1967, "and won't get one until September at the earliest."
After featuring in such TV shows as The World of Wooster (playing Bertie's friend Bingo Little in one and Lord Emsworth's son in the other), All Gas and Gaiters (As the Chaplain, Rev. Mervyn Noote), and The Bed-Sit Girl, he was given the opportunity to lead another comedy series in 1967, filming during the day whilst at the same time appearing nightly on the West End stage in Charlie Girl and playing a character on radio's The Dales. He had also just signed a two-year recording contract.
Sorry I'm Single, written by Ronald Chesney and Ronald Wolfe, was built around Nimmo's 'eternal student' characterisation. Here he is called David who is living in a large house in Hampstead that has been converted into bedsits. The other tenants are Brenda (Gwendolyn Watts), recently divorced and prepared to examine the potentialities for future husbands from quite unlikely material, Karen (Elizabeth Knight), who is constantly at loggerheads with Brenda, and Suzy (Pik-Sen Lim), a Chinese student from Hong Kong, who - it is hinted, has a simmering affection for David - although their relationship often hovers between platonic and romantic.
Despite being gainfully employed in just about every aspect of showbiz, Nimmo would bemoan the fact that as an actor he was unlikely to be offered any serious parts. "I played a small part in the film Casino Royale and I sneaked into my local cinema to see it. My entrance in the film was perfectly serious yet before I said anything a titter went round the audience."
Only nine episodes of Sorry I'm Single were made and by the time it came to an end, Nimmo was moving on to his next sitcom, where he would once again don his vestments for All Gas and Gaiters. By the 1970s his television appearances became fewer and further between when, as a theatrical impresario, he took his own touring production (Intercontinental Entertainment) to 30 countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Oman and the UAE, and in doing so provided himself with material for many stories on the successful radio comedy - celebrity panel game Just a Minute.
Nimmo received many awards, including the 1990 Benedictine After Dinner Speaker of the Year. He was made a Freeman of the City of London, and the University of Leicester recognised his contribution to entertainment with an honorary master's degree in 1996, but his life was cut tragically short at the age of 68 after he fell down a stone staircase into the basement of his home. During a hugely successful 1960s, Nimmo pretty much encapsulated the perpetually confused "silly ass" type, much like Harry Worth in the early sixties and Hugh Laurie did in the 1980s in A Bit of Fry and Laurie as well as, to a more manic extent, in the Blackadder series.
Published on July 4th, 2023. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.