The Magnificent Evans

1984 | United Kingdom

Another fine comedy starring Ronnie Barker in a series of scripts from the pen of Roy Clarke, who had first tried out the idea of using a photographer as the central character in a 1974 Comedy Playhouse presentation called Pygmalion Smith, which starred the late Leonard Rossiter. 

Ten years later Clarke dusted down the idea and approached Barker, for whom he'd already created the character of Arkwright in Open All Hours. "I have always wanted to play a Welsh character." Barker told Radio Times interviewer and reporter Renate Kohler in 1984. "The sound is so attractive and there are so many more things you can say in a Welsh accent. There's a rich vein of comedy to be tapped there." 

The Magnificent Evans was set in rural Wales and Barker's character, Plantagenet Evans, described himself modestly in his own publicity as a 'Genius, Photographer and Man of Letters.' Kohler described Plantagenet Evans as a 'grandiose, hectoring Scaramouch driven by sordid motive and lust, but who is, ultimately lovable.' Lovable enough to be ably assisted by his long-standing fiancé Rachel (played by Sharon Morgan) although one would suspect that her motive for working so closely with him was to ensure his wandering hands did not wander too far and his wandering eye didn't wander too wide. 

When Evans wasn't at the lens of a camera he could be found dealing in a somewhat dubious sideline of wood burning stoves and antiques of debatable origin. Kohler also made a very astute observation when she noted that Evans was a familiar Barker characterisation "-a bully, but a memorably witty one." It was the type of quality that Barker bought to the roles of his most famous sitcom characters such as the aforementioned Arkwright and Norman Stanley Fletcher in Porridge. In fact, on the one occasion that his character didn't have that rough, almost masochistic edge -in Clarence, Barker failed to capture the hearts of his adoring public, proving that in sitcom land, at least, no one loves a nice guy.

Published on January 2nd, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.