TV: THE LARKINS

by Peter Tatchell (copyright 2010)

When commercial television came to Britain in September 1955 it spelt the end of the B.B.C.’s monopoly as sole supplier of home entertainment and was a trigger for radio becoming the lesser medium within a handful of years. The public quickly embraced the American programming style and even the advertisements.

It didn’t take long for U.S. sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Jack Benny Program and Sergeant Bilko to inspire local counterparts, with The Army Game and The Larkins being ITV’s most popular early favourites.

Created by full-time clerk and part-time piano player Fred Robinson, the prototype of The Larkins had initially been written ten years earlier for an amateur production of Robinson’s local scout troop.

In the meantime Peggy Mount had gained enormous success with her portrayal of the loud-mouthed mother-in-law from hell in the stage play (and later film adaptation) of Sailor Beware!. ATV saw the role of East End housewife Ada Larkin as an ideal vehicle for her talents and Mount was quick to suggest David Kossoff for the part of her downtrodden husband Alf in the proposed series. It was clever casting as, though born a cockney, Kossoff had specialised in European foreign types, notably in Benny Hill’s Who Done It? and Peter Sellers’ The Mouse That Roared.

Also signed for the show were Ruth Trouncer and Ronan O’Casey as the Larkins’ married daughter and ex-G.I. son-in-law (Joyce and Jeff Rogers) with Shaun O’Riordan playing teenager Eddie Larkin. Barbara Mitchell, George Broderick and Hilary Bamberger completed the cast as next door neighbours Hetty, Sam and daughter Myrtle Prout.

The Larkins premiered three years (almost to the day) of the ITV launch and was a hit from the start. Loudmouthed Ada and timid husband Alf welcomed son Eddie back from his stint in national service (though being stationed in London he’d been able to spend all his weekends at home) and set about finding him a job.

Alf divides his time being manager of the factory works canteen and a member of the fraternal FLUIDS Club, while Ada is busily engaged with nosy neighbour Hetty. Also on the scene is daughter Joyce and her comic book writer husband Jeff from the other side of the Atlantic.

So popular was the initial run of six episodes that The Larkins were back for a Boxing day special a couple of months later and a follow up season a mere six weeks after that.

By the time of a third batch of programmes (in February 1960) the team had also filmed a movie spinoff for theatrical release. Called Inn for Trouble (the plot centring on Alf and Ada running a pub), most of the TV cast were joined by Carry-On regulars Leslie Phillips and Charles Hawtrey, A.E. Matthews, Stanley Unwin, Graham Stark and Irene Handl. Also on hand were Will Hay alumnus Graham Moffatt and one-time Sherriff of Nottingham Alan Wheatley, with the show’s writer Fred Robinson also making an appearance.

After a fourth season at the end of 1960s (and a total of twenty-six episodes) it was decided to bring the show to an end while still a favourite. But three years later, the Larkins were back for an encore.

The storyline had Alf being retrenched from his job at the works canteen and the family home acquired for demolition. With the children now out on their own, he and Ada use his severance pay to take over a worker’s café (not a million miles away from the situation in the movie).

Most of the original supporting characters were written out, with only Hetty Prout returning, having taken a job as a waitress in the enterprise. Also involved in the new version was Beyond Our Ken player Hugh Paddick as monetarily-challenged Major Osbert Rigby-Soames, who rents a room on the premises. Ronan O’Casey also made a guest appearance (as Jeff) in the final episode of the season.

The new locale also saw several other newcomers as regular customers at the café despite becoming occasional targets for Ada’s wrath.

After a further series in mid-1964 The Larkins finally said goodbye for good.

The teaming of Peggy Mount and David Kossoff had worked well and telerecordings of all forty episodes had also been enjoyed by viewers on the other side of the globe in Australia.

EPISODE GUIDE

Starring Peggy Mount, David Kossoff, Barbara Mitchell and (series 1 to 4) Ronan O’Casey, Ruth Trouncer, George Broderick, Hilary Bamberger, Shaun O’Riordan and (series 5 and 6) Hugh Paddick.

Scripts by Fred Robinson

Series 1: ATV Fridays September 19 to October 24 1958
Wide Open House
Ada prepares a celebration for Eddie who has completed his national service.
Gun-in-Law
The arrival of additional guests at a tea for Eddie’s prospective employer causes confusion
Cat Happy (aka Catastrophe)
When Ada agrees to mind a prize-winning cat it results in aggravation within the Larkins household.
Angry Young Man
Jeff’s typewriter turns up in Eddie’s scout troop’s bring-and-buy sale.
Telly-Ho!
Alf prefers looking at holiday slides to buying a television set.
Ale and Farewell
Alf’s elevation to official Pot Holder at the local Fluid’s Club leads to a rash promise about maintaining his sobriety.

Christmas special: ITV Friday December 26 1958
Ada invites a TV mechanic to Christmas dinner.

Series 2: ATV Mondays February 2 to March 9 1959
Strictly Commercial
When Ada is offered a role in a television advertisement for soap powder, husband Alf is in line to do one promoting beer.
Teddy for Eddie
Eddie’s friendship with some local Teddy Boys causes problems in the household.
Haul for One
The family appears on the way to winning a fortune in the football pools.
Gift Horse Power
Ada would prefer a washing machine to a clothes horse as a birthday gift.
Total Welfare
While Hettie is in hospital Ada takes charge of the Prout household.
Very Important Parent
When his father is due to visit from America, Jeff tries teaching Eddie how to play baseball to impress him.

Series 3: ATV Mondays February 8 to March 14 1960
Home Win
The Larkins are at loggerheads with the rent man over the state of disrepair in their home.
All the Answers
Watching the TV quiz Dotto inspires Alf to suggest Eddie go to Night School.
A Fiddle of Froth
Alf wins twelve crates of beer but has trouble keeping news of a proposed party from Ada.
Come Cleaner
Alf is cautious when Ada wants to see a vacuum cleaner demonstrated.
Stranger than Friction
After arguments with Joyce and Alf, Ada is forced to confront her inner self.
Operation Neighbour
When Ada and Hetty have a falling out it escalates to hostilities between the Prouts and the Larkins.

Series 4: ATV Saturdays September 10 to October 15 1960
Unlucky Strike
When Alf goes on strike at the firm’s canteen, Ada ends up taking over as manager.
Little Big Brother
Hetty’s brother Sidney becomes embroiled in Ada’s attempts at do-it-yourself carpentry.
Gamblin’ Fever
There’s some strong opposition when Ada suggests gambling as a fundraiser for the church social.
Frightful Nightful
A night watching a scary movie at the pictures is followed by some strange happenings back home.
Match or Scratch
Alf and Ada disagree over whether she should get involved in some match-making between the Vicar and a local spinster.
Well Turned Worm
A newspaper personality test leads Alf to think he might be a hen-pecked husband.

Series 5: ATV Saturdays November 9 to December 28 1963
Café Ole
Major Rigby-Soames suggests the opening night of the Larkins’ new café should have a Spanish theme.
Teenage Terror
details unknown
Darts and Flowers
Alf and Ada’s wedding anniversary coincides with an important darts match.
Help Unwanted
Everyone but Ada wants to sack elderly cleaner Fanny Gannett.
Beatle Drive
Alf has to come up with something to entice Georgie away from scientific experiments and a visitor from Liverpool provides a solution.
Trading Stampede
Alf’s friend Vic shows an interest in Ada’s trading stamps.
Strained Relation
Jeff’s visit home for Christmas isn’t all that harmonious.
Saloon Barred
Ada’s behaviour gets Alf banned from his favourite pub.

Series 6: ATV Saturdays July 11 to August 22 1964
Think Quicker, Vicar
Ada and Alf  decide it would be an act of Christian charity to meddle in the Vicar’s home life.
Celebration Blues
Alf wants to make sure there’ll be lots of beer at the birthday party.
Gypsy’s Warning
Ada and Alf argue about what he should do with his race winnings.
Minder’s Keepers
Osbert has told a relative he desperately needs money to repay a ruthless Ada.
Counter Attraction
The attractive new waitress at Joe’s Snack Bar is enticing customers away from the cafe.
Dizzy Rich
Hetty is beneficiary of a sizeable sum when her uncle dies.
Country Style
Ada and Hetty decide to enjoy a healthy fortnight’s holiday at a cottage in the country.

 

Film

Inn for Trouble (Eros, 89 minutes) released April 3 1960

Starring Peggy Mount, David Kossoff, Leslie Phillips, Glyn Owen, A.E. Matthews, Yvonne Monlaur, Ronan O’Casey, Shaun O’Riordan, Alan Wheatley, Willoughby Goddard, Gerald Campion, Stanley Unwin, Graham Stark, Irene Handl, Graham Moffatt, Charles Hawtrey, Esma Cannon, Barbara Mitchell, Frank Williams, Edwin Richfield, Fred Robinson

 

DVD

Series 1
Network DVD 7953074 (2009)
contains all 6 episodes plus the Christmas special

Series 2
Network DVD 7953228 (2010)
contains all 6 episodes

Series 3
Network DVD 7953228 (2010)
contains all 6 episodes

Series 4
Network DVD 7953447 (2011)
contains all 6 episodes

Series 5
Network DVD 7953676 (2012)
contains all 8 episodes

Series 6
Network DVD 7953755 (2012)
contains all 7 episodes

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