Kaleidoscope have released a double DVD of Frankie Howerd rare Shows and interviews. Called ‘The Lost Television Pilots’ there are two Pilots, as well as two further shows and 3 interviews.
Programmes made on foreign shores, namely Australia, Canada and the interviews from the States.
To start with we have ‘Up the Convicts’ made by the 7 Network in Australia in 1976. As its title suggests it’s another reinvention of his popular BBC show ‘Up Pompeii’, with plenty of double-entendres, with Frankie addressing the camera and talking to the audience. Set in 1820’s Sydney, he plays Jeremiah Shirk, a convict who works as a servant for Sir Montague and Lady Fitzgibbon. And in this particular story (Episode 3) his master is trying to persuade Jeremiah to marry, resulting in many humorous avoidance tactics.
The episode is clumsily edited, they obviously had to do many pickups during the recording, there’re not difficult to spot!
But this doesn’t detract from its entertainment value.
The episode ends with a curtain call, with a credit less wide shot, all the cast, with Frankie shaking their hands. I assume the lack of credits indicates this was the version made for international sales.
Technical quality: it’s a bit soft, and still has some original Master 2” Quaduplex artefacts, but it mainly suffers from being archived onto a cassette format, probably U-Matic.
Four sixty minute (55m R/T) episodes were made. The series reunites Frankie with Wallas Eaton, who played Senator Ludicrus Sextus in 8 episodes of ‘Up Pompeii’, here he plays 'Sir Montague Fitzgibbon', Jeremiah Shirks owner.
Also Playing the part of 'Quinney the Garbo' is Lee Young, Frankie’s ex-partner, portraying, in similar vein, the part of the ‘Genie’ he played in the BBC series ‘Whoops Bagdad’ Episode 3 ‘"Genie of the Bottle"
For the next two shows we move across to Canada.
‘The Frankie Howerd Show’ was made by CBC ( Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ) 13 episodes were produced between 26th February to 6th June 1976.
Originally titled ‘Oooh, Canada’
In this series, Frankie, an unemployed British immigrant, has moved to a rooming house in Toronto. While there, he tried every occupation a man of his talents could get while maintaining a life in Canada. Through the course of the series, he had to confront the different Canadian institutions that might put him on the road to success. In the Pilot, Frankie gets a job as a rivet carrier and in the next episode he becomes ‘Francis A Howerd from the London school of decorating and sticking it up’!
Plenty of monologues, and talking to camera. The perfect vehicle for Frankie. The series is not dissimilar to the ITV series ‘The Howerd Cofessions, made by Thames TV the same year.
Included in this compilation is the Pilot Episode as well as Episode 1. The Series rated well, holding its own with many American imported shows.
Now we move onto a different Frankie, ‘the compare’.
In the States ,The Gong Show, was a very popular amateur 30 minute talent show with a judging panel of 3 celebrities. The programme was devised and presented by a very charismatic figure called Chuck Barris.
ITV decided to have a go at the format. So the next Pilot on the DVD is the UK attempt, presented by our Frankie and made by Southern Television in August 1977.
The 3 celebrity panel were Diana Dors, Russell Harty and Madeline Smith, with Bella Emberg feigning disinterest as the act scorer.
The show was Directed and Produced by Mike Mansfield. Famous at the time for his flamboyant performances in the studio gallery, directing the children’s Pop show ‘Supersonic’
The acts on the show were;
You’ll have to buy the DVD to find out who wins!
Frankie was off script on this show, he had to adlib to comments made by the panel and guests. For me, this show is worth the price of the DVD alone.
The show wasn’t picked up by the network, and the pilot was never transmitted, and that was the end of that, or was it?
When Channel 4 began, they purchased the original Gong Show and aired it, it proved very popular and in September 1985 they called on Frankie’s services again, and Gambit Production made another pilot. The channel aired it on 9th December 1985. Frankie Howerd hosted, with Barbara Windsor, Tony Blackburn and Barry Cryer on the panel.
The time wasn’t right in 1977 and it proved less right in 1985 and the show stopped there, this time for good.
This channel 4 version is not on the DVD which is a pity.
The Final part of his world trip is in 1977 when he appeared on various chats shows in the US. He was promoting the Film ‘Sargent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band’; he was playing ‘Mr Mustard’.
The extras on the DVD are:
‘The Merv Giffin Show’ where it all went a bit flat. The American audience just didn’t get Frankie’s Humour.
‘The Mike Douglas Show’ Which was an on the set Junket, a very 'matter of fact' interview.
By far the best interview was on ‘Ryan’s Roost’ with Paul Ryan. Frankie was very relaxed and informal, the pressure was off, as it was broadcast on a local cable station. The full 27 minute interview is included on this compilation, the longest ‘one to one’ interview I’ve ever seen with Frank.
This interview only exists in Monochrome and appears to be a domestic copy.
In conclusion, whether you’re a Frankie super fan or have an interest in British comedy history, this DVD set will make a welcome addition to your library.