Friday, November 19, 2010
Please, Sir! - 1971
This was a popular sitcom in Britain in the late 60s/early 70s. Robin is listed as only having appeared in one episode from 1971. I found someone on an online marketplace selling bootleg copies of the entire series PLUS a spinoff movie. Did I really want to puchase all that for one small glimpse of Robin playing some minor character? No. So I politely asked the guy if he’d be willing to sell me JUST that episode, plus a couple other Robin episodes from other series he was selling. Um, sorry, no can do. Really? You’re already bootlegging stuff and can’t push a button and re-copy 3 shows onto one disc for me? Sigh. But I held my tongue, who knows, this guy might be my only source. So I made an offer for the whole series PLUS another whole series that had just one Robin episode. Offer accepted.
Well, as I paid for the whole 4-season series plus its spin-off movie (where the class goes to camp), I might as well get my money’s worth and watch it. Actually, it’s not too bad. Kinda funny. Enjoyable. First season is filmed in black and white and is a cross between the movie “To Sir With Love” and “Welcome Back Kotter” A new teacher in a high school located in a working class section of London is given the school’s most unruly class of seniors: 5C. In England, at least at that time, not sure of now, grades were known as “Forms”. The 5 in 5C means 5th Form, roughly equal to our Senior class in High school. But if you want to go on to university it seems that there is a 6th form as well, but these kids certainly won’t be doing that. The C may stand for the not as smart group? “A” may be the smart group? I’m assuming that part.
So….of course the kids give the new teacher a hard time at first but also of course he quickly wins them over even though all their previous teachers have quit in disgust. And the viewers find out that these kids, underneath their smart mouths, have hearts of gold.
Robin originally tried out for the role of “Duffy” but lost it to the worst looking “teenager” imaginable. When the series starts in 1968 Peter Cleall, who plays him, is 24 years old! But looks much, much, older, despite his long shaggy blond hair. An 18 year old Robin would have been a lot more believable as a high school student. Funny enough, he is also the guy who played the aging Gary Glitter-esque rocker in “Confessions of a Pop Performer”!
Most of the other main characters also probably are not played by teenagers. There’s the “sexy” one, Sharon, who looks like a voluptuious woman in her mid-20s. I am amazed by her beautiful thick hair though! There’s the dowdy religious girl, Maureen, who has a schoolgirl crush on Sir. There’s the learning-disabled one who is abused at home. The streetwise one who boasts about how tough he is but has an overprotective Mum at home (played by the same actress who plays the nosy neighbor in “Beryl’s Lot”). And the one I like, the sharply dressed blond guy, who looks the youngest of the lot.
Despite Robin officially being in only one episode, in his autobiography he mentions he appeared in a few episodes in 1971 as a character named “Eric”. After wading through the first 3 seasons I finally come to season 4’s episode 6 titled “A.W.O.L.” He is playing a character named “Eddie”, not “Eric”. Faulty memory on the part of Robin? He is also not in ANY other episodes. Hmphs.
By the 4th season, the original class has graduated and it’s a big changeover at Fenn Street School. The show no longer focuses on just one class or teacher. Nor does it focus on a just few main students. But the kids are all really kids now, and definitely look like it. Each episode brings in different kids for the stories to revolve around. New teachers are introduced as well.
In “A.W.O.L” two boys in their late teens have been ditching class and hanging out at the local billiard hall. Robin plays an apathetic young man, none too smart, who also hangs out there. They are involved in mischievous petty theivery. A popular new teacher comes down to have words with him and to talk the kids into coming back.
It isn’t the best display of acting talent I’ve seen, but Robin sure looks hot with his long fluffy hair and groovy jacket!
On a side note, the actor that plays the energetic and dynamic young new teacher is Richard Warwick, who was in a few of Robin’s other works, including “If….” And went on to become good friends with him in real life, according to his book. He’s fun to watch in “Please Sir”, very flamboyant and cheerful. I looked him up on the web to see what he’s been doing lately and unfortunately, he died of AIDS in 1997. Too bad.
Season 4 was the last season of the show, and I can see why. Characters come and go which leaves the viewer confused. Richard Warwick’s character, who comes to the school with much fanfare, disappears all of a sudden without explanation. There’s so many different kids you can’t keep track of who’s who. The last few episodes focus on the core staff of elderly teachers who’ve been there since the beginning and get on your nerves after awhile. Why the show just couldn’t have continued to follow the original characters instead of spinning them off into a new show “The Fenn Street Gang” is puzzling.