Wrinkles: A First Listen

There comes a point in most fan’s existence when their fandom, if it chooses to, reaches the next level. It’s all well and good knowing Red Dwarf inside-out, obsessing about it on forums and writing fan sites when you should be out having sex with people, but what should be remembered at all time is that Red Dwarf is a creation and, as such, it was created by people who, in all likelihood, have written many other things. It’s long been the intention of Ganymede & Titan to explore shows, other than Dwarf, written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor and bring them to you in as full a manner as possible. And now, we have this…

Wrinkles was written by Grant and Naylor as a vehicle for Leeds born stand-up comic Tom Mennard. It aired in two series – one in 1980 and one in 1981 – and represents pretty much the first ‘solo’ project embarked on by the comedy police. Despite its apparent notoriety, it is somewhat neglected in the Dwarf community, with very few people even having a passing interest in these two lost series of original Grant Naylor writing. This is unsurprising, however, given the fact that it is a show that’s never been repeated or seen a commercial release since its original airing.

My attention was brought to Wrinkles through a brief comment made by David Ross in his TOS interview and since that day I’ve been seeking out as much information and as many clips from the shows as I could muster. Before now, this collection of odds and ends have been the fruits of my labour:

  • Wrinkles: A First Look – An interview with Rob Grant revealing the first bits of information I’d managed to gather about the show.
  • Absent Friends Clips – A lovely coincidence saw one episode of Radio 4’s absent friends focus in on a character from Wrinkles, namely Matron, the show’s main authority figure, played by a violin. The clip also features and interview with producer Mike Craig
  • Two clips appear – Finally, two 5 minute clips appear out of the wonderful world of the internet, as Wrinkles fan Mark James sends me two excellent clips from the show, whetting my appetite for more.

And now, finally, I’ve got my hands on two whole episodes. TWO WHOLE EPISODES. Many thanks to Miles Jackson for sending them to me, after seeing my desperate pleas on my old site, The White Hole. So, for your listening pleasure, please feel free to download these two extremely rare episodes of possibly the earliest Grant Naylor work in existence.

Bloody lovely, aren’t they? Whether you’ve listened to them by now or not, please allow me to share my thoughts on these two fascinating pieces of radio.

The Mayor’s Visit

I know this episode is from series 1 because – as you will see from the Wiki entry – we know all the titles from series 2 and this ain’t one of them. It certainly doesn’t feel like a first episode, anyway, as we’re thrown right in as if we’ve known these characters for a few weeks already.

This episode centers around the impending arrival of the Mayor to visit the old folks home. Caretaker Tom (played by Tom Mennard) is found chasing his tail preparing for the visit. The engine to his van has been accidentally thrown away by the housekeeper (played by Anthea Askey) and he needs to have it up and running before Matron finds out about the blunder prior to Mayor’s visit and tour in said van. Hilarity ensues, obviously. In fact, the scene with Mr. P. and Tom attempting to drive the mayor around in the aforementioned knackered van, is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long while.

Special mentions for this episode go to Ballard Berkeley as The Major (playing exactly the same part as he did in Fawlty Towers – still, stick to what you know, eh?) and David Ross as Mr. P. They’re both very well drawn characters and completely lovable. True, many of the jokes stem from them being less than sharp due to old age, but it still manages to be amusing. Manic depressive Arnold (as played by Gordon Salkilld, from off of Dwarf episode Better than Life) is also brilliant in this episode, with a situation involving a salad tray being a personal favourite. It really is a lovely balance of characters.

The show is full of predictable and old fashioned gags, but this approach works beautifully and suits it just fine. In that respect, it’s a very traditional show, if it was not for the fact that both the Mayor and Matron are played by musical instruments (at least, I *think* the Mayor’s played by an instrument…).

As with the next episode, it’s a mixture of great characters, solid gags and that familiar farcical feel.

Mr. P. Can Seriously Damage Your Health

This is episode 1 of series 2 and it was aired on 10th November 1981. The plot revolves around Mr. P. (played by original Kryten, David Ross) giving up his one true pleasure: smoking pipes. If it wasn’t obvious from ‘The Mayor’s Visit’ then this episode confirms that David Ross really is the star of this show. He portrays this character as a sweet, well meaning and slightly batty old man with a great deal of good will and almost child-like innocence and excitement. He’s a brilliant character and a real joy to listen to. Superlative.

Tom Mennard puts in a decent performance, but the necessity to mainly play this character straight in order to feed the jokes to the supporting cast does leave the character in a strange place. That’s not to say he doesn’t get some decent lines, though, and the closing punchline is one of the best of the episode. Not nearly as many as he got in The Mayor’s Visit, however.

This episode also features the added bonus of having most of the episode introductions and credits intact. They’re read by a small girl (complete with pauses from obvious difficulty with reading the script) and they’re really, really excellent. I’m not sure if it was a Rob and Doug stipulation to present them like this, but if it was it’s a nice precurser to the cheeky and unusual nature of the credits from Son of Cliché, where the Radio 4 continuity announcer is mercilessly lampooned week after week.

So, that’s your lot…

…for now, anyway. I’m hoping that releasing these episodes will be a wise move and I hope you all enjoy them. Wrinkles is not commercially available, the BBC no longer have it in the archives and this is basically the only way in which the general public will have the opportunity to hear this splendid show. Having said that, these episodes are not my copyright and it should be mentioned that they remain the property of the BBC.

Obviously, if anyone out there owns any recordings of the show, then I would be hugely grateful if you would allow them to be made available through Ganymede & Titan, as I’m sure you’ll agree that compiling a complete (or even near complete) archive of this show will be a fitting way of doing it the justice it deserves.

For more information on the show and its characters, see Wrinkles‘ DwarfWiki entry.

Tags: ,

14 Responses to Wrinkles: A First Listen

Jump to bottom

  1. G&T Admin

    I’ve only listened to clips so far, but the phrase “I’m afraid I’ll have to ask myself to leave.” is a favourite of mine.

  2. G&T Admin

    I don’t know how many of you have listened to this yet, but the pay off for the first scene of The Mayor’s Visit is one of my favourite things ever. I wont ruin it here, but it was just the nice gentle build up and the re-inforcing of the idea that Mr. P. is just having a batty moment before unleashing the gag that got me. Lovely.

  3. G&T Admin

    Oo, I love Ballard Berkeley. “Yum, yum, eh? Yum, yum!”

  4. Thanks for the shows, hope you find the rest.

    Jon

  5. G&T Admin

    Anyone else listened to these yet?

    I think they’re great – not just interesting as an example of early Rob and Doug stuff, but *actually* funny.

  6. I’m one and a half eps through, and I have bizarre and conflicting feelings. Sometimes it’s sparking, sometimes it’s utterly predictable (but still gets a smile), and sometimes it’s just not very funny.

    What’s especially interesting is the plotting…or, rather, the lack of it. So many things are ‘just’ sketches or running gags. They always said they really learned to plot on Dwarf, and this kinda proves it.

    The invention’s there, though. And the smart, quick characterisation. The Major may be quick shorthand, but Mr P. is just note-perfect; and making ‘superlative’ a character’s tag phrase is delightful.

    It’s a fascinating find, that’s a fact. Great job guys.

  7. G&T Admin

    Yeah – whilst I love it, I think there’s no denying that it can be patchy at times. Exactly the same with Cliché. (Which we still need to cover properly – we’ve done *nothing* on it, and yet I’ve got a copy of all six episodes here. Including the one that BBC7 didn’t broadcast when they did their run three years ago.)

    By Son of Cliché, I think they’re on top form pretty much all of the time, though.

  8. G&T Admin

    “I’m one and a half eps through, and I have bizarre and conflicting feelings. Sometimes it’s sparking, sometimes it’s utterly predictable (but still gets a smile), and sometimes it’s just not very funny.”

    I find that most of the bits that aren’t funny I can derive enjoyment from other areas. It’s such a *nice* show that I don’t really expect it to make me laugh out loud, so when it doesn’t I’m not dissapointed. The example I mentioned further up about the opening scene from The Mayor’s Visit is a good example of me not expecting the scene to go any further than Mr. P. barmyness, and the blowing me away witha grade-A woofer.

    “What’s especially interesting is the plotting…or, rather, the lack of it. So many things are ‘just’ sketches or running gags. They always said they really learned to plot on Dwarf, and this kinda proves it.”

    Yeah, I must admit it’d be nice to have at least *some* plot running through the shows, but what we get certainly gets the job done. It’s not a far cry away from Fawlty Towers, in that the plot ‘elements’ are there purely to carefully stack up bricks destined to be violently knocked over by the last 5 minutes of madness. It’s less the case for Damage Your Health but The Mayor’s Visit draws on the ‘build up and knock them down’ technique alot. The central plot line only exists in that episode to drive on the continuing farce of Tom and Mr. P trying to get around an insurmountable problem, which eventually leads to a marvellous, manic end to the episode. So, the plots *are* there is essence, but they’re suitably thin to serve the purpose they need to.

    “The invention’s there, though. And the smart, quick characterisation. The Major may be quick shorthand, but Mr P. is just note-perfect; and making ‘superlative’ a character’s tag phrase is delightful.”

    God, I love Mr. P.

    The invention certainly is there, you’re right, but I can’t help but feel that the show would have been far *more* inventive if they were so obviously working to spec. I know it was a vehicle for Tom Mennard, but I think the show could’ve benefitted from moving away from him more.

    It’s a fascinating find, that’s a fact. Great job guys.

    Hurrah! I just hope more turn up.

  9. I haven’t listened yet, but I love it!

    Lovely new site btw :-)

  10. Warning Spoilers In this comment if you’ve not heard the shows yet you might
    want to do so first before reading this comment.

    ****
    *****
    ******

    ******
    *****
    *****

    But in the episode Mr P can damage your health, when I heard this…..

    “Who are you calling Touchy? I hope your not calling me touchy?
    I hope it’s not me your calling touchy. Cus if you are there is going to be
    Trouble. …. You want to want to watch it, you want to watch who your
    calling touchy, yes, otherwise you might end up with a fist in your face.”

    After laughing a lot at it in the context of the show, I couldnt but help but
    see it after that as a third cousin twice removed of Quarantine’s famous…..

    “Oh no, now don’t call me tetchy. You know what happens when you
    call me tetchy…….Just as well I can’t hear you. It’s just as well I
    can’t hear you calling me tetchy. You know what happens when you call me
    tetchy.”

    I guess it’s just lucky those 2 characters didnt end up the in the same
    show and scene together ever, cus there would be definate evidence of spoiling
    for a rumble there.

    Jon

  11. G&T Admin

    Well spotted Jon! I actually thought that whe I first heard it (and I think I mention it on a DwarfCast commentary we recorded a few weeks ago, future project fans) and it made me chuckle muchly. Don’t know why I didn’t mention it in the review, actually…

  12. I think it’s fascinating how much of Mr P’s style slipped into the Kryten character – ” A superlative suggestion, sir”. Nothing too direct – just an echo.

    Bizarrely, though, it’s in Series V where I notice it most, which is long after David Ross was replaced in the Kryten part. I could see them writing him that way on III, when they were expecting to cast him (and the boys do have a reputation for writing for their actors). But two series of Robert later? Weirdness.

  13. Having finally got around to downloading ‘The Mayors Visit’, I have to say I have very mixed feelings….

    I was quite entertained for the first ten minutes then found myself being distracted by the simplist of things going on in the house which say’s to me I kind of lost interest.
    First impression reminded me of the sort of tapes my Brother listens to all the time, shows like ‘Round The Horne’ and ‘Beyond our Ken’, similar recording style, incidental music and even the type of humour and gag build up.
    Given that these shows started in the 50’s through the 60’s it makes me wonder why two young writers would go down that road.
    I think the characters were fine although the catchprase ‘superlative’ just grated on me. There is a gentle, almost comfortable humour going on and I think it’s great that some of the show still exists.

    I have to be honest and say the show itself did nothing for me really, the idea of characters played by musical instruments didn’t help and overshadowed any enjoyment I got from the dialogue. I was planning on saving the 2nd download for a rainy day but now doubt I will ever bother. OK, there is a slight spark there, but I’d have to look very hard to find a sign of things to come from Mssrs Grant & Naylor…

    Having said that, historically it’s very interesting and as such, a brilliant find, but soley for entertainment value, not for me…

Jump to top / Jump to 'Recent Comments'

Leave a Reply