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.