Tuesday, 26 January 2016

327 Mind Your Language

First viewed : January 1978

After  Kick  Off  came  a  comedy  hour  on  ITV. First  off  was  this  favourite  ( or  at  least  second  favourite ) whipping  series  for  the  pc  brigade.

Mind  Your  Language  was  set  in  what  would  now  be  called  an  ESOL  class  presided  over  by  the  hapless  Jeremy  Brown ( Barry  Evans, a  promising  young  actor  in  the  sixties  whose  film  career  seemed  to  have  stalled ). His  class comprised  people  of  various  nationalities  with  varying  degrees  of  competence  in  the  English  language. The  humour  derived  in  roughly  equal  parts  from  the  characters  playing  up  to  their  national  stereotypes and  their  creative  misinterpretations  of  the  language  they  were  learning.

Undeniably  the  series  did  rely  for  good  or  ill  on  national  stereotypes  but  I  wouldn't  call  it  racist  because  the  non-white  characters  were  not  treated  any  less  fairly  or  portrayed  as  any   more  ridiculous  than  their  Swedish   or  Italian  counterparts. Unlike  the  irredeemable  Love  Thy  Neighbour  , Mind  Your  Language  never  resorted  to  racist  abuse   to  get  laughs  and  the  characters  were  generally  pretty  tolerant  in  their  relations with  each  other. I  think  the  Germans  had  most  cause  for  complaint,  being  represented  by  Anna  Schmidt , a  frigid  and  severe  blonde played  by  the  non-Teutonic  Anna  Harding. The  characters  I  remember  most  were  the  jolly  Pakistani  Ali  Nadim,  though  this  was  probably  because  he  was  played  by  Dino  Shafeek , instantly  recognisable  as  Char  Wallah  from  It  Ain't  Half  Hot  Mum  and  busty  French  sexpot Danielle  ( Francois  Pascal ).

I  enjoyed  it  but  did  not  stick  with  it  after  the  first  series. It  was  very  popular  around  the  world  particularly  in  those  countries  who  were  represented  in  the  class.  Despite  this,  and  the  fact  that  he originally  commissioned  the  series  Michael  Grade  cancelled  it  in  1981  ostensibly  through  distaste  at  offensive  stereotyping. Grade  is  Jewish  so  it  can  be  taken  at  face  value though  it's  possible  he  needed  a  daring  decision  on  his  c.v.  and  chopping  a  popular  series  he  personally  disliked  fitted  the  bill.

The  continued  success  of  the  series  abroad  prompted  an  independent  company  Tri  Films  to  produce  another  13  episodes  in  1986  with  about  half  the  original  cast including  Evans  but  not  Pascal  who  had  moved  to  Hollywood  when  the series  finished. Grade  had  moved  on  to  the  BBC  by  that  time  but  the  individual  ITV  companies  were  divided  in  their  response. Anglia, Granada  and  Central  showed  the  whole  series   while  the  others  showed  only  a  few  episodes  or  none  at  all.

Once  that  had  finished  Evans  found  work  very  hard  to  come  by. He  made a  surprise  return  to  film  in  1993 in  The  Mystery  of  Edwin Drood  but  it  failed  to  re-ignite  his  career  and  he  ended  up  working  as  a  taxi  driver. His  death  in  February  1997  remains  a  mystery. His  body  was  found  at  his  home  when  police  went  there  to  tell  him  his  stolen  car  had  been  found. He  had  a  head  wound  and  high  levels  of  alcohol  in  his  blood  but  there  was  insufficient  evidence  to  charge  any  of  the  car  thieves. The  Coroner  returned  an  open  verdict. Pascal  returned  to  the  UK  in  1987;  since  then  she  has  worked  exclusively  in  the  theatre  but  is  listed  as  having  a  couple  of  film  projects  in  production.

No comments:

Post a Comment