Sunday, 7 August 2016

460 Holding The Fort

First  viewed : 5  September  1980

After  his  huge  success  in  the  semi-comic  role  of  Tristan  Farnon  in  All  Creatures  Great  And  Small  the  search  was  on  for  a  suitable  comedy  vehicle  for  the  likeable  Peter  Davison .

The  first  one  he  landed  in  was  Holding  the  Fort  on  ITV . It's  also  notable  as  the  first  collaboration  of  the  durable  comic  writing  team  of  Laurence  Marks  and  Maurice  Gran.

The  premise  was  that  Russell  Milburn  ( Davison )  didn't  earn  enough  as  a  brewery  manager   in  London  to  support  his  wife  Penny  ( Patricia  Hodge )  and  their  baby  daughter in  the  appropriate  style. When   the  firm  re-locate  to  Workington  it's  decided  that  he  should  stay  at  home  with  the  baby  and  run  a  home-brew  business  while  Penny  returns  to  the  Army  ( in  which  she  is  a  captain ). The  series  might  have  had  something  to  say  about  the  upending  of  traditional  gender  roles  in  the  new  decade  but  it  was  never  very  amusing.

What  made  the  series  unpalatable  for  me  was  the  third  member  of  the  cast.  It  launched  an  abiding  pet  hate  of  mine. I  simply  cannot  bear  Matthew  Kelly  , making  his  TV  debut  here  as  Russell's  scrounging , over-opinionated  lorry  driving  friend  Fitz. He  was  offensively  hairy  but  it's  that  voice  - loud , singsong  and  ever-so-camp - that  just  goes  through  me. It  didn't  help  that  he  was  playing  an  obnoxious  hectoring  character  ( it's  worth  noting  that  he  was  a  member  of  Vanessa  Redgrave's  Worker's  Revolutionary  Party  at  the  time  which  may  have  helped  win  him  the  role ).  

In  the  only  episode  I  remember  clearly  the  couple  get  the  opportunity  to  re-locate  to  the  Lake  District   after  a  holiday  there  but  ridiculously  allow  Fitz  to  dissuade  them  by  pointing  out  the  location  of  Windscale   ( former  name  of  Sellafield )  on  the  map. Coupled  with  the  disparaging  references  to  Workington  in  the  first  episode,   I  can't  imagine  this  series  had  too  many  fans  in  the  Border  TV  region.

It  ran  for  three  seasons  until  1982  when  Davison  became  Dr  Who.

1 comment:

  1. You comment about it not being too popular in Cumbria may be true - I grew up nine miles down the road from Workington, plus my dad did over 20 years at Sellafield, and I've never heard of this show in my life!