Sunday 25 June 2017

My Review of Sykes: The Complete Series


As I've previously blogged, Network On Air will be releasing the Complete Sykes on DVD, tomorrow 26 June! Sykes has always been one of my very favourite classic comedy series and I was thrilled when offered the chance of a sneak preview of the new DVD set. The set comprises all 68 episodes of the colour series broadcast on the BBC between 1972 and 1979. The first colour series from 1972 was issued on DVD some years back however this is the first time every episode from the relaunched programme has been available for fans to own.

Sykes is a glorious semi-surreal domestic sitcom which at the heart is all about the joyous chemistry between long time collaborators Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques. As twins Eric and Hat, life at Sebastopol Terrace, East Acton, was always full of surprises. While the series features a host of well-known, colourful guest stars, for me it's all about Sykes and Jacques. Sykes, who also wrote all the episodes, is playing the slightly pompous arrogant little man, finding himself in a host of tricky situations. Jacques meanwhile steps away from the bombastic Matron persona of the Carry Ons to play a softer character who is normally the voice of reason when her brother gets above himself. I always loved Sykes for the fact the writing very very rarely touched upon Hattie's size, something which could sometimes dominate in the Carry Ons. Sykes features by far some of my favourite performances from Hattie, surely one of our all-time greatest comic actresses.


For me the first series from 1972 features the best quality scripts and stories. Many of them are simply remade from the original 1960s black and white Sykes and A ... which ran from 1960 to 1965. That doesn't matter - if they feel at all familiar it's only in a comforting sense. My all-time favourite episode has to be the one featuring Peter Sellers as the escaped convict Tommy Grando. This episode, "Stranger" features a rare television performance from Sellers, who obviously goes back a long way with Eric. The chemistry between the three lead actors is superb and it's clear they can hardly keep a straight face throughout. The studio audience reaction is catching and the whole episode a complete joy.

Sykes also features other regular characters. The peerless Richard Wattis plays the snooty, snobbish next door neighbour Mr Brown, very much Eric's nemesis. The pair work brilliantly against each other. Such a shame that Wattis passed away during the run - his absence from the later series is keenly felt. Also along for the entire run is Please Sir! favourite Deryck Guyler as P.C Corky Turnbull. Corky is probably the world's most incompetent police constable but Guyler brings along a breezy sense of comedy and easy going charm and is a vital part of the series' success. Making several appearances throughout the run is Carry On favourite and Hattie's best friend, the wonderful Joan Sims. As bakery owner Madge Kettlewell, Joan is Eric's love interest and very nearly marries him at one stage! Joan is great as Madge and there are some fantastic bloopers included of Joan cracking up on set with Eric and Hattie which show Sims' tremendous sense of fun. It's just a shame she didn't feature more often in the show.


A host of other brilliant, well-known talent features in the series. The likes of Bernard Bresslaw, Roy Kinnear, John Le Mesurier, Joan Hickson, Dinah Sheridan, Sheila Steafel, Michael Ripper, Derek Francis, Les Dawson, Chic Murray, Hugh Paddick and Bill Maynard all appear throughout the run. The quality of the writing and the performances from all these wonderful talents really does make Sykes a cut above many other comedy series of the time.

The DVD set isn't cheap however it contains pristine versions of all 68 episodes, totaling nearly 2000 minutes of classic BBC comedy, of the kind they just don't make any more. The set has some interesting extras. They include a special interview with the late, great Eric Sykes; a special Spotlight programme on the comedian; behind the scenes footage from the studio as the series was filmed and an extensive booklet of extra information on the series written by television historian Andrew Pixley. 


The chance to own a complete set of this classic comedy is just too good an opportunity to miss. I grew up catching repeats of this series on BBC2 and sadly it appears yet another one of those shows that is just never broadcast on the television any more. This newly presented DVD box set is the perfect opportunity to relive some classic comedy and see some of our favourite comedy stars doing what they do best!

Sykes: The Complete Series is available from tomorrow, Monday 26 June.

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