Don't Drink The Water DVD

Saturday, 30 October 2010 16:15

Buried deep in television history is the fact that sit-com On The Buses was a huge success.  In co-creator Ronald Wolfe’s forthcoming memoirs, a foreword by Michael Grade notes that one season of the Reg Varney vehicle was scheduled against Morecambe & Wise on a Sunday night, and "the tales of the goings on in the Butler household and the bus depot beat the nation’s favourite comedians in the ratings game".

With that sort of pedigree, it was only to be expected that following the closure of the bus-based adventures in 1973 that something new would be forthcoming.  Step forward Stephen Lewis, who as Inspector Blake had been the pantomime villain in the series. He became the central character in Don’t Drink The Water.  Set in Spain, Blakey and his sister have decamped from strike-torn Britain, and the duo finds it difficult to adjust to their new villa and surroundings.

Don't Drink The Water - Blakey's spin-off comes to DVDThe two seasons played out during 1974 and 1975, with a total of 13 instalments.  Where Blakey had been the scourge of the staff of the Luxton Bus Company, making everyone’s lives a misery, now the tables are turned. With dreams of sunny weather and tranquillity, the little flat in Spain, which glossy brochures have lured him into buying with him and his sister’s life’s savings, isn’t quite as advertised.

The couple arrive to find that the ‘villa’ is far from finished.  What has been completed is not fit for purpose, and there seems little that Blakey can do to right the situation. They certainly can’t drink the water out of the tap, as the title of the show infers. It doesn’t help that neither of them can speak any Spanish whatsoever, meaning they are always relying on the local flat manager, Carlos, to help their understanding.

National treasure Pat Coombs (Cissie in You’re Only Young Twice) co-stars as Blakey’s long-suffering sister Dorothy. Completing the series regulars as Carlos is Derek Griffiths, famous as a presenter on Play School, but that unfortunately didn’t qualify him to turn in a convincing Spanish accent.

For the time, the theme of the series - Brits going abroad for retirement - was a fresh and topical subject for a sit-com.  However, the problem with the format is the baggage that the character of former Inspector Blake brings with him. As his appearance suggests, with the curtailed moustache under his nose, in On The Buses this was a character who was the model of a ‘Little Hitler’.  A rule-bashing jobsworth, who made the lives of his fellow workers a misery.

 

Taking Blakey out of this function, where he could always call on his assumed power to drive the plot, in Spain he finds himself helpless. He and Dorothy are victims, their only crime being that they wanted to have their little piece of paradise abroad. The locals, with the exception of Carlos, are seen as uncompromising, surly and mostly unpleasant.  If Blakey and Dorothy committed any sin, it was to not check things out in person prior to flying to Spain, and cutting themselves off from any way of returning home.

In some respects, you could say that the structure of this sit-com is similar to the BBC’s Sykes, just set in Spain, which had started just a couple of years before and was proving very popular. Stephen Lewis becomes Eric Sykes, Pat Coombs as Hattie Jacques, with Derek Griffiths taking on the function of Deryck Guyler’s character.

If you are a fan of On The Buses, then this will be an essential purchase.  However, for everyone else, it is watchable only from a historical aspect. Despite him being a villain previously, seeing Blakey suffer is not a comedic experience.  He has no rule book to call upon, and despite he and his sister being nice people, you wouldn’t wish them having to live under the same roof on either of them.

If only this had been a completely separate series, with Blakey not having been transplanted into the format.  A new lead character could have brought ways of handling the situation which Blakey could never have summoned up.  Starting from scratch sometimes is the best way to go.

Don’t Drink The Water – The Complete Series, is out now as a two disc DVD set from Network; it has a ‘PG’ certificate, a running time of 325 minutes, and a RRP of £19.99, or get it for less at www.culttvstore.com

 

DON’T DRINK THE WATER – EPISODE GUIDE

Stephen Lewis as Cyril Blake

Pat Coombs as Dorothy Blake

Derek Griffiths as Carlos

Christine Shaw as Beryl (Season 1 only)

Frank Coda as Bill (Season 1 only)

 

Devised and created by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney

Producer and Director: Mark Stuart

 

SERIES ONE

 

01. “Home from Home?

Blakey arrives in Spain with his presentation clock packed safely in his luggage and   his hopes of a leisurely life in the sun still intact – not for long alas…

Guest Starring: Peter Exposite (Spanish Workman), Tony Lord (Spanish Policeman), Louis Mansi (Spanish Workman), Rosario Serrano (Maria).

 

02. “The Food

The flat Blake’s bought with his spinster sister Dorothy isn’t quite the haven of calm he had dreamed of…

Guest Starring: Muguette De Braie (Carmela), Al Garcia (Customs Official).

 

03. “Dry Run

During his time on the buses, Blakey had many breakdowns to deal with. But few had such serious effect as the one suffered by the lorry bringing fresh water supplies to his flat!

Guest Starring: Muguette De Braie (Carmela).

 

04. “The Lift

When you don’t even know how many ounces there are to a kilo, a shopping trip can be a risky venture.

Guest Starring: Peter Exposite (Spanish Workman), Ray Marioni (Spanish Workman).

 

05. “Careful What You Eat

Blakey and his sister are horrified when the electricity is cut off as they thought that they had successfully escaped…

Guest Starring: Muguette De Braie (Carmela), Terence Conoley (Tourist), Ricardo Montez (Doctor), Vicki Woolf (Waitress).

 

06. “The Fuse

Ohm, sweet ohm. Or it might have been had live-wire Blakey not taken it into his head to make Spanish electricity perform like the English variety…

Guest Starring: Gustavo Blanco (Spanish Policeman), Carmen Gómez (Telephone Operator), Tony Lord (Spanish Policeman).

 

07. “The Smell

Carlos the porter becomes the drain brain when an ’orrible odour nearly drives Dorothy round the bend – and home to England.

Guest Starring: Muguette De Braie (Carmela), Gustavo Blanco (Spanish Policeman), Louis Mansi (Juan).

 

SERIES TWO

 

08. “What, No Telly?

Blakey is increasingly coming to realise that life in Spain lacks some of the essentials of home.

Guest Starring: Carlos Douglas (Policeman), Ray Marioni (Juan), Tina Ruta (Maria).

 

09. “The Romance

Life’s anything but peaceful for Dorothy when she’s accosted by a handsome Spanish stranger…

Guest Starring: Olga Lowe (Maria), Ricardo Montez (Jose), Luis Sanchez (Waiter), Kenneth Thornett (Smith).

 

10. “A Helping Hand

A British tourist company goes bump, leaving people on the streets.  Blakey decides to take a couple and their baby in.

Guest Starring: Pat Ashton (Hazel), Geoffrey Hughes (Frank), Olga Lowe (Maria), Luis Sanchez (Waiter), Ray Marioni (Policeman).

 

11. “The Neighbours

Blakey’s patriotic pride is aroused when a football final between England and Germany is played out in Spain, his new home.

Guest Starring: Olga Lowe (Maria), Claire Davenport (Bertha), David King (Willie).

 

12. “Fred

Dorothy’s on an economy drive to make up for Blakey’s ‘extravagances’. His mysterious new friend, Fred, is leading him astray and something needs to be done fast!

Guest Starring: Valerie Bell (Denise), Peter Birrel (Waiter), Patricia Haines (Anita), Richard Owens (Keith).

 

13. “Keeping Fit

Rivalry between Blakey and his German neighbours leads him to embark on a keep-fit campaign. But a slipped disc means Dorothy has to send for the doctor…

Guest Starring: Claire Davenport (Bertha), David King (Willie), Ricardo Montez (Doctor).

 

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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