Bowler comes to DVD

Wednesday, 01 December 2010 09:49

I was trying to think of another series which, like this show, was a spin-off of a spin-off. There can’t be many.  In the beginning there was Please Sir!, which begot The Fenn Street Gang, and from that format came Bowler.  And to add another twist to its pedigree, Bowler was in fact a prequel spin-off – with the adventures of Stanley Bowler coming before his time chronicled on Fenn Street.

In its parent show, Bowler was young Craven’s shady boss, and very much a precursor to Del Boy who would follow on from him. The iconic George Baker (probably best known now from The Ruth Rendell Mysteries) stars as the East End villain with social aspirations, while the series was once again penned by veteran sitcom writers John Esmonde and Bob Larbey.

Bowler - Fenn Street Gang Spinoff - comes to DVDSoap legends Wendy Richard and Johnny Briggs are among the guest stars appearing in this madcap look at one man’s attempts to breach the barriers of the English class system.

Stanley Bowler has a finger in every profitable pie, and his money can buy everything but the thing he wants most - class. His unstoppable ambition to move in higher social circles sees him embarking on a series of ill-fated schemes – including opening his very own gentlemen’s club, conspicuously embracing high culture, and even trying to set himself up as a laird. Sadly, while Bowler stumbles from one faux pas to another, the doors of Society remain very firmly closed.

I recall watching the show avidly as a nine year-old.  Although his efforts to get ahead are often thwarted by circumstance, he’s actually not a mug.  You don’t cross him, and he’ll find a way to get even when necessary. All he wants is to make the best of his life, and will persevere despite everything that is thrown at him.  What more is necessary of a hero?

Certainly, he succeeds despite his well-meaning mother, played by Gretchen Franklin (Ethel Skinner in Eastenders).  There’s also his estranged wife Doreen (Renny Lister – who went on to play Jenny in Don’t Forget To Write) to contend with, but he can always rely on his right-hand man Reg (Fred Beauman, whose character had also featured in The Fenn Street Gang), who is there for him right from the moment he emerges from the clink at the beginning of the first episode.

Bowler – The Complete Series is out now as a two disc set from Network.  It has a running time of 325 minutes approx, a ‘12’ certificate, and a RRP of £19.99, available exclusively from the Network DVD Website.



George Baker as Stanley Bowler

Fred Beauman as Reg

Michael Stainton as The Warder (1, 3-13)

Writers: John Esmonde and Bob Larbey

Producers: Philip Casson (1-2, 7-13) and Derrick Goodwin (3-6)

Note on Directors: On the actual episodes, only the episodes noted as Directed by Mike Mansfield actually include a Director credit at the end of the episode.  It has been assumed that the Producer for the other episodes also took on the role of Director.


01.  The Ides of March

Bowler finally leaves prison after a long stretch and gets his old gang members together, determined to go up in the social classes. One of his old gang thinks otherwise and plans to take control...

Guest Starring: Jeffrey Segal (Mr Berger), Brian Hall (Terry), Michael Brennan (Pickaxe), Freddie Earlle (Freddie), Johnny Wade (Nigel), Renny Lister (Doreen Bowler), Peter Greene (Man), Richard Shaw (Les), Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 29 July 1973


02. “Members Only

Bowler hatches a scheme to open an exclusive gentleman's club but soon hits trouble when he has to advertise the club to prospective members. Please note that this is the only episode not to feature the opening credit sequence featuring Bowler leaving prison.

Guest Starring: Paul Whitsun-Jones (Marco), Roger Brierley (Man), Michael Earl (Mess Steward), Anthony Sharp (President), John Stuart (Committee Member), Wendy Richard (Greta), Derek Deadman (Herbie), Maurice Bush (Willie), Willoughby Gray (Commander),

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 5 August 1973


03. “Come Round Any Old Time

Hartley moves away, causing Bowler to be concerned and annoyed that he was not given Hartley's new address when he moved.

Guest Starring: Julian Holloway (Hartley), Meadows White (Rosie), Kenneth Waller (Porter), Michael Bilton (Lieutenant General), Margot Lister (Lady).

Director: Mike Mansfield

Original ITV Transmission: 12 August 1973


04. “They Never Come Back

Reg quits as Bowler's valet after being mocked at the local gym causing Bowler to look elsewhere for a new servant.

Guest Starring: Reginald Marsh (Chippie Carpenter), Tony Boden (Albert), Percy Herbert (Masher), Peter Halliday (Rupert), Jay Neill (Scoutmaster), Renny Lister (Doreen)

Director: Mike Mansfield

Original ITV Transmission: 19 August 1973


05. “Faithfully Yours

Bowler's estranged wife falls for a seaman. Feeling put out, Bowler puts a plan into action to get his own back.

Guest Starring: Lynn Dalby (Natasha), Richard Fraser (Denzil), Hal Dyer (Caroline), Renny Lister (Doreen), Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler), Vic Wise (Isaac), Johnny Briggs (Billy).

Director: Mike Mansfield

Original ITV Transmission: 26 August 1973


06. “On The Fiddle

Bowler decides to help out a talented young man with his dream of becoming a star violinist.

Guest Starring: Reginald Barratt (Mr Benskin), Keith Drinkell (Edward), Freddie Jones (Manager), Eric Mason (Artie), Johnny Wade (Nigel), Tim Brinton (Newscaster).

Director: Derrick Goodwin

Original ITV Transmission: 2 September 1973


07. “Monarch of the Glen

Bowler decides that life as a Scottish Laird is for him and sets about moving to Scotland and acquiring a kilt.

Guest Starring: Christopher Benjamin (Superintendent Chamberlain), Effie Morrison (Miss McLaren), Alistair Hunter (Landlord), Angus Lennie (Angus)

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 9 September 1973


08. “Thou Shalt Not Grass

Bowler gets in Doreen's bad books when he gets her fired from her new job, leading to her seek revenge...

Guest Starring: Robert Hartley (Head Waiter), John Sharp (Bishop), Renny Lister (Doreen), Richard Borthwick (Police Inspector), Christopher Benjamin (Supt Chamberlain), Howard Goorney (Mr Amiss), Arnold Diamond (Senior Officer)

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 14 September 1973


09. “Sweet and Sour Charity

Bowler lets his good nature get the better of him and offers his services to a local children's home.

Guest Starring: Jonathan Elsom (Gilpin), Christopher Benjamin (Supt Chamberlain), Anthony McCaffery (William), Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler), Renny Lister (Doreen), Anne Cunningham (Matron), Maxine Gordon (Linda), Bridget Armstrong (Jane), Julian Fox (Marcus), Frederick Hall (Barman), Jeffrey Gardiner (Robin), Reg Lye (Tramp).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 21 September 1973


10. “R.I.P.

Bowler's Uncle Bill passes away and Bowler tries plans the best funeral for him while dealing with unexpected events along the way.

Guest Starring: Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler), Renny Lister (Doreen), Jack Woolgar (Uncle Bill), John Barrard (Maestro), Preston Lockwood (Undertaker), David Rowlands (Vicar), Jacob Witkin (Man).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 28 September 1973


11. “The Family Tree

Bowler looks into his family history and finds he has a respected ancestor called Duke de Bouleur.

Guest Starring: Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler), Kevork Malikyan (Marcus), Sally Stephens (Stephanie), Aubrey Morris (Professor Franklin), Peter Greene (Mr Porter), Jo Kendall (Miss Hoffman), Iris Fry (Woman), Alfie Curtis (Alfie).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 5 October 1973


12. “Bowler’s Analysis

Bowler visits his local psychiatrist believing his appointments to give him a higher social standing, only for for the psychiatrist to suggest his social desires are the real cause of his issues.

Guest Starring: Zulema Dene (Receptionist), Michael Sheard (Dr Mumby), Paddy Joyce (Santa), Renny Lister (Doreen), Valerie Leon (Miss Ibbotson).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 12 October 1973


13. “Without Let or Hindrance

Bowler tries to keep one step ahead of everyone else in the holiday stakes by booking a pony trek holiday to Peru.

Guest Starring: Gretchen Franklin (Mrs Bowler), Renny Lister (Doreen), Arnold Peters (Stable Owner), Ted Burnett (Brasso), Alfie Curtis (Rocky), Brian Maxine (Driller), Leonard Ebbs (Lino), James McManus (Milkman).

Director: Philip Casson

Original ITV Transmission: 19 October 1973

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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