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Lollipop Loves Mr Mole: DVD

Monday, 25 July 2011 00:00

This is a DVD release that those who keep an eye on television archive holdings never really expected to see the light of day. Thirteen colour episodes and a short Christmas vignette were all that constituted Lollipop Loves Mr Mole, and now just two monochrome telerecordings, made for foreign markets, remain anywhere in the world. The news release makes note that the series was actually junked soon after transmission, a fact which on its own makes this series both a mystery and an enigma.

The title might suggest a children’s cartoon series from the early 1970s, but this is a by-the-numbers situation comedy from that era, composed with ratings in mind.  Peggy Mount was a huge star of the time, in every way you can imagine, so was the female lead, Maggie ‘Lollipop’ Robinson. ‘Mr Mole’ is her pet name for husband Reg, played by Hugh Lloyd. Both played the stereotypical roles they had crafted in previous TV shows, and Jimmy Perry was drafted in from Dad’s Army to provide the scripts.

Lollipop Loves Mr Mole - what's left comes to DVDThe pair married late – Lollipop because she had aged parents to look after, Mr Mole because he had been waiting for the right girl. Mr Mole has sinus trouble, having an effect on his sense of taste, which means he can’t appreciate Lollipop’s marvellous cooking, but love always finds a way.

Peggy Mount’s television persona had become the battleaxe via two major comedy series, The Larkins (1958-1964) as Ada Larkin, next to husband Alf (David Kossoff), and George and the Dragon (1966-1968), where she played ‘Dragon’ Gabrielle to George Russell, as played by Sid James. Via Flora Petty in You’re Only Young Twice (1977-1981), Peggy would later resurrect her bombastic alter ego for a serial of the Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who (1988-1989), playing the Stallslady in “The Greatest Show in the Galaxy”. Peggy died in 2001 at the age of 86, having retired from acting in 1994, after a role in the revival of The Tomorrow People.

Hugh Lloyd, meanwhile, had come to fame playing a succession of roles in Hancock’s Half Hour (1957-1960). He featured in five episodes of the Sid James vehicle Citizen James in 1961, before achieving a starring role alongside Terry Scott in Hugh and I (1962-1967). This later spun off into Hugh and I Spy (1968), again with Terry Scott, trying to ride the knock-off James Bond small screen craze which had peaked the year before!

One other series of significance followed – The Gnomes of Dulwich (1969), again with Terry Scott, which had them cast a ‘Small’ and ‘Big’ respectively, two of a trio of traditional concrete British gnomes coming to terms with imported plastic European interlopers, who were taking over their patch.  This was a thinly veiled commentary on the hot topic of the Common Market (then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson had described Swiss bankers as “The Gnomes of Zurich”). Written by Jimmy Perry, it was this series that saw writer and star really get a taste for working together, which would continue with Lollipop.

Following on from Lollipop, Lloyd had an excursion to Australia for Birds in the Bush (1972), where Hugh inherits a farm in the outback, and is accompanied by half-brother Ron (Ron Fraser). Lloyd also had a recurring role as Mr Carey in the Alf Garnett sequel In Sickness and in Health (1990-1992). Lloyd would continue working well into his 80s, and like Peggy he even turned up in a Sylvester McCoy Doctor Who (Gorowny in “Delta and the Bannermen”, 1987). He even had a pair of appearances in My Family (2002 and 2006) before his death in 2008, at the age of 85.

And so, the decision was made to marry up Mount and Lloyd as Maggie and Reg Robinson, partners in a blissful and romantic union where opposites did indeed attract. Tucked away in their cosy cottage in Fulham, London SW6, the ever-obliging Reg is constantly in need of protection from the outside world, and sometimes from himself. Reg is kindness personified, so it is up to the iron-willed Maggie to adjudicate and realise that generosity can sometimes cause more problems than it solves.

Rex Garner and Pat Coombs complete the quartet of stars as the unwelcome lodgers Bruce and Violet returning from somewhere in Africa. Bruce is ably described as a hardy, hectoring but seedy ‘old Colonial’, constantly regaling with stories of the jungle. However, all the grandeur hides a distinct lack of cash and ability to pay his way, or indeed the rent! Violet, meanwhile, is a timid, miserable hypochondriac who is quite unable, after having servants for so long, to lift a finger to help around the house.  Matters come to a head when Lollipop insists Mr Mole tries to get Bruce a job at his place or work.

Rex Garner had starred as Vic Steele for the first 31 episodes of Associated Rediffuson’s Shadow Squad (1957), before moving on to star in the comedy My Wife and I (1958), and even appeared in a couple of episodes of Lloyd’s Hugh and I. Roles in No Hiding Place, Softly Softly and Orlando kept his face on-screen, but only a few roles came his way following Lollipop, although his credits seem to suggest a desire to move into directing.

Pat Coombs, meanwhile, had been a regular face in comedy and light entertainment since the 1950s, working alongside the likes of Bob Monkhouse (Fast and Loose, My Pal Bob), Tony Hancock (Hancock’s Half Hour), Dickie Henderson (The Dickie Henderson Show) and Jimmy Edwards (Six More Faces of Jim). In 1965, she was cast alongside Bill Fraser and Irene Handl for the sit-com Barney is My Darling, and then from 1966 to 1968 was with Reg Varney and June Whitfield for three seasons of Beggar My Neighbour.

Following Lollipop she worked with Reg Varney and Dick Emery on various segments of their variety shows. She was cast as Dorothy, the sister of the retired Inspector Blake in Don’t Drink The Water (1974-1975), and between 1977 and 1981 was re-united with Peggy Mount, playing Cissie Lupin in You’re Only Young Twice. During 1983-1984, she starred opposite Patricia Hayes as ‘Lanky Pat’ in another sit-com, Lady is a Tramp.

Following on from a short run playing Marge Green in Eastenders (1989-1990), in a twist of ironic casting, she returned to the role of Mrs Carey, a guest part in a pair of episodes of Till Death Us Do Part from 1975, for In Sickness and in Health – and she found that she had acquired a husband in the shape of Hugh Lloyd!

The escapade was produced by Shaun O’Riordan, who of course would go on to helm Sapphire and Steel, and had previously been a Director on Peggy Mount’s George and the Dragon, as well as playing Eddie in The Larkins.

And so to this DVD release, which marks a crossroads of an amazing number of connections between what had been and what was to come for its cast. The second season was abbreviated to simply Lollipop, and it is episodes one (“A Marked Man”) and six (“Lollipop and the Two Bares”) that have survived to be released on this set.  It’s difficult to know how representative these stories are to the rest of the series, as episode guides for the rest of the show are incredibly thin on the ground (although the PDF of ITC series one information on the DVD fills some gaps where information is simply not available online). What we can see in this brace of escapades is that it was a mixture of strong performances and Whitehall farce in terms of its modus operandi.

The DVD extras are:

  • Image Gallery
  • Script PDF for Episode 1.02 “Love in Gloom” (Guest starring Preston Lockwood as Mr Jolly)
  • Script PDF for Episode 1.06 “Somebody at the Door” (Guest starring John Clegg as Encyclopaedia Salesman, Arnold Peters as L T Man, Christopher Benjamin as Conservative Agent, Patsy Smart as Labour Agent, Bill Horsley as Liberal Agent)
  • Script PDF for Episode 2.02 “On Safari” (Guest starring Larry Martin as Tramp, Stan Jay as Garage Proprietor, Rick James as White Hunter)
  • ITC series information for season one (PDF)

Many commentators on various internet forums have contested that this is a rather thin DVD for the price tag, but by the fact it is only available through the Network online store we know this is for serious collectors only. Incomplete series are a difficult experience, mainly because if you actually like what you see, there’s the frustration of knowing that the other episodes will always remain out of reach, as they no longer exist. Indeed, the prospect of having Gordon Jackson play a Doctor McGregor in the lost episode 1.5, “Dr Fruit Cake” which will never be seen again, is just too much suffering!

But for anyone who admires the work of Messrs Mount, Lloyd and Coombs, this is a curiosity that has to be satisfied.  It’s the equivalent of finding a lost film can in the potting shed, tempted merely by an obscure title and a hint at the cast to be observed within. It takes you back to those spirited days of the 1980s, when repeats were rare, and archive finds were regular occurrences.  Those were the days...

Lollipop Loves Mr Mole is out now, with a running time of 50 minutes approx, a ‘PG’ certificate and a RRP of £9.18, available exclusively at the Network Online Shop.


Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37