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Chris Nelson

Okay, so we’ve had sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia during our opening two episodes, but I’m really hoping that we’ll have moved away from having to address issues like that soon, I await episode 3 with glee, I wonder what it was called….

Episode 3: Cash and Curry

Original airdate 22nd September 1981
7.3 million viewers
Running time: 30 Minutes

…oh boy.

A little bit of trivia to begin, apparently this episode was written title first; the whole plot developed after that pun was dreamt up. Also worth noting is the bounce of 1.2 million viewers returning, which had to settle some nerves after the decline for episode two. Anyway, on with the review:

For the first time, we don’t open at the flat, instead we look on as Rodney parks the three wheeled van in a car park with a bassy, jazzy soundtrack playing. He pauses to look at a car, a Vauxhall by the look of it, with a playboy logo on the front and shakes his head. All the while he’s being watched by two Indian gentlemen in another car. Rodney is at the Camberwell Chamber of Trade to collect Del from a dinner dance, which he’s presumably attending to schmooze and network some deals. Rodney’s furious though as a clearly drunk Del staggers slightly down the steps to meet him, Del rang him late at night to demand Rodney come and get him. Del mentions he drove in “the Vauxhall Velox” which was the car Rodney stopped to look at on the way in. I don’t recall this being mentioned before this episode and I don’t remember it ever coming up again, so presumably it’s plot relevant. Del was going to call a cab as he was too drunk to drive, but trying to impress a new business contact, wanted Rodney, his “driver” to come and pick him up to make an impression. We get some great drunk acting here from David Jason, it’s in no way over the top, instead peppered with the slightly too deliberate, over exaggerated gestures of someone trying to hide how much they’ve had to drink, and the overly affection contact with Rodney as he enthuses about the potential for making money out of this evening. Rodney is unimpressed though, he had to cut a date short for this.
Del’s new contact Vimmal Malik makes his first appearance and the three men walk out to the car park with Del cracking jokes until they’re interrupted by the men who were previously watching from the car, one smaller man in a suit and the other a much larger man, clearly ‘the muscle’. They accuse Vimmal of avoiding them, but Vimmal is dismissive of them despite the threat. This is played dead straight, no hint of comedy, and the aggression is palpable; quite intimidating really. Del steps forward, fearless and protective of both Rodney as his new friend, and responds to their threats with one of his own. From an excellent comedic performance in the previous scene as drunk Del, we now see David Jason as confident, street smart, hard man Del. We haven’t seen much of it yet, but from what we know of the family backstory so far, Del has had to scrap and stand firm virtually his whole life, it makes sense he wouldn’t take respond to intimidation in this way, at least not in a scene where things aren’t being played for laughs. We’re informed the larger of the two men is in fact a “Second  Dan in Karate” (an actual thing according to Google), but Del responds that he’s a black belt himself, in origami. The line is a joke obviously, but even in the face of a huge, imposing bodyguard, Del doesn’t back down. We get some exaggerated karate poses from our as-yet-unnamed attacker, but Del doesn’t flinch, instead using some quick thinking to distract everyone and deliver a swift knee to the unmentionables, leaving the larger man in a heap. I was quite critical of some lazy slapstick in episode two, but this was pitched just right; no ‘wacky’ side and the actual strike being off camera. Del is now into his full, cocky, controlled swagger. He calmly but firmly orders Vimmal and Rodney into his car, all the while facing down the smaller of the two men. As Del heads to leave, the smaller man offers Del the chance to talk and smooth things over, but he refuses, with some dismissive parting words, only to have his composure somewhat ruined by Rodney speeding off without him, leaving him with no choice but to speak with this man in exchange for a lift.
We rejoin Del having a curry with his former adversaries. Subtitles of the smaller man’s conversation with the waiter in their mother tongue show he’s actually very dismissive of Del, but he’s obviously retaining a civil front. Rodney arrives, worried for Del’s safety. Del queries why it’s taken Rodney over an hour to come find him, after all, he rang Grandad (absent from this episode) ages ago, but Rodney has a good excuse, Del didn’t tell Grandad which restaurant he was in! We then get Rodney’s first truly memorable line of the series…
I’ve been crashing through the doors of every Curry House and Takeaway from Battersea Bridge to Collier’s Wood Tube Station! I can now leap out of that Vauxhall Velux ‘Dukes of Hazzard’ style, make a chapati and say “Get stuffed” in Urdu!*

The Velox gets another mention here too.

Del introduces Rodney to Mr Raam and “Oddjob” the bodyguard. Raam owns the restaurant. He sells how well he’s done since coming to Britain, he owns 18 restaurants and a lot of land. He explains the problems between himself and Vimmal Malik, a family feud going back over 100 years. During the British colonial invasion of India, Malik’s family sided with the British, Raam’s fought against them. When the war was won, the Raj removed Raam’s family’s land and possessions and gave it to the Maliks, who built a business with the proceeds. Malik has Raam’s one remaining family heirloom, a statue of Kubera, the Hindu God of wealth.  It’s not worth much money but has great sentimental value to Raam. He doesn’t want to intimidate anyone as he had tried previously, but the Indian Caste system prevents him sitting down to negotiate with Malik in person. Del pitches himself as a go between for the deal, with Raam promising £4,000 for the statue, but he’ll only part with the money when the statue is in his possession, but Del is hopeful that won’t present an issue. The scene ends with another well executed piece of physical comedy as a casual flick of the arm catches Oddjob, returning from the bathroom, right in the uh…Oddjobs…again. This comes as a genuine surprise, it wasn’t telegraphed at all, you don’t see Oddjob’s return until Del throws his arm, and Del’s movement wasn’t exaggerated. It’s a fun ending to the act and stands out in complete contrast to the lazy ‘antics’ of the previous episode.
Del and Rodney are at Vimmal’s flat next, to try and push on with the deal. Vimmal speaks disdainfully of his rival, leaving Del lost for words for once, trying to effectively sugarcoat Raam’s offer to buy the statue, until Rodney just blurts it out. Vimmal says he won’t sell, but asks what the offer is. Del says £2,000 despite Rodney’s best attempts to be honest. Del points out that Vimmal’s flat isn’t that plush, he’s not doing as well as he’d implied at the function they attended. Vimmal says it would be hard to part with the statue anyway, his Father left it to him, but Del tells a story about a gift left to him and Rodney by their Mother. Quoting this scene won’t do it full justice, but the interaction, both physical and verbal from Del and Rodney here is outstanding…
Del: [Standing up and walking behind the sofa] Our late Mother, well she’s dead now, she left us this family heirloom [Walking behind Rodney] it was this Victorian globe [stroking Rodney’s hair as though this story is difficult for them to recall]
Rodney: [Wearily] Meant the world to us [Del glares at Rodney, pulls his hair a little to warn him]
Del: As he said, it meant the world to us. But their came a time we fell upon stony ground
Rodney: [Looks up in disbelief] We fell on stony ground did we?
Del: Yes, we fell on stony ground [Rodney nods sarcastically] And the only thing we had of any value was this Victorian globe we cherished!
Vimmal: You sold it?
Del: No I raffled it down the betting shop
Vimmal: But of course you know the feeling of loss?
Rodney: [Dripping with scepticism] Well not really because by some stroke of luck Del had the winning ticket [Del subtly thumps Rodney on the head]
Del: Yeah I fink it was God or summin’
Try and locate this scene online if you can. It’s almost perfectly structured and choreographed.
With a little further persuasion, Vimmal agrees to the deal and we get the first airing of a Del catchphrase “You know it makes sense”. Vimmal leaves the room to get the statue, and Rodney immediately pounces on Del’s immoral dealing, leading to more conversation between the brothers that absolutely lights up the screen. Del tries to blag his way past Rodney’s objections using his gobbledygook french and the same patter he used on the Australian with the terrible accent in the last episode, but of course Rodney is wise to it, and calls Del out on it, he knows his older Brother too well. Despite this though, the chance to make £1000 each is too good to pass up and Rodney folds to go along with Del. Vimmal returns with the statue, only to throw a spanner in the works. He’ll only give the statue up when he has the money.
After they leave, Del suggests to Rodney they put the money up themselves, knowing they’ll make a profit in the end. Rodney points out they don’t have that money to give, but Del mentally tots up everything they could sell, self sacrificing too, even his own jewelry getting sold to make this deal happen. This episode has had less character building so far, episodes one and two established enough that we’re on board with the main characters and understand them by now, but this was a lovely extra touch for Del’s character. This had none of his earlier cocky facade, this was pure enthusiasm and entrepreneurship, establishing his unrelentingly positive nature when it comes to making deals. Rodney doesn’t question this for a moment either, drawn along by his Brother’s conviction that they can make this happen.
You may remember that when I reviewed episode one, we got a musical montage and I said that I didn’t remember many being used throughout the series? Well we have another in episode three, so apparently I was wrong there, but we’ll see how frequent they are as we continue throughout the episodes. This one shows Del and Rodney selling everything to acquire the money they need. The version I’m watching had a generic jazzy piece, but apparently the original airing had Money by Pink Floyd which was a nice touch. I don’t recall much licensed music being used in OF&H but it does pop up here and there. I guess this would have proven too expensive early on to use on any repeat viewings however, hence the redub. The Velox is sold during the montage too, which explains where that went anyway. That’s probably the first element of a script and a plot that has felt forced, purely because they had to mention it an unnatural amount of times during the episode. It’s not really a black mark, but it does feel out of keeping.
Oh, speaking of things being out of keeping, after Del collects the statue from Vimmal, we’re treated to a jarringly bad visual gag, as Del trips at the top the steps walking out to the van, and we’re ‘treated’ to a slow motion fall, complete with ridiculous facial expressions, only for Del to catch the statue at the bottom. This is the polar opposite of the earlier physical comedy, feeling like a square peg in a round hole. All that it missed was David Jason standing up and giving jazz hands to the camera. I just don’t get it. You’ve built this sharp, cleverly scripted, energetic story and you punctuate it with lazy clowning? It doesn’t sit right, but at least it’s not happening frequently in this episode.
The Brothers return to Raam’s restaurant to complete the sale of the statue, but the waiter from the other night claims the establishment is his! Del and Rodney think he doesn’t understand what they’re asking, but what could have turned into the kind of scene I’ve criticised thus far is pulled off very well, as both Del and Rodney become the butt of the joke due to their own assumptions the owner doesn’t understand them, without falling into any unpleasant stereotypes or assumed accents. The owner does remember Mr Raam, his cheque for the meal bounced and he has long since left the address he’d left on the payment, disappearing without trace.
As it dawns on the boys what has happened, Rodney can only manage a strangled, slightly scared “Del Boy”, which as an aside is one of the few times I recall him using that nickname for Del. Del himself is in denial, recounting Raam’s story to the restaurateur.
We cut to a scene of both Vimmal and Raam in a car being driven by Oddjob, celebrating and laughing about their con, they’ve done the same thing in Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton and now North and South London. They intend to go on too, with a statement that seems bizarrely prescient given some of the rhetoric commonly used in parts of the press…
“We can go anywhere where people think they can exploit the religious bigotry of two stupid immigrants”
They’re definitely the smart ones in the episode, and you can’t even begrudge them fully for getting one over the Trotters.
Rodney is waiting for Del as he leaves Vimmal’s now deserted flat. In a nice callback to Del’s opening scene, he staggers down the steps towards his younger Brother, this time due to shock instead of alcohol. Rodney suggests they go to the police, but Del couldn’t face the humiliation. He says he needs something to eat, to which Rodney jokingly suggests a curry, only to have the episode end with the offending statue being launched towards him.
This episode, the falling-down-the-stairs scene aside was outstanding. My fears regarding the potential for racism were unfounded and plot, while being a little obvious in places due to various cliches, was extremely well put together with very strong performances of very well written scenes. The interaction between Del and Rodney has been great from the beginning, but this episode took it to a superior level. Their interaction is almost symbiotic at times, you can believe they’re brothers, they feel like real people when they’re not being clowns; as I mentioned before, the globe scene absolutely begs to be watched.
Again, there weren’t huge amounts of laughs to be had, but that didn’t matter in the slightest because of how wildly entertaining the whole package was. I was left reminded of quite why I loved the series and wanted to start these  reviews. Episodes one and two, both with their plus points (one more than two) had left me a little cold in places, but Cash and Curry was joyous. I know the quality won’t always sustain, but this episode needs to be held up as one of the best.

*That distance is about 5.7 miles according to Google maps.

19 April, 2017 0 comment
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Thanks to all who gave feedback on twitter following my first review! Really looking forward to getting my teeth into this series now.

Episode 2: Go West Young Man

Original airdate 15th September 1981
6.1 million viewers
Running time: 30 Minutes
First appearance of John Challis as Boycie

Interesting note about this episode right away: it got the lowest viewing figures for the series. Unless a pilot is a roaring success there is usually a drop off in figures, but still, at the time a 3 million drop between episodes must have panicked Sullivan et al somewhat. Possibly the lack of any major hook to the series as yet and the fact it was very much a building block of an episode meant less return viewers, but obviously things recovered following this blip!

We open with what seems to be presented as a trademark first scene, Grandad watching his two televisions (this time both colour, albeit one very faded, the hallmark of the old tube telly on it’s last legs). At the table, Rodney is staring into space while Del shovels in his breakfast, his face buried in a copy of the Car Price Guide. Selling second hand cars is the way forward to Del Boy, and we get the first uttering of the iconic “This time next year we’ll be millionaires”. Rodney is clearly in a bad mood but Del ploughs on. Apparently the government will ban the import of foreign cars to save the UK car industry, but the Unions (a much bigger part of life and the news in 1981) will strike at this because of the apparent racism, meaning no new cars coming into the country at all, hence the demand for second hand vehicles!

Rodney is too depressed to react though, moping over his girlfriend Monica. Del urges him to phone her, Rodney is clearly happier in a relationship. We get another uncomfortable line here as Del refers to the “tart with fat thighs giving [Rodney] the elbow”, which jars a little, but with everything we know about Del to this stage, it’s fits exactly with his character. He’s a brash wheeler dealer in the early 80s, not a snowflake TV writer in 2017. Rodney denies he’s been dumped. His friend, Mickey Pearce (a first mention but not first appearance yet) advised a trial 2 week separation to sort out their differences. Del is immediately disdainful at the mention of Mickey and points out Rodney has only known her 2 weeks anyway. Arguing about Monica’s thigh’s as they leave the flat, Del drops the information he saw Mickey and Monica together at the Nag’s Head the night before, while Rodney was pining, much to his obvious chagrin.

Obviously we’re still early in the series, so there will be lots of character building information, but once again we have a masterclass from John Sullivan. We’ve established Del’s financial focus further, he longs for more than just being small time, and behind the mocking and bravado, he’s looking out for his younger brother. He wants Rodney to be happier and (reading way too much into the scene) reveals what he knows about Mickey and Monica to let Rodney know he’s been duped by his friend. Rodney is a total innocent it seems when it comes to people with ulterior motives, apart from Del.

We cut to Boycie’s first appearance, showing Del a clapped out Cortina (98,000 miles on the clock) someone brought into his car lot as a part exchange. He’s trying to sell it to Del for £50. Boycie is much more friendly with Del than in later episodes where their relationship became more antagonistic, very much speaking to Del as an equal here, despite his greater financial success in life. Del eyes up an e-type Jag in the lot, which is presenting Boycie a problem, it’s a gift for his “bit on the side” and he doesn’t want his wife to find out. Del offers his garage as a place to hide it, in exchange for halving the price of the Cortina.

Back in their garage, Del is just stowing the Jag away when an 80s/90s sitcom staple appears: the knackered old car billowing smoke and backfiring. We get ‘treated’ to our first bit of OF&H slapstick too, as Del has to dive out of the way of the Cortina as the brakes aren’t working, and Rodney nearly crashes. “What’s the matter? Brakes a bit spongy are they?” delivered deadpan is a great line from Del, but the scene feels very out of keeping with the sharp dialogue at the core of the show.

Just to state for the record, I’m not anti-slapstick, it just has to be in the right place and the right context. So far we’ve got a show grounded in realism and believable characters, and at the drop of a hat they begin acting like cartoon characters and it jars severely. Additionally the actual slapstick set piece feels tired and cliched, just very against the grain for the general tone.

Also notable is two on location, outdoor scenes in a row here, something I only recall a few times aside from market stall scenes throughout the run of the series. This may simply be a fault of memory on my part, but I recall the majority of the series being on set.

The next scene shows us a clear strength of Rodney’s. He’s spruced up the Cortina to look almost presentable, and places a sign on the window with a price of £199. Del’s plan falls into action! Enter an interested party, sporting the worst Australian accent I think I’ve heard in television. He asks about the car, dropping in supposedly comic phrases, like calling Rodney a “dingo”. Why they felt the need to make this character Australian with an English actor (Nick Stringer) lacking a gift for accents I have no idea. Possibly the idea was that a brash Aussie was more likely to ask the direct questions he poses about the car but it again falls flat. Why it couldn’t be a gruff cockney I just don’t understand?

The scene is saved however by some great writing and David Jason going into full Del sales mode. He mis-uses French phrases for the first time, dazzling with his gift of the gab. He’s taken 70,000 miles off the clock and has planted a bible in the car to support his backstory that it’s only had one careful owner, a vicar. The key here is Del says nothing of substance, it’s all non-sequitur and pointless jargon, but it’s delivered in such a snappy way it again feels like something this character would genuinely say, rather than a sitcom script. It’s a definite strength and shows the perfect marriage of actor to character. Additionally, it’s pretty clear to me, even from just one and a bit episodes, at this stage, Del’s famous mannerisms and catchphrases were part of the persona he adopts when engaged in business. I’ve a feeling later on in the series he suffered Flanderisation and these became part of the character’s actual personality, rather than just part of his sales patter and occasional delusions of grandeur.

Back at the flat, Del is counting out the money from the sale, doing his own dreadful Aussie accent as he recites a poem. I’m inclined to think this is deliberately bad, in character though as opposed to an episode-wide inability to mimic an Australian. The last word of the poem is set to be “bastard”, but Del cuts off (for obvious script reasons) to give Grandad his cut of the money. The line is delivered so smoothly though, it’s a genuine surprise and laugh when he doesn’t say the word; they really were on fire with Del’s scenes in the flat at this stage.

As Grandad and Del discuss Rodney’s relationship woes, we get a truly wonderful exchange. It doesn’t add anything to the plot, but once again we get a truly down to earth portrayal of the family we’re getting to know.

“You wouldn’t remember when I married your Grandmother?”
[Del stares] “No”
“Well the first night when we was married, we was in bed and well, y’know Del…”
“What?”
“Well…doin’ what you do when the lights are out”
“Holdin’ a séance was ya?”
“No, you know what I mean! Anyway, right in the middle of it, d’you know what she said to me?”
[Del shakes his head] “Go on, what?”
“She said “What do you fancy for dinner tomorrow?””
“What do you fancy for dinner tomorrow?!?”
“Bad innit!?”
“Bet that didn’t ‘appen to Omar Sharif. What did you say?”
“Steak n kidney pudden I fink”
“Isn’t love wonderful?”

Just a superb scene.

Rodney emerges all dressed up, determined to get over Monica, with plans to head to some clubs up west. He tries to play the big ‘I am’, talking about his apparently booming social life, all the while essentially begging Del to come with him for support. He’s also skint, but not willing to take the money from Del’s sale of the dangerous Cortina. Del strings Rodney along for a bit before deciding to join him. We get a nice touch showing that Rodney is more canny than he seems as he bemoans the fact they’ll have to go to these fancy clubs in the three wheeled van, to the point Del decides they’ll use Boycie’s jag, only realising as they leave that Rodney had led him right into that decision. Again, more excellent character and relationship building.

Despite Rodney’s former statements that he knew all the best clubs to go to, we first join the brothers in a very dull establishment. An extremely camp waiter takes their order, with Del ordering a ridiculous cocktail, again setting up what would be a long running gag for the show. Then we hit a roadblock. the last episode you may remember presented us with some uncomfortable attitudes to women and race, this week is the turn of homosexuality as Del declares the waiter is “a bandit” and says they should dance with their backs against the wall. The laugh track plays, but it’s clashingly and glaringly unfunny in 2017.

Conversation thankfully turns back to Monica, and we discover the reason she dumped Rodney. She thought he was warped. Why? Because he has a uniform fetish (something else I seem to remember being an occasionally recurring gag). Nicholas Lyndhurst portrays Rodney’s fetish quite well, with a wide-eyed innocence and infatuation rather than seeming perverted. The best part of this interaction though is Del’s reaction. Largely unphased by his younger Brother having such a fantasy, except for the fact it’s a police uniform he likes. Del clearly disdains the police.

We then get another slightly uncomfortable scene, something happening shockingly often at the moment. Del and Rodney’s attention is taken by two women at the bar. Del heads to chat them up as Rodney sits back to admire the masterclass in seduction that will surely ensue. Del returns…

“Drink up, we’re leaving”
“Coupla Ravers?
“Coupla Geezers”

It’s an older British comedy staple, that of mistaking men in drag for women, but while it just didn’t sit right with me here, it didn’t have the same unpleasant edge of the earlier homophobic comments. The comedy wasn’t mocking the crossdressing pair, rather it was focused on Del and Rodney’s discomfort at the situation, they were the fall guys, and so there was no inherent unpleasantness. This was very much a product of it’s time and with more enlightened attitudes to gender now, it seems highly unlikely this scene would get written now.

We rejoin Del and Rodney in a different club. Rodney apologises for having taken them to a gay bar. Del’s insecurities and image conscious nature surface here as he threatens Rodney pretty harshly if any of those events were to get spread around.

Again their attention is taken by two girls, this time things seeming much more hopeful, and we get our first continuity error in our SECOND EPISODE. Rodney asks Del not to put him down in front of the girls. Del in exchange requests Rodney not tell them he’s 35.

  • Del is 35, not 36 as was implied last week. This is even worse than last week, as it means Del Trotter is only 3 years older than me and I feel quite upset about that.

Del starts to chat the girls up with Rodney largely a bystander. The girls seem to poke fun at Del’s attempts to impress them by claiming Rodney is a professional tennis player, but again his gift of the gab and charm shine through (despite Rodney’s statement that he’s never smokes astroturf when asked if he prefers it to grass). It obviously works as we soon see the brothers travelling home with the roof down on the jag, having got the girls’ phone numbers.

Del requests a celebratory cigar from Rodney, and again we see he’s not the gibbering parody that he might get presented as sometimes, as Del uses “Je ne sais quoi” correctly. All seems to be going swimmingly until Rodney realises the cigar pack he threw away had the girls’ numbers on it (oh, the days before mobile phones). Del jams on the brakes of the car, only to have the car behind plough into the back of them, smashing up Boycie’s e-type. And of course, to bring the episode full circle, the man who crashed into them is the fake Australian in the Cortina with the dodgy brakes, which leads to a disappointingly slapstick finish as he chases them down the street in fury.

So, what to say in summary? This was a real mixed bag; there were a LOT of weaknesses. Dated jokes that really taint things and the introduction of physical comedy which jars when compared to the better parts of the episode were big letdowns. Two of the most well remembered moments in OF&H were physical, visual jokes, so obviously it remained a fixture of the series, but these felt especially low rent, and really out of keeping, as though they were added to keep an executive happy somewhere, although I have no evidence for that. I’m going to put that down to ‘Early-Installment Weirdness’ at this phase, but I reserve the right to change that judgement as the series proceeds.

The better parts of the episode were very good though. It was nice to see Boycie act like a human being, the in-flat conversation was superbly sharp and entertaining and the non-homophobic comedy in the clubs was well constructed and produced a greater number of laughs than episode one. As this episode was the lowest rated of the series, things obviously climbed again for episode three, so it’s pretty clear viewers responded positively as well. For myself, I’m really looking forward to seeing more of the family conversation because of how good those scenes are, but I’m now also interested to see what other elements Sullivan et al threw at the wall to see what would stick as the series progresses.

1 April, 2017 0 comment
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