Terry and June Series 1 Review
What no one ever tells you on passing thirty is that your body takes a considerable turn for the worse. By all accounts, going from being in your late-thirties to your late-forties is even more traumatic whilst, beyond that, problems are spoken of in hushed tones, if at all, in case mere mention of prostrate troubles or the menopause will bring them on.
And in watching Terry And June, I had that feeling of ageing very suddenly all over again, as though, just by it being on television, I could feel fleece-lined bootees forming about my feet whilst a tartan shopping trolley came squeaking into the house. The title sequence alone made me feel as though my best years were behind me as I could, quite clearly as it happens, remember the days of walking about a town centre with the aim of meeting up with someone whilst wishing for the invention of mobile phones.
The title sequence on this series is not, however, the one that we all became more familiar with - white wine spritzers in the fine evening weather and the collapse of a patio chair - but the theme tune is there, being the one that soundtracked many an evening meal across the land. Even then, as now, it's tinkling melody competed with that of The Good Life as a musical nod towards inoffensiveness but it was all somehow suited to the times - that tune being as bland as the food of the early-eighties. And atop the entire series, as easily digestible as milk, were Terry Scott and June Whitfield being, very simply, nice.
Terry and June were nice in what little I've seen of Happy Ever After and they continued to be nice through all sixty-five episodes and Christmas specials of Terry And June. In one show, the former, they played Terry and June Fletcher who found themselves alone when their children moved out of their home, only to find their newfound freedom curtailed when an ageing aunt and her mynah bird moved in with them. After forty-two episodes, one of the writers declared that they had exhausted the formula but the BBC, knowing that it had a good thing in the lovable sparring between Terry Scott and June Whitfield, simply sidestepped any legal complications by renaming the onscreen couple Terry and June Medford and moving them out of London to Purley. Of such things are careers in the BBC made.
The format of the show is embarrassingly simple - each week, or, rather, episode given the format on this show on DVD, Terry shortcuts one of life's longer routes to success and encounters a series of farces designed to trip him up. Yet, no matter how many troubles were stacked against him, Terry would continue to his goal as best he could before the fates truly conspired against him, leaving him reduced to stamping his foot and shouting about how unfair his life was. June, on the other hand, was a model of relaxed ambivalence to Terry's increasingly far-fetched schemes, often resigning herself to the terrible consequences of it all whilst Terry was still frothing with excitement at whatever temptation that has been placed before him.
Within all of this, there are neighbours to put up with - less socially acceptable neighbours, obviously - a boss to invite round for drinks and the minutiae of a society spiraling into the gutter. Terry worries about the actions of teenagers compared to his own youth, the inability to get a doctor's appointment, that removals men don't work past 3pm on a Saturday due to their union rules, the number of public telephones that don't work and the failure of delivery men to appear on an agreed date. At times, it's like watching the only comedy show that's been officially sanctioned by the Daily Mail, closest in the way that Terry wrings his hands over the ills of suburbia whilst avoiding any direct action. But, equally, it offers a interesting insight into the mind of middle England as the seventies turned to the eighties - the same time as the population voted overwhelmingly for a Thatcher government.
Terry is very much an everyman of 1979 - were it any more recent, we would be calling him Mondeo man - and he wisecracks, worries and wonders in such a way that, had he appeared at the Conservative Party Conference in 1979, he might well have been awarded with a bigger cheer than a speech from the party leader. He is so well defined, in fact, that it's entirely possible to fill in the blanks in his character - we can guess that Terry doesn't like spicy food, goes to Benidorm for a fortnight every July and all that he knows about DH Lawrence is that there's an awful lot of swearing in it. Little wonder, given that they tapped into the mood of the nation so effortlessly, that Terry And June were so hugely successful for the BBC.
None of this would have been very endearing, however, had it not also been funny and that is partly where Terry And June succeeds. Compared to the best of British comedy, the laughs are infrequent but they are there and despite some initial cynicism over how well it's humour might have dated - Terry denying being a racist whilst calling an Indian man a wog in the next breath is just one example of how some of it has aged badly - there are moments that had me laughing aloud.
The outstanding episode is arguably A Bridge Too Far, with its finest moment coming whilst watching Terry squirming whilst he tries to back out of a bridge game that evening, asking Sir Dennis, "...and where better to spend a perfectly ordinary night than by the side of your lovely lady wife?" to which Sir Dennis replies, "She's dead!" Whilst the episode conforms to everything that one would expect of a farce, the sight of June sticking to Terry's plan and searching for a phone box whilst Terry, now at a loss, feigns amnesia, is also farce of the highest order.
Elsewhere in the series, there are moments to remind the viewer of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (Writing On The Wall) and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (Flying Carpets). Yet, it's also undeniably it's own show, a product of the comedy partnership between Scott and Whitfield. Above all else, this is the core of the show and simply the reason why it was so well loved.
Terry Scott and June Whitfield are a more natural couple even than Felicity Kendal and Richard Briers from The Good Life. Indeed, there is such a relaxed air about their relationship that they make the audience feel entirely at home. June Whitfield, despite having the 'straight man' role, performs perfectly against the uptight Scott. Indeed, it worked so well that Annette Crosbie offered almost an exact copy of it for One Foot In The Grave. As such, Terry And June feels timeless, which also suggests that it will have aged well.
Unfortunately, the timelessness that one associates with Terry And June is also one that gives it the feeling of having already been stale during its original broadcast. In that, it no doubt felt, like Last Of The Summer Wine does now, a tonic to those who wanted no more than to see a man falling over, a little innuendo and a harmlessly political agenda telling them exactly what they wanted to hear. I suspect, therefore, that Terry And June went down awfully well with the over-forties when it was first shown on television. Unsurprisingly, the passing twenty-six years has done little and whilst I can firmly say that I believe my parents would adore this DVD, much as they do the adventures of Foggy, Clegg and co., it's a step too far into old age for this viewer. My mirror already reminds me of the ageing process, as does my liver, and, if I can avoid it, I'd rather my television didn't.
All six episodes of series one of Terry And June are included on this single, dual-layer disc and are described below:
Long Weekend (29m08s): When Terry and June move into their new house, the 'For Sale' sign that remains on the lawn causes them to have an argument with a man who's convinced the house is still for sale. Managing to get rid of him, Terry welcomes a couple who live nearby but in exploring the house, he is concussed when a toilet cistern falls on his head.
On The Move (29m35s): Terry and June are moving out of their old house, remaining so long as it takes for the removals men to clear it for their furniture. But, try as the removals men might, they just can't get Terry and June to leave their old street - first their daughter, Wendy, shows up having left her husband, Roger, who arrives just as they're about to leave for a second time. The removals men urge them to be hasty but Terry and June simply can't pass up a good crisis.
Flying Carpets (29m23s): What with Terry's colleague, Malcolm, and his wife coming for drinks on Saturday, he and June have yet to take delivery of their new carpet. Help is at hand, though, when Brian and Tina, the neighbours, claim to know a 'getchit' man - the friend-of-a-friend who can get anything. Of course, Terry is rather keen on the shag pile brown carpet that they've just had put into the executive suite in the office, which Brian's getchit man delivers that night. But when Malcolm arrives, telling Terry that the carpet in the office has been stolen, Terry hatches a plan to return what he thinks is the stolen carpet before anyone notices that it's in his living room.
A Bridge Too Far (28m28s): Sir Dennis Hodge, the manager of the company that Terry works for, has two passions in life - his company and bridge. When Terry hears that Sir Dennis' bridge partner has to drop out of a game, Terry volunteers his services as a replacement, sensing that it will bring a promotion to the seventh floor as a reward. The only problem is that Terry can't play bridge but buys a few books on the way home to learn, knowing that he can attain a basic understanding of the game in the four days that remain until Sir Dennis' game. Unfortunately, Sir Dennis phones, suggesting that he and two friends call round that very evening, leaving Terry only two hours to learn a lifetime's knowledge of bridge.
Writing On The Wall (29m45s): When Terry spots some graffiti on the wall of one of his neighbours, he bemoans both the inability of teenagers to spell the most basic of words accurately but also the foul language that teenagers use when, in his day, all they had was a, "dollop of Plasticine and a couple of pipe cleaners." When he despairs that no one wants to do anything to encourage teenagers into being useful members of society, Brian and Tina persuade him to help their nephew, Magnus, with a fancy dress competition. Despite some initial doubts, Terry soon enters into things with boundless enthusiasm, which, knowing Terry, can only end in disappointment.
Animal Crackers (29m40s): It's nighttime and Terry and June are reading their books - June, in particular, is enjoying the thrills of a horror compendium. But when she hears a tapping on the window outside, she pleads with Terry to stop his jokes about it being the Headless Window Washer of Purley and to investigate. When Terry looks out the window and takes in a budgie that had been tapping on the glass, June decides that she wants a pet or two...or three...or, indeed, a living room full of them.
The six episodes look to have been remastered - the image is stable and while it's not exactly bursting with colour, you must remember that this was the late-seventies and life, in general, was constructed from browns, beiges and greys. The picture is, however, sharper than I thought it would be although there is an obvious drop in quality when the series heads out for external shots on location.
The audio tracks appears to be in 2.0 Mono and is perfectly acceptable, with very little noise and a fairly unobtrusive laughter track. Each episode comes with English subtitles.
There are no bonus features on this DVD release.
Despite connecting Terry And June to the arrival of Margaret Thatcher in government through this review, I also think it was Thatcherism that put an end to the show. Under Thatcherism, the days of a job for life, for the need to impress the company MD with drinks of an evening and of a socially cohesive suburban neighbourhood all vanished and, with them, did Terry And June. Add to that the implausibility of Scott's actions and Terry And June simply looked out of place during an era of cutthroat competitiveness, boss, golf and bridge games be damned.
Of course, in 1987, it wasn't very funny either and Terry Scott wasn't in the best of health by the time the show ended but when a comedy show looks as anachronistic as this did, the BBC had little choice but to pull the rug, the slip-on loafers and the diamond-patterned socks out from under this couple. Unfortunately, this DVD arrives without any particular reevaluation of the show, leaving it, I suspect, only to the dedicated rather than to the casually interested. There are worse television shows of the seventies and eighties but there are also much better and for providing no more than the occasional full-throated laugh, Terry And June are as middling as their social standing.