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Carry On Regardless
IT'S BEEN a few years since my old gran passed away but the time, I suppose, is irrelevant.
What remains, beyond the photographs and the few possessions she passed down, are the memories.
And, as we all know, memory can be a tricky subject. It's prone to get confused with nostalgia and, more often than not, merged with insignificant brain fog.
We could never quite understand, for example, why my gran kept her television set on a table behind the couch. She would sit with her back to her beloved snooker, which played away behind her.
To add confusion to the scene, my gran insisted on keeping her old black and white set. She was perhaps the only person in history for whom 'Whispering' Ted Lowe's infamous quote made sense: "And for those of you who are watching in black and white, the pink is next to the green."
It's funny, but like most humour, less so once explained. My gran grew up with radio and never quite got the hang of watching television at home. Whispering Ted could prattle away in the background, barely attracting a glance because it was the sound coming from the speaker she was giving her attention to.
Though goodness knows what she thought of Whispering Ted's remark when Fred Davis was struggling to rest a leg on the table to reach a long shot: "Fred is getting on a bit and is having trouble getting his leg over."
The franchise had faded away by the hight of snooker's 1980s heyday, but I still think the Carry On team missed a trick there. Can you imagine Carry On Potting? With Sid James as Whispering Ted and Kenneth Williams as an irascible Hurricane, perhaps? What about Leslie Phillips as Cliff 'The Grinder' Thornburn and Hattie Jakes and Bill Werbeniuk?
Eh, no. I suppose you can't. It's a tempting, though utterly ridiculous suggestion. Like trying to explain the humour behind my gran's telly, it only works because of the time and place; an odd sprinkling of confused nostalgia doesn't help a bit.
Some cultural high-points are best left in the past. It's where they belong because it's where they worked. We can still get a laugh out of Frankie Howard's "Infamy, infamy" line from Carry on Cleo. Slightly less funny are the ageing lechers in Carry On Camping, who might find themselves on a sex offenders register in 2016.
Ironically, it's precisely because we are in 2016, that we're faced with the prospect of the Carry On franchise being resurrected. Any old long-dead cash cow can now be brought to life again in the hope of making a quid. The only prerequisite is audience identification—if you have a brand that once had a following, then that's enough to lessen the gamble for moviemakers.
And so, a series of 31-films that last saw the light of day a quarter of a century ago, is to be re-born for a 2017 audience.
Carry On Doctors is due to start filming in October, with a promise to make another one, Carry On Campus, if it's a success at the box office.
The scripts are being put together by Tim Dawson and Susan Nickson, who have a host of BBC and ITV comedy credits between them. Dawson has called the project his "dream job" and promised to be sympathetic to the heritage whilst being "unafraid to modernise the franchise for a whole new audience".
If that sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, like the words of someone who wants to have his cake and eat it, or perhaps redolent of the ill-fated rehash that was Carry on Columbus, then you're not alone.
Paul D. Brazill grew up in Hartlepool and is a self-confessed Carry On fan. He's also the author of a number of books, including his most recent, The Last Laugh, and currently in production is Carry On Croaking. Brazill has even based a couple of his fictional characters on Carry On actors Sid James and Bernard Breslaw.
If there's anyone you'd expect to be looking forward to a new Carry On film, it's Brazill, but he's not; far from it.
"I think it was very much a product of its time," he said.
"It was the end of the era of seaside postcards. A celebration of absurdity and the grotesque. Things are cleaner these days and people are more delicate.
"It's best to keep it in its world of pent up sexual frustration and class war.
"I think one of the reasons that it worked was because the actors were just that—actors. Not comedians."
Brazill lists his favourite Carry On as either Carry On Screaming or Carry On Cabby but felt let down by the 1992 effort to reboot the series.
"Carry On Columbus was the last one I saw and it was a bit fake, to say the least. Though I did laugh a bit."
No one will be laughing if Carry On Doctors fails to deliver a shot in the arm for the most legendary British comedy series. But, not even the fans seem to be expecting that much, funnily enough.
Tony Black's latest novel, A Taste of Ashes, is published by Black & White Publishing and is available now in bookstores priced £7.99 and in e-book for a limited time at £1.89.
Visit Tony's website at www.tonyblack.net
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