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 Porridge 1974-1977

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StanandJack

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Join date : 2013-05-07
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PostSubject: Porridge 1974-1977   Tue May 07, 2013 4:17 am

orridge originated with a 1973 project commissioned by the BBC Seven of One, which would see Ronnie Barker star in seven different situation comedy pilot episodes. The most successful would then be made into a full series.[1] One of the episodes, "Prisoner and Escort", written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (who appear in one episode) about a newly-convicted criminal, Norman Stanley Fletcher (Barker), being escorted to prison by two warders: the timid Mr. Barrowclough (Brian Wilde) and the stern Mr. Mackay (Fulton Mackay). It was broadcast on 1 April 1973 on BBC2.[2] Despite Barker's initial preference for another of the pilots, a sitcom about a Welsh gambling addict, "Prisoner and Escort" was selected. It was renamed Porridge, a slang term for prison; Barker and Clement and La Frenais actually came up with the same title independently of each other.[3]
In their research, Clement and La Frenais spoke to Jonathan Marshall, a former prisoner who had written a book, How to Survive in the Nick, and he advised them about prison slang, dress and routines. Struggling to think up plots and humour for such a downbeat, confined environment, a particular phrase used by Marshall – "little victories" – struck a chord and convinced them to base the series on an inmate who made his daily life in prison more bearable by beating the system, even in trivial ways.[4]
The BBC was forced to look around for locations because the Home Office refused permission for any production filming in or outside a real prison. Instead the main gatehouse of the disused St Albans Prison (in the town's Victoria Street) was used in the opening credits. Exteriors were first filmed at a psychiatric hospital near Watford. However after the completion of the second series, the hospital withdrew permission for more filming following complaints from patients' families. Another institution near Ealing was then used for the third series.[5] Scenes within cells and offices were filmed at the BBC's London studios. But for shots of the wider prison interior, series production designer Tim Gleeson, converted an old water tank, used at Ealing Studios used for underwater filming, into a multi-storey set.[6]
The first episode, "New Faces, Old Hands", was aired on BBC1 on 5 September 1974, attracting a television audience of over 16 million, and received positive reviews from critics.[7] Two further series were commissioned, as well as two Christmas special episodes. The final episode of Porridge, "Final Stretch", was broadcast on 25 March 1977.[8] The producers and the writers were keen to make more episodes, but Barker was wary of being "stuck with a character" and also wanted to move on to other projects, so the series came to a close.[9] Barker did, however, reprise his role as Fletcher in a sequel, Going Straight, which ran for one series in 1978. A feature length version of the show was made in 1979 and in 2003 a follow-up
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