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A late 1970s sitcom by Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping Up Appearances). Along with Porridge, it was based on one of the more successful items from a series of sitcom try-out pilots by Ronnie Barker called Seven of One.
The miserly, late-middle-aged Arkwright (first name unknown; in one episode Granville calls him 'Albert' but the situation suggests he may have made it up) runs a general store in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster (both the shop and the street are real life places). An Honest John, he prides himself on never letting anyone leave his shop without buying something, and seems to take more pleasure in the thrill of the chase than becoming rich. His work obsession causes friction between him and his fiancée, Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, to whom he remains perpetually engaged while waiting for her mother to die.
Arkwright is aided and abbetted by his long-suffering nephew Granville, possibly the son of a displaced Hungarian noble, whose romantic and exotic dreams are invariably crushed by the grim reality of life in 1970s South Yorkshire. Also wants a van.
Ronnie Barker played Arkwright (a very common remark is that it's hard to believe he was simultaneously playing the very different character of Fletcher in Porridge) while Granville was one of the first major roles of a young David Jason (who also played the very old Blanco in Porridge!). Production was done on a very small budget, with the result that the vast majority of the show takes place on the same shop set - this arguably forced the programme to devote its full attention to the verbal comedy, which is often praised.
Barker also contributed Arkwright's famous stutter (absent in the original scripts). The character himself lampshades it at times:
Arkwright: Ger-granville? How do you spell per-per-per-per-potatoes? Is it six P's or seven?
Ran for 4 series and 26 episodes.
Came eighth in Britains Best Sitcom.
Contains examples of:
- Catch Phrase: "Granville! Fetch your cloth!"
- Dawson Casting: The character of Granville (obviously meant as an inexperienced youth in a low-status "school leaver" job for his uncle) is played by David Jason, who was in his mid-thirties to mid-forties during the series' run.
- Somewhat debatable. Lines from other characters, including Granville himself, seem to indicate that he may actually be mid-to-late 20s, or even in his 30s, and that he's had an incredibly sheltered life thanks to Arkwright mistreating him.
- Eccentric Townsfolk: About half of the customers.
- Expy: Kathy Staff's character Mrs Blewitt is, as the actress herself noted in a making-of documentary, essentially the same character as the one she plays in Last of the Summer Wine, Nora Batty (also written by Clarke).
- The Faceless: Mr Bristow, never seen outside his motorcycle helmet and leathers. Actually, The Voiceless, too. Come to think of it, are we sure he isn't The Stig?
- Hey, It's That Girl : Waiting for God's Stephanie Cole as Mrs. Delphine Featherstone
- Honest John's Dealership: Arkwright
- Hurricane of Euphemisms: Pretty much everything Arkwright says to Nurse Gladys is riddled with Unusual Euphemisms.
- Manipulative Bastard: Arkwright is highly skilled in conning people into buying useless junk, especially strangers or newcomers to the area.
- Not What It Looks Like: Mr Bristow's head is stuck in his helmet, so Granville bends him over the counter and Arkwright produces a large axe (intending to prise it off with the handle)...then one of his best customers walks in.
- Porky Pig Pronunciation: Arkwright.
- Product Placement: More for realism than any money being given for the exposure, many British and British versions of American company products can be seen in the store and advertised on the walls and door.
- Reverse Psychology: Arkwright gets rid of unwanted ginger cake by immediately announcing to customers as soon as they come through the door "I'm sorry, but I can only let you have one!" before implying they're an aphrodisiac.
- Running Gag: The till's tight spring that snaps back as soon as money is put into it, nearly chopping off fingers as it does.
- Schmuck Bait: A lot. For example, in one episode Arkwright cons a southern health inspector into believing that the town is infested with "frats" (ferret/rat hybrids) and that an old lantern he's been trying to get rid of is a "frat detector".
- Stalker with a Crush: At times Arkwright, even though he and Nurse Gladys are supposed to be engaged.
- Trans Atlantic Equivalent: The very short lived mid 80s ABC sitcom Open 24 Hours was an American adaption of the show, changing the local to a 7-11/Kwik-E-Mart type of establishment.
- Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Averted, despite everything counting against Arkwright like his treatment of Granville, his Scrooge-level miserliness and his Stalker with a Crush attitude to Gladys Emmanuel. Clarke's writing and Barker's acting are good enough that Arkwright can be a sympathetic character even when his plans work (so he doesn't end up as The Woobie).