BBC/Roadshow Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 177 mins .
PG . PAL
And so we come to the third and final series of Ronnie Barker’s Porridge, and essentially things have not changed a great deal – which is a good thing.
Norman Stanley Fletcher (Barker) is still a five-year guest of Her Majesty at Slade Prison, he still shares a cell with Lenny Godber (Richard Beckinsale), and still hangs with the same losers and crims as in the previous two series' such as Warren (Sam Kelly) and McLaren (Tony Osoba). Also back is the tough screw Mr MacKay (Fulton MacKay), and the marshmallow, pushover type, Mr Barrowclough (Brian Wilde).
The six half-hour episodes are not radically different to the previous series, and were again written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Fletch forever finds himself either in the middle of some elaborate scam that is doomed to fail, or determined to do little favours for his fellow inmates, and although he wouldn’t admit it, there are times when he does these favours in the name of humanity. This is particularly true of Godber, over whom Fletch exerts an almost fatherly concern.
Two nuts and a screw?
There are still some laughs on offer, and some further insight into the main characters. However, it is soon evident that three series was really about as far as Porridge could go. There was a spin-off called Going Straight not yet available on DVD. It lasted just one season but did allow Porridge fans the chance to follow the life-paths of Fletcher and Godber for just a little longer.
A Storm in a Teacup: Fletch happens to be in the right place at the right time, only he doesn’t know it. When some stolen pills end up in his possession without his knowledge, tough guy “Harry Grout” develops a greater interest in Fletcher.
Poetic Justice: A judge is sentenced to time at Slade, in Fletchers’ cell. The thing is however, he is the very judge who sentenced Fletcher to his five-year stint.
Rough Justice: The judge’s watch goes missing and Harris is suspected. A kangaroo court is conducted to hand out some prison justice, but did Harris really steal it?
Pardon Me: Old lagger, Blanco, is finally granted parole, so why does he refuse it Fletcher, and Godber try to convince Blanco that he has earned it, but Blanco is hanging out for a full pardon.
A Test of Character: Godber is studying O’ level history and determined to pass. Fletcher helps ensure that by stealing the exam paper, but Godber is not impressed and insists on doing things in the straight.
Final Stretch: Young Godbar is due for parole, so why he is so keen to risk it by scrapping with the tough guy Jarvis? Can Fletch persuade him that freedom is more important than honour? Or will Fletch have to take a fall for him?
A decent transfer is once again on offer, and while it is full frame and therefore not 16:9 enhanced, it is essentially clean, clear and consistent. Sure, there is some dirt and other minor impurities as is expected of these older series', but they are all within reason.
Colours are mostly the bland prison variety, but are solid with your regular levels of grain and noise as is typical of these older series. The image is quite sharp, especially the taped footage, but the filmed location footage exhibits quite serious grain, fuzziness and dirt. The good news is that these filmed segments are few and far between. There is some serious shimmer on the prison shirts that have lots of stripes, and some minor ghosting, comets and flares, but other than that this is a solid and acceptable looking transfer.
Audio transfers don’t come much blander that this, with the Dolby Digital mono track offering the bare minimum in every department. Fisdelity is fine, the volume is consistent, synchronization is good, there is little in the way of hiss, clicks or pops, and everything is balanced, clear and discernable which is about as much as you can expect really.
There are no extras included with Series Three of Porridge.
After three series', Porridge had gone about as far as it realistically could. The spin-off series, Going Straight proved that an audience was not always guaranteed. Barker had proved that he was indeed a versatile and successful comedian and Porridge was one of his more successful efforts.