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Porridge - Christmas Specials
ABC/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 85 mins . M15+ . PAL

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Slade Prison was home to two of Britain's most beloved crims of the 1970s -- Ronnie Barker and Richard Beckinsale, as Fletch and Godber, the perennial behind-bars odd couple.

These Christmas Specials from 1975 and 1976 bring us all the treats we'd expect from this much-loved British sitcom series. For newcomers, they're a good introduction to the show -- each meaty episode, of more than 40 minutes, has far more material than the normal weekly Porridge fare.

And the material hasn't gone soft and soppy for the festive season -- there's Carol singing, but it's to mask an attempted prison break-out, not to convince us that villains are really all nice and cuddly underneath it all.

In No Way Out, 'genial' Harry Grout (played with chilling realism by Peter Vaughan) convinces Fletch that it's in his best interests to do everything he can to aid and abet in the planned prison breakout. And in The Desperate Hours, Fletch and Godger are caught between hostages and a maddened prisoner with a gun. Will our lads survive unscathed and emerge for their Christmas pudding?

It's good genial fun, and shows why Porridge is still remembered as being amongst the best of British comedy.

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The transfer -- image and sound -- are as good as you could expect from 1970s videotape sources. Picture quality, while only average, is never too bad to be upsetting, and sound is very clean and free of distortion. It's what you'd expect for the period and from a television company not exactly famous for its convervation practices.

The main extra, of just on one hour, is a feature entitles Britain's Best Sitcom. This is from a 2004 poll by the BBC to find -- what else? -- Britain's favourite Sitcom, and this one-hour compilation of cast interviews and clips seeks to establish Porridge as Number One choice.

In fact, Porridge came in seventh. Winner was one of my least favourite sitcoms, Only Fools and Horses, which inexplicably came in ahead of such things as Fawlty Towers, Dad's Army and The Young Ones. Well, there's no accounting for taste....


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  •   And I quote...
    "Hard porridge for these prison inmates turns into lasting Christmas cheer for us."
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
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