Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 7/10
Cast: Kevin Bishop, Mark Bonnar, Pippa Haywood, Dominic Coleman, Dave Hill, Harman Singh, Jason Barnett, Ricky Grover, Harry Peacock, Moyo Akande, Amina Zia, Rory Gallagher, John Marquez.
You can be spoiled in life, the little things, the small moments of brilliance can seem so monumental that they, in most people’s eyes, cannot be seen to be bettered, not even equalled and it is a shame because the monumental should be inspiring; it should be a light that shines, not to intimidate, but to at least emulate, to carry on the noble tradition of something worthwhile.
To try to capture the essence of that being though does take skill, it takes care and attention and whilst some might not look at the offering with the same eyes, it can still be admired for what it is; the case in point is Porridge; not a remake, not a 21st Century do over and without the fine genius mind of Ronnie Barker at the cast helm and with the much missed Richard Beckinsale forever at his comedy side. Instead it is a fine attempt to remember the small victories, but in a setting that is designed to rehabilitate rather than destroy, to install fear and bring the criminal mind to heel.
Writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais set a very high standard when they went beyond the comedy half hour of Prisoner and Escort, the pilot offering of a show that would spawn three series, two films and a stage show, they gave an insight into a world that many of us hopefully will never see, the bidding of the long hours, the grudges that magnify and the feeling of despair when guilt eats away at you.
To capture that with the memory of Ronnie Barker, Fulton Mackay and Richard Beckinsale in the background is more than a tough ask, it is the comedic equivalent of painting the Sistine Chapel with one arm behind your back and an assistant who keeps rocking the ladder. However the end product might not be the same effect but when the painters are as good, as observational about how prison, the nature of criminality has changed in the last fifty years, then Porridge in the new so called enlightened era is a great addition to British comedy and far and away more funny than many other comedies parading on television.
With Mark Bonnar, Dave Hill, Ricky Grover and of course Kevin Bishop giving such insight into the roles of the incarcerated and those that are responsible for them, Porridge has got legs to grow, to be seen not only as comedy but as a reminder that we must not forget the crime but we must try to see what prison does to a person.
A good series, following in someone else’s large footprints is never easy but the task is sometimes worth doing.
Ian D. Hall