Still Open All Hours, Series Four. Television Review. (2018).

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *

Cast: David Jason, James Baxter, Stephanie Cole, Tim Healy, Maggie Ollerenshaw, Johnny Vegas, Brigit Forsyth, Kulvinder Ghir, Sally Lindsay, Nina Wadia, Geoffrey Whitehead.

Natural progression in comedy is essential, especially on television where the day to day unravelling is far more illuminating than quick fire and often mistimed, it is perhaps the modern label though of gentle, or worse, wholesome, comedy that makes people avoid programmes such as Still Open All Hours; and by doing so the television viewer is missing out on the established acting range that is the product of honing dedicated skills in theatre and on television which has not been written by committee.

Still Open All Hours has now ran for as long the original starring the late, great Ronnie Barker and yet in many ways it has outgrown Roy Clarke’s initial outing of the small corner shop owner, focus has shifted but not neglectfully away from the inside of the shop and now sees the much loved David Jason sharing the limelight of the show with a range of characters that are just as important to the shows continued success as his character Granville.

It is in the day to day progression which sees comedy succeed; nobody wants to be stuck in a time warp of repeated gestures and jokes, time must move on, it doesn’t have to be rapid, to condense everything into a single life but it must be seen as genuine, it must capture life at its most ordinary.

It is credit to Roy Clarke that he brings the northern sense of realism to the forefront of each episode, especially now as the series has reached the same amount of episodes as the original; it is in the expanded cast range who have been given their own trials and tribulations that have made the show just as important and much loved as it ever was.

From Stephanie Cole’s luxurious and entertaining Delphine Featherstone, Sally Lindsay’s and Johnny Vegas’ on edge but ultimately strong couple Kath and Eric and in the true reflection of British society, the addition of Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia as bastions of the community and easy prey for Granville’s money making ways; in this expansion, time spent in the houses and the conversations between the women that a truth of comedy is revealed, that not everybody has to be the star, not everyone has to be the permanent butt of the joke, but at some point everybody must be at least once brought down to Earth.

It is arguably though to the chemistry between David Jason, James Baxter and writer Roy Clarke that Still Open All Hours has matched, and in many ways surpassed, the original series, all three seem too instinctively understand that progression is timeless, there is no hurry, there is only the day to day, and in that the most poignant and touching comedy can be found.

A terrific series, Still Open All Hours continues a fine tradition of comedy that is steeped in the real life observations and community in which we all are part of.

Ian D. Hall