Hardwicke House (ITV, 1987)
I have been looking back at a lot of sitcoms shown on ITV in the 90s on here, because there were a lot of them, yet the vast majority flopped and are now forgotten. This rather notorious one though is from the 80s. I remember when I first read the story of Hardwicke House, I thought that it was all rather bizarre and I wanted to discover more. A lot of people were pleased when all the episodes recently turned up on YouTube, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a look myself so I could offer my opinion too.
As you’ll realise, there has been a long wait to see this show in full. Hardwicke House was a sitcom written by Richard Hall and Simon Wright. I’m not sure if it was the plan or not, but it made CBBC’s Grange Hill seem tame by comparison, as it seemed to be the worst school in the country. The show mostly focused on the teaching staff, who were a wide variety of unusual characters.
There was the bumbling headmaster Mr Wickham (Roy Kinnear). Also featuring were the deputy headmaster Mr Mackintosh (Roger Sloman, another one of those people who has appeared in a lot of TV comedies over the years), French teacher Ms Crabbe (Pam Ferris), PE teacher Mr Savage (Tony Haygarth, who was also in the 80s sitcom Kinvig that I reviewed recently), English teacher Mr Fowl (Granville Saxton), history teacher Mr Flashman (Gavin Richards), maths teacher Mr Magnusson (Duncan Preston), and geography teacher Mr Philpott (Nick Wilton, who also appeared in a lot of CBBC/CITV shows around this time).
And of course, there were also the pupils, a more unruly mob you’ve never seen. Also in the mid-80s Central made the CITV comedy show Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, and I do think that some of the teenagers who appeared in that show turned up here, indeed another comparison could be that it was a more late-night version of that show (and its spin-off Palace Hill that was also school based). One of the pupils about a decade later went on to star as Po in Teletubbies (yes, really).
Hardwicke House was made on location and didn’t have a laughter track. ITV seemed to think that they were on to a winner with this one. The first episode was an hour long, and the second episode (which was half-an-hour) was shown the next day. Viewers didn’t like it at all, it was a ridiculous decision to schedule it at 8pm on ITV, maybe 10pm on Sundays would’ve been better, or even 9pm on Channel 4.
The anarchic mix meant that ITV decided to pull the show and it was replaced by repeats of tried-and-trusted sitcom Chance In A Million. The decision was made at such short notice that Hardwicke House was still listed in TV Times for two more episodes. The remaining five episodes have never been shown on any TV channel, there has been no DVD release, and it was even rumoured that the episodes had been wiped.
One of the reasons that people were pleased to see the show finally appear online over 30 years after it had been made was because the fifth episode that featured guest appearances from Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson as pupils could finally be seen, and they put in a typically lively performance. I did think that it was a rather strange series. Needless to say, ITV didn’t attempt anything like that again.