The Piglet Files (ITV, 1990-1992)
Here’s another entry in the “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” series, and this one has a better claim to being more successful than most others. This is partly because it starred Nicholas Lyndhurst, who by this point was an increasingly popular comic actor, mostly thanks to Only Fools And Horses of course, and this was the sitcom that he made inbetween the end of The Two Of Us, and the start of Goodnight Sweetheart.
The Piglet Files (an LWT Production for ITV) was written by Brian Leveson and Paul Minett, who contributed to many other comedy shows throughout the 80s and 90s. Lyndhurst starred as Peter Chapman, an electronics expert who is a lecturer at a local polytechnic. One day to his surprise he is hired by MI5, and he suddenly enters the world of espionage, but he soon realises that it isn’t that glamorous.
Firstly, he is assigned the codename “Piglet”, because unfortunately for him, all of the fancier ones such as “Panther” have already been taken. And secondly, the team he has to work with are rather inept. Indeed, they are so bumbling that they probably thought a doppelganger was a type of German sausage. These included Dexter and Lewis, and Peter’s bosses Major Drummond (Clive Francis, who was also in sitcom The 10%ers) and Major Maxwell often make things difficult for him too.
This means that Peter is now a spy, and he has to use all kinds of technology on missions where he had to go undercover. With him, Britain’s future will be in safe hands, probably. This means that Peter is often away from his wife Sarah, and his increasingly bizarre excuses for his absence soon make her realise that something rather strange is going on (although his excuses are still more plausible than Lyndhurst’s character in Goodnight Sweetheart).
There were 21 episodes of The Piglet Files in three series (with the final series moving from Fridays to Sundays). Even though it is now one of Lyndhurst’s lesser-remembered sitcoms, it was still an above-average effort for ITV. I’m fairly sure that there was a repeat run on Granada Plus, it has also been repeated on Gold this year, and all of the episodes have been released on DVD by Network, although they contain no extras.
The credits also featured caricatures of the Peter and Drummond characters that were drawn by Francis. One of the other things that the show is remembered for is when an outtake was featured on It’ll Be Alright On The Night, where Francis stumbled all over his words, much to the amusement of an unsympathetic Lyndhurst. James Bond has nothing to fear from this lot.