The Maltby Collection (BBC Radio 4, 2007-2009)
This is a sitcom that I got into because I was attracted by the impressive cast and writer. The Maltby Collection was created by David Nobbs, who wrote several comedy shows over the years, his most successful being The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin. With this show he proved once again that he was rather capable at capturing the quirks of the English eccentric (and a few other nationalities as we’ll see). The theme music was “I’m On My Way” by The Proclaimers.
The Maltby Collection is set at a museum, although there isn’t much worth looking at and not many people visit. This is run by the rather old-fashioned Walter Brindle OBE (and he will tell you that he has an OBE for his services to the museum whether you ask him or not). Brindle was played by Geoffrey Palmer (and once again his presence much enhanced the show). Walter is approaching retirement and is looking forward to it, after dedicating much of his life to the museum.
In the first episode, Rod Millet, who is the son of a biscuit manufacturer, applies for a job. This leads to the rather absurd exchange in the interview: “Glue factory in Walsall. You only stayed there three days, why?” “I just couldn’t stick it”. Ha-ha. We also meet curators Prunella Edgcombe and Julian Crumb-Loosely, who comes from a long family of eccentrics, meaning that he seems to deal with every situation by simply saying “good lord”.
Also featuring are Wilf and Eva, who are becoming rather fond of each other, although the idea of marriage to them is actually rather awkward. Eva’s opinion of most of the sculptures is “lovely little bum on him”. Some of the characters that stood out to me the most though, were the ones who had the most bizarre speaking quirks. Invent a quirk, and you’ve got yourself a comedy character. One of these is Des Wainwright, who says everything twice, yes he says everything twice, and he eventually has to undergo hypnotism to try and get himself out of it, but it doesn’t really work.
And there was also Stelios, a Greek chef who really loves his food, but he has some trouble understanding the phrases the rest of the staff use that would sound rather unusual to a non-English person. He always gets them the wrong way round, and ends up confusing people with his references to “the chip and fish shop” and “kidney and steak pie”.
There are plenty of bizarre scenarios over the 18 episodes, and Rod soon realises what he has let himself in for, and like most of the other cast members has to deal with trouble in his love life, along with trying to keep the museum up-to-date and attractive to visitors. Also contributing to a few episodes was Barry Cryer as Eva’s long-suffering husband. The combination of all this led to a rather quirky and enjoyable sitcom which is always enjoyable to listen to.