Going Straight (BBC1, 1978)
Recently I reviewed Porridge, which is widely regarded as one of the best British sitcoms of the 70s. This is partly because of the performance of Ronnie Barker as Fletcher (although I always preferred Open All Hours myself, I do have to concede that this is definitely very good too). And this one is still familiar, having been much celebrated, and repeated for years afterwards.
But there was also a sequel series to Porridge, which had a hard act to follow, and isn’t remembered so much now by comparison, because it was considered to be something of a disappointment. This has been released on DVD, so I thought that I would take a look for myself. Fletcher has now left prison, and insists that this time it’s for good. Yes, really.
This is a situation that he has been in before though, although he is finally going to keep himself out of trouble, and adjust to life in the outside world, still seeing himself as a smart-talker, but one who has changed for the better. So in Going Straight, we see him at home and with his family, for what is the first time in about three years. Has the old place changed much?
He’s got to prove to everyone that he has turned over a new leaf, as much to himself. His wife has long since gone and walked out on him, but we do see his children. They are his daughter Ingrid, and teenage son Raymond, who was played by Nicholas Lyndhurst in some of this earliest TV appearances, and this was a similar character to Rodney Trotter over three years before Only Fools And Horses launched.
Fletcher does eventually get himself a job at a hotel, and he does end up seeing some strange things. He just can’t do right for doing wrong. And we see his old cellmate Lennie, who has also been released, and is now a truck driver. He is planning to marry Ingrid, which leads to a lot of “so what, us two will now be related? Oh my gawd”-type humour. He turns down one last dodgy deal to attend the big day.
Although Going Straight did go on to win a Bafta, maybe this did stretch the idea a little too far, and there would only be one series, which has been little-seen on TV since (maybe it was because Barker sang the theme song himself, but probably not), whilst Porridge is still on Gold endlessly. The DVD release contains the six episodes, but no extras however.