It's always reassuring to pop into your local shop at the end of the road, pay over the odds for low-quality bread and be treated with miserable indifference by the shopkeeper. And you'd think that if all corner shops were like this, then the whole localised retail industry would surely collapse, but the funny thing is, they ARE all like this. And that is why this is one of the most endearing comedy series ever made.
Diamond in the rough
The series, written by Roy Clarke, started life as just one of six Ronnie Barker pilots that sprung from The Two Ronnies show. The stuttering, miserly, lustful shopkeeper Arkwright was purely Barker.s invention. Clarke drew inspiration from his time working in a corner shop and developed the contrasting characters, created the plots and wrote the scripts based on this experience.
Barker's performance as the old-fashioned Arkwright was another key to the success of the show. A few complaints were registered over the humorous use of a speech impediment, but Barker said that he received letters over the years from stutter-sufferers, congratulating him on bringing the problem out into the public forum.
Till we meet again
Though most of the humour was verbal, Barker also showed what a great physical comedian he was in a wonderful double-act with the shop's till. He grabbed the money with a speed and ferocity more commonly associated with a shark. Barker worked up the routine impressively, often hesitating before the till, weighing up the options, before risking his fingers in the guillotine-like drawer. Priceless.