Why The Plank is an evergreen comedy classic
DIY or construction themed sitcoms have had a mixed response from viewers and TV reviewers alike, since the haunted fish tank entered our lives. In 1980, there was Roy Kinnear’s Cowboys, a series based around inept handypersons. America’s Home Improvement based on the shenanigans of TV presenter Tim Allen did fine on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Then there was Hardware, starring Peter Serafinowicz and Martin Freeman. For some people, the high point of construction themed comedy was The Plank.
There was two versions of The Plank, both of which directed by, and featuring, Eric Sykes. The first one from 1967 featured Tommy Cooper. In the 1979 remake, Arthur Lowe assumed the second principal lead role. The mainly silent comedy film (it is interrupted by the odd grunt) has its roots in Sykes and a… Plank, an episode of the comedy writer’s self-titled situation comedy.
Whether Tommy Cooper or Arthur Lowe is helping to carry the plank with Eric Sykes, it is the titular timber structure which has star quality in both versions. There are moments of slapstick and, no innuendo, which made the films suitable for family viewing. The 1979 version was pretty much a who’s who of comedy actors from the last decade, including Brian Murphy (of George and Mildred fame), Reg Varney, Joanna Lumley, and Charlie Drake.
Without the 1967 version, there wouldn’t be such thing as Mr Bean. If you see Rowan Atkinson’s pre-Mr Bean comedy, Canned Laughter (1979), you can see how much of a debt it owes to The Plank. Likewise with the runaway success of Mr Bean from 1990 onward.
In Video: the 1979 version of The Plank:
We shall the video clip do the talking. This is the 1979 version produced by Thames Television.
Theo’s Timber, 02 June 2017.