GOING STRAIGHT. (1978) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

going straight

GOING STRAIGHT. (1978) WRITTEN BY DICK CLEMENT AND IAN LA FRENAIS. STARRING RONNIE BARKER, RICHARD BECKINSALE, PATRICIA BRAKE, NICHOLAS LYNDHURST, TONY OSOBA, MILTON JOHNS, NIGEL HAWTHORNE, PETE POSTLETHWAITE AND FULTON MACKAY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, I absolutely loved this follow-up to PORRIDGE, the hit sitcom that sees Ronnie Barker as habitual criminal Norman Stanley Fletcher, aka Fletch, being incarcerated in Slade Prison for his continued recidivism. He can’t say he wasn’t warned, lol.

GOING STRAIGHT sees Fletch leaving prison at last, and with a new determination to go straight for a change as well, brought about by the realisation that he’s already spent far too much of his adult life behind bars. He says goodbye to McLaren, the last of their gang on the inside, gets ‘checked out’ by Milton Johns and heads outside to civilian life.

Episode One sees him sharing the train home with his old nemesis from Slade Prison, Mr. MacKay, the tough-as-old-boots Scotsman whose aggressive adherence to rules and regulations has caused him to clash with Fletch on more than one occasion.

Fletch has an opportunity to get revenge on Mr. Mackay when a couple of criminals board the train looking for a ‘patsy,’ but he doesn’t go through with it. Deep down, I think the two men have always had a grudging respect and admiration for each other, and I for one am in floods of tears when they shake hands as equals, as men and friends, and go their separate ways at the end.

In Episode Two, we see Fletch having trouble adjusting to civilian life. His wife has upped and left him for a man named Reg, and his lovely blonde daughter Ingrid has more or less shacked up, in the family home, with a certain lorry-driving Lenny Godber, Fletch’s best mate from Slade Prison and his protegé as well.

Fletch took Lenny under his wing in Slade and helped him to adjust to prison life, while always having an eye to getting out, of course, and now here’s Lenny Godber indecently mauling Ingrid in front of Fletch’s very eyes. It’s very hard for poor Fletch to stomach, much as he will always have a soft spot for Lenny.

Shouldn’t he perhaps get a job, to help him re-adjust to society and life in Civvy Street? No flaming way! Not when he can ‘borrow’ Lenny’s articulated lorry so he can drive to the Essex countryside in the hopes of pulling a ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and digging up some moolah he buried there in another lifetime… Fletch complicates everything unnecessarily while kidding himself he’s actually in search of a simple solution, doesn’t he…?

Episode Three sees Fletch regain some of his faith in human nature when he helps a young runaway to get back onto the straight and narrow, and in Episode Four he actually- hallelujah!- gets a real job as night porter in the Hotel Dolphin, courtesy of his parole officer. He looks so smart in the suit he wears to work, and he takes such a real pride in the work he does there that it’s lovely to see. We’re all genuinely rooting for him to do well and not to slip back into crime.

Ingrid is so incredibly proud of him and Godber is too, and when Fletch brings home his very first pay packet in a small brown envelope, it’s a real day for celebration. That, and also a day for getting back from Fletch what he owes everyone. Even his lanky, grotty teenage son Raymond has his hand out for the share of Fletch’s earnings which is owed to him. Welcome to the real world, Fletch…!

Episode Five sees Fletch nearly losing his precious job over an imagined jewellery scam involving a young Nigel Hawthorne (YES, MINISTER), and in Episode Six he battles his old demons as he tries to earn money dishonestly to pay for Ingrid’s wedding to Godber.

Angry that his estranged wife and her fancy man are shelling out for a lavish reception while Fletch himself hasn’t a bean to contribute, he takes a job as lookout and getaway driver in a bank job. This could be the start of the slippery slope for Norman Stanley Fletcher. Will he take the easy money and risk prison, or will he turn his back on crime forever and live happily ever after with Ingrid and Godber? Our prayers are with you, Fletch…!

If poor tragic Richard Beckinsale had lived, there might have been another series or two made of this much-loved and superbly-written sitcom. As it is, these six episodes are extremely precious in more ways than one, and I look forward to learning them by heart myself in the years to come.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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