A New Zany Comedy Series Starts Next Tuesday!
Hardwicke House may still be no nearer being released on DVD or even digitally, let alone actually shown by an actual TV station, but that doesn't mean that people are any less interested in it. In fact, as we were discussing only recently, it's the single most searched for programme on here by some considerable distance, far outstripping Play School, Buzzfax, The Mersey Pirate and poor old Skiboy. Even Doctor Who, which is technically so popular that I didn't include it in those results, is actually narrowly edged from the top slot by the famously banned sitcom.
Needless to say, an enormous number of that enormous number of searchers are very keen to see more of it. The only problem is that there never actually is any more to see. Thanks to both the machinations of Ian Compliance and the mysterious disappearance of all those bootlegs that were apparently around at one point, all that we have available to watch are the two transmitted episodes and that outtake with Rik Mayall, Ade Edmonson and Kevin Allen that bizarrely shows up on TV's Naughtiest Blunders-type shows every now and again. Which is why I was especially delighted to recieve an email from Mark Ayres saying that he'd found the pre-transmission trailer for Hardwicke House between two programmes on an old VHS tape.
So, how was Hardwicke House originally sold to potential viewers? Was that actually part of the problem? And did it - as memory suggests it did - have any untransmitted material in it? Well, there's only one way to find out...
How many times the trailer was broadcast is anyone's guess, but this particular recording dates from 17th February 1987 - a full week before the series launch - and was shown at approximately 8:56pm, sandwiched between a repeat of Morecambe And Wise On Stage and Texas Rangers, the first episode of the second series of Boon. To the accompaniment of the opening theme, the announcer tells us to expect "a new zany comedy" as we go "back to school at Hardwicke House", illustrated with full zaniness by a shot of Mr. Flashman ducking and allowing a football to hit Mr. Philpott and send him flying, as seen in the first transmitted episode.
From an unbroadcast episode, the brilliantly malevolent Mr. Fowl tells a roomful of exam candidates that a pencil "is for writing with, and not cleaning out your orifices". "Sir, what's an orifice?" - "You are boy".
From the legendary unbroadcast episode featuring Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, Lenny and Tiny threaten Slasher Bates into telling them where Mr. Fowl's room is, a plan which falls apart when they remember they are unable to tell left from right. Once again it's worth emphasising that this episode is right up there with the best of the duo's work and deserves better than to be sat gathering dust on an archive shelf for absolutely no fathomable reason. If you're reading this and are in a position to do something about it, then please do.
"I've been poked!", exclaims Ms. Crabbe in an unbroadcast episode. "Come come Miss Crabbe", adds headmaster Mr. Wickham, "I'm sure you imagined that".
And finally, from the first broadcast episode, Mr. Flashman reluctantly reminds a fetish gear-clad Donna to "wear the uniform". With rather disturbingly detached glee, the voiceover signs off with "Donna, the voluptuous head girl of Hardwicke House, a new comedy series starting next Tuesday at eight, and continuing Wednesday and every Wednesday at eight thirty". Erm...
So did this trailer give a false impression of Hardwicke House? Well, no, really. It's true that it plays up the knockabout slapstick to a misleading degree, but there's also plenty of warning of potential off-colour language and subject matter. Even from this thirty second glimpse, it's clearly no family-friendly half-hour of cosy fun. So the widespread assumption that viewers were led to expect a very different show to what they actually saw isn't quite so accurate after all, even if it does make you wonder yet again what possessed somebody to think it was suitable for that timeslot. Though on the other hand it does possibly explain why so many people are so insistent that they saw the Rik and Ade episode go out.
Of course, something like this would make a great extra for a Hardwicke House DVD. But there isn't one. And nor is there likely to be. If you'd like to read the booklet that would have come with an abandoned DVD release, though, you can find it in Well At Least It's Free. If you want to know more about why it didn't come out, you can find that in The Camberwick Green Procrastination Society. And if you want to take the content of this article and pass it off as your own work, here is a list of short piers; please locate your nearest one and take a long walk off it. And we're back at Hardwicke House next Wednesday night from the same time...