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Which British TV shows have made it successfully on the big screen - and which haven't

01:00 Mon 11th Feb 2002 |

A.� British film producers plundered TV comedy in the 1960s and 1970s. The result was a glut of fairly dire films which performed well at the domestic box office, but since television at this time was a national medium, could not be sold to other countries. Films like On The Buses showed the industry was becoming more commercial.

Films that made it on to the big screen:

Homespun comedy was the major source: Steptoe and Son Ride Again (1973) was a yarn about Harold Steptoe (Harry H Corbett) investing his father's life savings on a greyhound which was almost blind and couldn't see the hare.

The film, directed by Peter Sykes, was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, arguably the greatest British sitcom writers, as proved in the long-running series of Steptoe.

The Boys in Blue (1983), a film in which television comedians Tommy Cannon and Bobby Ball run the police station in the quiet town of Little Botham. When the station is threatened with closure, they decide to invent some crimes. Bobby says, "Rock on, Tommy!" a good deal.

Man About The House (1974), directed by John Robbins. Robin Tripp, played by Richard O'Sullivan, moves into a flat - with two girls, Sally Thomsett and Paula Wilcox. Youtha Joyce and Brian Murphy are the landlords who live downstairs. The film was released just before Christmas and hasn't been seen on the big screen since 1975.

To some it was the golden age of TV sitcoms and there was plenty to choose from. Programmes which didn't get the film treatment - but could have - include Mind Your Language, a mid-1970s sitcom set at an evening class in which a group of racial stereotypes try to learn the English language.

Don't Drink the Water was an early 1970s sitcom spin-off from On The Buses in which Inspector Blakey (Stephen Lewis - subsequently the voice for Roland Rat on TV-am) retires to the Costa del Sol and is abusive to the locals.

It Ain't Half Hot Mum was a sitcom featuring a concert party in wartime Asia with lots of racist Indian stereotypes. Windsor Davies shouted his way through, Don Estelle "sang" and there was a character called La-di-da Gunner Graham.

Q.� Which was the most successful programme to become a film

A.�� Probably the most successful to date is Bean, the 1997 movie, directed by Mel Smith. Rowan Atkinson's Mr Bean was an accident-prone, faintly irritating goon who gave Atkinson the chance to use his rubber-face to full effect. Yet this barely sustained laughs over a 30-minute sketch show. The film, however, triumphed here and abroad.

The Rebel, made in 1960 by director Robert Day, was a spin-off from Hancock's Half Hour. The film concerned Hancock's attempt to swap City bowler for artist's beret and become a successful Left Bank painter. Critics loved it, (the film was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson), - at one point Hancock orders "snails, eggs and chips" at a Parisien brasserie.

That Riviera Touch, directed by Clive Owen in 1966, this was TV comedians Morecambe and Wise's second film after The Intelligence Men. Shot on the Cote d'Azur, it involved a� complicated heist, was loved by its audience and repeated every Christmas for years after.

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Katharine MacColl

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