Sunday Watch: All Quiet on the Preston Front – s01 e05&06


She of the biscuit

The logistics of a working Sunday and the multifarious complications of life as it is now left me thinking I might only manage one episode this week, but let’s go for it, especially as episode 5, ‘Deisel’s Garage’, quickly established itself as a calm-before-the-storm episode, keeping the pot boiling on the major themes of the series and allowing room at last for the more peripheral characters to shine.

Such as Deisel. Tony Marshall’s been a face in the crowd so far, one of the gang, a bit more elevated than the extras but not much more. Now we learn that Deisel and his younger brother Lennie, an excited, enthusiastic and clueless Paul McKenzie, jointly own the petrol station they inherited from their lately deceased Dad, Lol, whose name still adorns the frontage.

Trouble’s brewing. The new petrol station has just opened on Morecambe Road and it’s all-singing, all-dancing and all lights, videos and microwaveable burgers. Deisel’s got competition to worry about. He’s discussing buying lights when the over-eager Lennie excitedly and proudly shows him what he’s bought. They’ve knocked down their Dad’s old church and Lennie’s bought a souvenir, to remember Lol by. It only cost £600. It’s the steeple.

Given that this drastically reduces the amount of money needed for something the garage actually needs, i.e., lights, money is required. so, with everyone drunk after an evening at the TA, Lloydy comes up with an idea. i mention the drunk bit as that’s the only reason Deisel and Spock don’t immediately run screaming to the hills, but instead travel three miles TA-style to Mitch mitchison’s estate to steal back Lloydy’s fish.

Turning that into money demonstrates the inestimable value of an idea via Lloydy, who, incidentally, is inventing a board game that’s a mixture of chess, mah-jong and contract bridge, that’s called ‘Ghurka Tank Battle’.

As for the ‘major’ players, Hodge gets back with Laura without actually saying Kirsty’s his daughter, then goes to visit Jeanetta in Blackpool to ask her to have Laura sing at her forthcoming Conference event, and Eric, having admitted the truth about the Green Dragon outfit (now fished out of the river by an unsuspecting angler) to get back into Dawn’s books, is invited by her to a Corridor party at the Teacher Training College. Caroline Catz has her hair down for the first time this series. She’s handling Eric quite nicely, allowing him to blossom a bit, though the poor bugger’s still so naive that when she gives him the perfect, on their own moment for a first kiss, he doesn’t even see it and shakes her hand instead. You can tell why they nick-named him Eric, can’t you?

Just to mention that Rundle is still holding the live rounds over Polson’s head and then we’re ready for the end of the first series.

And it all worked out in the end, with a bit of nudging to get things to fit in, in the episode ‘Kirsty’s Biscuit’, which referred to a moment of catering improbability that was just like magic: in fact it was the magic that bound up the episode.

A large part of the episode took place in Germany, ostensibly, the TA’s two-week summer camp, including a joint exercise with the Bundeswehr, the German TA, in which Section 2, our brave and noble warriors, hit gold. It was pure gold: Hodge and Eric, in the dark, camoed up to their eyeballs, have an argument over Hodge has lied to Laura about not being involved with getting her the job for Jeanetta. They fight and fall into an advanced Recce post with intelligence that could enable the German CinC to be captured. Rundle changes the plans, Section 2 lead, the capture is spectacular, kudos all around, especially for polson and Rundle, having held his unwanted hold over the Corporal for long enough to remind Polson who is on who’s side, drops the live rounds in the North Sea.

Still on the North Sea but now it’s dark, Eric is wandering disconsolately on deck, avoiding Lloydy trying to get everyone to play Ghurka Tank Battle, finds Dawn. She’s weighed him up all too well, the issues with his father, his innate Eric-ness, and decides to repeat the goodnight scene from the Corridor Party, only this time grabbing his collar, hauling him in and kissing him. A relationship begins. And no, he’s not only going out with her because her nane’s the second half of his favourite film, Zulu Dawn.

Which leaves us one more story to tie down before we can go on our summer holidays. Laura, believing that her job for Jeanetta is all her own work, turns up in Blackpool to discuss specs, not that she has any. She meets Kirsty but doesn’t twig. She goes to the Conference, all bare shoulders and thigh length sparkly blue dress, ready to sing her heart out…

…and Kirsty’s biscuit falls off her plate, lands on edge and rolls. Rolls along hundreds of metres of hotel carpeting, bounces down a flight of stairs without disintegrating (I’m not eating a biscuit that hard!) and into Lauras room, just as her door opens. Magic biscuit. Kirsty follows, recognises the photo of Hodge and, sproing!

It’s the final straw for Laura, who sees everything. Everything, that is, but the bits you don’t see and which have to be explained to you which Jeanetta, figuring she owes Hodge one, explains to her.

So, when all is said and done, Hodge gets back to a loving and knowing girlfriend, who’s given up singing to do Conference catering for and in cahoots with Jeanetta Scarry. Ghurka Tank battle is a hit with Ally and Fraser on one side and Lloydy, Spock and Deisel on the other. Of course, Hodge still has extreme difficulty in actually saying the words that Stevie Wonder called up to say, but hey, there’s a good prospect of a second series, isn’t there?

In fact there was, but that’s for another time. Speaking generally, I’ve enjoyed this first seriwes immensely. It’s densely packed with jokes, many of which are just the normal banter between friends, but even more of which are, to use Clive James’ words, the architecture of the story. This has been the series I gave up on after twenty minutes. the other two series are even so much better and there are things in series 3 that to me are perfect in both comedy and drama.

But that’s for later. Where will I be next Sunday Watch? Wait and see.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Watch: All Quiet on the Preston Front – s01 e05&06

  1. Wonderful write up on the first series of what i would consider to be the some of Tim Firth’s greatest work as a writer.
    Enjoyed the humour it was written in, which was on a parr with the type of humour that flowed through the series.
    I eagerly await your offerings for series 2 and 3.
    Thanking you in advance!

    1. I enjoyed the second series more than the first but I thought the third was brilliant throughout, and as soon as it finished I wrote to Tim Firth, c/o the Beeb pleading with him to keep it alive, turn it intio novels, anything. But he chose to end it whilst it was at the top, which I respect.

      1. It looks like your love of the series is on a parr with mine.I own the paperback book version of the third series as well as a kind of prequel book focusing on Hodge and Eric as teenagers called Equality, viberty and Virginity.
        I also have a youtube chanel called Preston Front Fan with a few clips from the series which you may have seen.
        I’m originally from Preston, which is what first made we watch it, then i just got hooked.
        Yes, a new series would be great now, with Colin Buchanan twidling his thumbs..but i think Paul Haigh has left the acting business.

  2. Much as part of me would love to see more episodes, I’d be very wary of a revival. Thedifference in eras, the difference in dynmics, the fact they’d all be aged like Frasier – I think it would have to be so different as to be something completely new. I used to have both books vbut found they couldn’t live up to the series. if only Tim Firth had written them.

  3. Agreed.taking it away from the mid 90s setting it would need to be something special to be worthwhile, although i’m sure their is fun to be had in taking the mickey out of modern life.
    A while ago i know that Tim Firth was active in trying to get a fourth series underway from an article i read with Stephen Thompkinson.He would have been more than happy to reprise his role as Spock if Alistair Mc Gowen turned it down.

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