Best British TV Comedy - Open All Hours

Open All Hours
Open All Hours | Source

Best of British Comedy - Open All Hours

The British sitcom ‘Open All Hours’ run from 1976 to 1985. It remains one of the best British sitcoms on television even today. Still watched by millions on the satellite TV channel, GOLD (Go On Laugh Daily), formerly known as Comedy Gold.

Cleverly (perhaps unintentionally) it only appeared on TV every two years because both of its main lead actors, Ronnie Barker and David Jason were already achieving success with other shows.

Ronnie Barker with his uber-successful sitcoms, 'Two Ronnies' and 'Porridge' and David Jason with ‘Only Fools And Horses’.

All of these sitcoms were at the top of the TV ratings in terms of number of viewers for comedy; beaten only by soap operas like Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

Consequently this seemed to keep Open All Hours fresh and also left viewers anticipating the next series.

Great British Comedy - Open All Hours poster
Great British Comedy - Open All Hours poster | Source
"Ar,ar,ar,ar Arkwright"
"Ar,ar,ar,ar Arkwright"

Open All Hours Leading Characters - Arkwright and Granville

On paper,Open All Hours does not look that enticing, it is basically about a man and his nephew running a corner shop in a sleepy Yorkshire village but writer, Roy Clarke is a master of characterisation and left Ronnie Barker to make what he wanted of stammering proprietor Arkwright.

Arkwright was written without the stammer but Ronnie Barker felt sure that he could make this characterisation work to comedic effect without insulting the watching public.

Ronnie Barker is also responsible for the dangerous till they use which shuts quickly enough to take off someone’s fingers and only shoots open when the right combination of keys are pressed.


Throughout his career, Ronnie Barker showed he was someone who understood comedy.

He knew what made people laugh – he had starred on stage in plays, in satire on TV and radio and understood how to use props properly. The till in Arkwright's shop became an ‘in joke’ on the show; you were always waiting for someone to get injured by this ancient piece of 1940s shop ware.

Ronnie Barker played Arkwright as an old skinflint, seeking out every penny he could from his customers but he does this in such an amusing way that he is both villainous and charming (a skill learned doing pantomime?) and his long-running engagement to fiancé Gladys Emmanuel makes for lots of humour with the lovely Lynda Barron, often dressed as a nurse, the butt of his stammering but still amusing double entendres.

Open All Hours - Ronnie Barker and David Jason
Open All Hours - Ronnie Barker and David Jason

Open All Hours' Kings of Comedy Timing - Ronnie Barker and David Jason

Ronnie Barker and David Jason play off one another so well in Open All Hours that it is often difficult to decide which is the star of the show.

They both allow on another to shine and when in scenes together, their comic timing is faultless.

David Jason has many times credited Ronnie Barker with honing his own comedic talents. In Open All Hours, David Jason straddles the worlds of comedy and pathos so brilliantly that you can laugh at him one moment and then be feeling sorry for him the next. He repeats this feat regularly as Del Boy Trotter in Only Fools And Horses.

Ronnie Barker's loveable Arkwright was a character he used as a sort of template for a later TV comedy, 'Clarence', though Clarence was very, very miopic, bumping into things and creating havoc by misidentifying objects.

Whilst this made for a lot of laughter, the show didn't survive and Ronnie Barker made the decision to retire, much to everyone's surprise, to run an antique store with his wife.

By the time he retired, sitcoms were changing in the UK and although some of the traditional comedy would survive, much would fall by the wayside in the next few years to be replaced by more radical shows like Mrs Merton, Harry Enfield, The Fast Show and the like - sketch shows were to enjoy a long period of success in the UK but not many of them can live up to Open All Hours.

Please enjoy these other British comedy articles by other hubbers....

5 British Sitcoms Everyone Should Know About

British Humour Reflects The Best of British Culture

Best Comedy - Absolutely Fabulous


Many thanks for reading.

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Comments 9 comments

BigBlue54 profile image

BigBlue54 3 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

Open All Hours recently came home. They showed an episode on BBC 2 where is had originally been shown.

The shop used in the series is very typical of of many towns and cities of the 19th and 20th centuries where little corner shops would be a feature of most streets.

Unfortunately the area where Open All Hours was filmed has been recently redeveloped and the shop is no more.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 3 years ago from North-East UK Author

BigBlue, thanks for your comment and your corrections. I know that it was set in Balby, Doncaster but had not realised that it was of any size. I will alter that when i get a mo!

BigBlue54 profile image

BigBlue54 3 years ago from Hull, East Yorkshire

Open All Hours must be my all time favourite comedy. Having two masters of the practice working together like that is what made it work. They had, of course, already worked together on other Barker comedy's which why they worked so well together on this one.

One thing I would like to correct is its setting. It was not set in a sleepy little village, not sure where you got that from. It was actually filmed in Doncaster in Yorkshire.

I thought it was Ronnie Barker's retirement the brought Clarence to an end and not the other way around. Either way I enjoyed watching Ronnie Baker.

Interestingly, it is still Open All Hours being repeated on Gold whereas his replacements seem to have not managed that.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK Author

phdast7, I hope you will email my link to your brother (hint! hint!) and he can also give me some feedback. Thanks for your kind comment.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Nice Hub. I like British comedy, but my brother in Texas is absolutely crazy about it, all of it. He spent two years in England as a teenager. Our dad was stationed at Lakenheath AFB back in the mid 1970's.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK Author

Flora, he is good as Frost but I urge you to go to You Tube and see him as either Granville (Open All Hours) or even better Del Boy (Only Fools & Horses), he is in a league of his own. Thanks for your comment.

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

I keep forgetting that David Jason started out as a comedian. I associate him so strongly with Inspector Frost

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK Author

Cometdog, thanks for your comment, Fawlty Towers is one of my favourites too. You can see whole episodes of Open All Hours (split into a few parts) on You Tube, hope you get a chance to check it out.

cometdog profile image

cometdog 5 years ago

I love British comedies, but I have never seen Open All Hours. I'll have to check it out. My favorites are Faulty Towers and Are You Being Served. Also love Monty Python. Look forward to more!

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