Parole denied as BBC grants more helpings of ‘Porridge’


The BBC has commissioned a full 6-part series of Porridge, the situation comedy series which will see Kevin Bishop return as Nigel ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, grandson of Ronnie Barker’s iconic character Norman Stanley Fletcher. The original series, which aired on the BBC in the mid-70s, featured Barker as an inmate in the fictional HMP Slade in Cumberland. “Doing porridge” is British slang for serving a prison sentence with porridge once being the traditional breakfast served in UK prisons.

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As with the rebooted pilot, which aired in late August along with a number of other remakes of classic series (Are You Being Served, Young Hyacinth, Goodnight Sweetheart) as part of the BBC’s Landmark Sitcom Season, the new set of six programs will be written by the show’s original creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. In the 21st century version, Bishop’s Fletch has taken up residence in Wakeley Prison due to a series of cyber-crimes.

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Much like an earlier reboot ‘pilot’ for Still Open All Hours, which is now successfully going into its third series, Porridge met with enough positive audience reaction to warrant going forward with a full series commission. Not everyone can be counted as a fan of the new effort as they, rightfully so, point to the original series as close to perfection having finished 7th in the 2004 Britain’s Best Sitcom pole.

Interestingly, Porridge was immensely popular with British prisoners. Erwin James, an ex-prisoner who writes a bi-weekly column for The Guardian newspaper, stated that, “What fans could never know, however, unless they had been subjected to a stint of Her Majesty’s Pleasure, was that the conflict between Fletcher and Officer Mackay was about the most authentic depiction ever of the true relationship that exists between prisoners and prison officers in British jails up and down the country.”

Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais said of the commission: “We’re in a state of disbelief that Porridge is coming back after all these years but Kevin Bishop is a worthy successor to Ronnie Barker. So even though we feel like recidivists, we’re more than happy to go back inside.

Now if we can just get the BBC to take the same action with Roy Clarke’s Young Hyacinth and the 21st century Goodnight Sweetheart, they may just be on to something here.