Sometimes, going behind-the-scenes to see ‘how the sausage is made’ can be a bit like letting the air out of a balloon that you’ve had since you were a kid. There are some things that should be left well enough alone allowing you to remain that wide-eyed kid as long as you can. As we showed last week with the BBC’s Call the Midwife, there are times, however, that seeing how the sausage is made serves only to make something even more brilliant. For the record, I’m a total sucker for behind-the-scenes stuff and, if truth be told, sometimes I watch the DVD extras before the actual movie or series.
Such is that case with a recent find by the British Comedy Guide of a mid-70s video from the legendary BBC children’s series, Blue Peter, going behind-the-scenes with Ronnie Barker ‘to see how the Porridge is made. Fans of Barker will remember the series about two inmates at the fictional ‘Category C’ prison, HMP Slade in Cumberland. Category C referring to the official prisoner security category in the UK as a prisoner ‘who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape’, which describes Barker’s career criminal character, Norman Stanley Fletcher, perfectly.
The name of the series was derived from the fact that ‘doing porridge’ is British slang for serving a prison sentence and porridge was once the traditional breakfast in UK prisons. Porridge was voted number seven in a 2004 BBC poll of the 100 greatest British sitcoms, finishing behind only Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister (#6), Fawlty Towers (#5), Dad’s Army (#4), Vicar of Dibley (#3), Blackadder (#2) and Only Fools and Horses coming in at #1. Not bad company for a series that only ran for three seasons from 1974-1977 on BBC One. Of note is that the multi-story set that was created inside London’s Ealing Studios for the wider prison interior was an old converted water tank. That’s why I love knowing how the sausage is made.