|David’s career as a comedy writer began in 1963 when he was a contributor to the iconic live Saturday evening satire show, That Was The Week, That Was. The BBC would send a taxi, often to Hampstead Magistrates Court, where he was working as a reporter on the St Pancras Chronicle. For the second series he was joined by his closest friend, Peter Tinniswood, whom he met on the Sheffield Star.
Peter and David wrote BBC Radio Three’s first ever sitcom together. It was a satirical show called Hardluck Hall. Unfortunately it was also Radio Three’s last ever sitcom.
Peter and David also wrote a sitcom for Lance Percival, called Lance at Large. Their brief was that Lance could go anywhere and do anything. They were too inexperienced to realise that this was a recipe for disaster, as it meant that there was no situation to have comedy about.
Before they went off to pursue their own much more succesful individual careers, Peter and David did write one TV success, a play for ATV’s Armchair Theatre, starring Ian McShane and John Woodvine, called The Signalbox of Grandpa Hudson.
If anyone has a copy of this, PLEASE let us know.
David moved on to write for The Frost Report and Frost on Sunday, where he met Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett for the first time. He later wrote for all the many series of The Two Ronnies (and no, he didn’t write the Four Candles sketch).
While he was writing his books (click ‘Novels’ for information) he also found himself writing for many leading comedians – Frankie Howerd, Ken Dodd, Dick Emery, Jimmy Tarbuck and Les Dawson. He was script editor for 68 episodes of Sez Les, and wrote well over a hundred sketches for the show with his great friend, Barry Cryer.
David wrote two sitcoms for Yorkshire Television before hitting the jackpot with Perrin.
(Click here for Perrin page). Shine A Light, set in a lighthouse, was written with David McKellar and Peter Vincent, but its light failed to shine. ‘Keep It In The Family’, written with Peter Vincent, fared better without setting the world on fire.
After Reggie Perrin, David wrote a sitcom, The Sun Trap, about British residents in Spain. It was very accurate about British residents in Spain, but they don’t watch British television, and the show flopped.
Far more successful was the Channel Four cult hit, Fairly Secret Army, starring Geoffrey Palmer as a man, very similar to Jimmy in Perrin, who was trying to run a secret army to save Britain from lefties. People either loved or hated his way of speaking. Tricky cove, language.
Three successful one-off plays, Our Young Mr Wignall for Granada, with Alan Dobie and Albert Welling, and great cameo performances by James Warrior and Lynda Marchal, (now Lynda La Plante!), and two for Yorkshire Television, Cupid’s Dart, starring Robin Bailey and Leslie Ash (click here for Cupid’s Dart page) and Dogfood Dan and the Carmarthen Cowboy, about two long-distance lorry drivers unbeknowingly trying to have affairs with each other’s wives, led to the creation of David’s biggest commercial success,.
A Bit of a Do, was a huge success for David and for Yorkshire Television. The first series ended up with an audience of almost 15 million. The first series was originally adapted from David’s book of the same name (click here for ‘books’). It was a story about two families, one posher than the other, and was set entirely at public functions. While the writing saw David at his best, much of the success of the show must be credited to the splendid ensemble cast assembled by the producer, David Reynolds – David Jason, Gwen Taylor, Nicola Pagett, Michael Jayston, Paul Chapman, David Thewliss, Wayne Foskett, Nigel Hastings and Karen Drury.
Another pretty successful series was David’s adaptation of his novel, Second From Last in the Sack Race, as the TV series The Life and Times of Henry Pratt, made by Red Rooster for Granada. Despite attracting high praise and audiences of between eight and ten million, the follow up adaptation of Pratt of the Argus was cancelled. David has been told that there were political reasons behind this, which would make him feel bitter if life wasn’t so short!
Other shows included The Glamour Girls, with Brigit Forsyth, Sally Watts, James Warrior and Duggie Brown, Rich Tea and Sympathy, starring Patricia Hodge and
Dennis Quilley, and the one-off prison spoof, Stalag Luft, with Stephen Fry, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Geoffrey Palmer.
David also adapted John Hadfield’s one and only novel, the delightful Love on a Branch Line, into an equally delightful series made by DLT Entertainment for the BBC, and he adapted Malcolm Bradbury’s satire on the TV industry, Cuts, as a one-off for Yorkshire Television.
And the future? Busy – he hopes