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PAUL ABLEMAN
Hi-de-Hi!


click to enlarge

BBC, London, 1983
(price: £1.50; 208 pages)


The blurb on the back:

Hi-de-hi! readers! Welcome to Maplin's. For the benefit of newcomers, there's Jeffrey Fairbrother, the entertainments manager, who used to be a professor at Cambridge. There's Ted Bovis, your camp host, his assistant, Spike Dixon, and Mr Partridge, the Punch-and-Judy man. There's Fred Quilly, who looks after the horses, and Yvonne and Barry Stuart-Hargreaves, the stuck-up ballroom dancers. There's scatter-brained Peggy, the chalet maid, and, of course, there's Gladys Pugh, the chief yellowcoat. Finally, there's someone you haven't seen on your screens, Charley Binns, the senior camper, who knows all the secrets of Maplin's. He tells you about the night Jeffrey and Gladys were trapped in the Three Bears' Cottage, about how Ted raised the money for his wife's alimony, about the Most Popular Girl Yellowcoat Competition and many other things. With this book in your pocket your holiday is bound to be a happy one. And if you read it at home you'll think that you are on holiday. So Hi-de-hi! readers! Welcome back to Maplin's!


opening lines:
It was a glorious day in mid-September. The sun was as hot as in August and the twenty ladies grouped at one end of the pool were perspiring freely.


I was going to say that Hi-de-Hi! was something of an acquired taste, but thatís not strictly accurate Ė I doubt anyone ever acquired a taste for it as such, more a resigned acceptance that it was on and that it was a competent, if uninspiring sitcom. Following on from Dadís Army and It Ainít Half Hot, Mum writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft went back for a third helping of nostalgia, and found themselves very much with the leftovers, since Joe Orton had already helped himself to the best holiday camp story in Erpingham Camp. Still, there were good characters, particularly the malevolent Punch & Judy man Mr Partridge (played by Leslie Dwyer), and Simon Cadell was absolutely wonderful in the early series as the entertainments manager. In short, it wasnít the worst half-hour to spend in front of the television, but you wouldnít be terribly upset if you missed it.

You wonít be surprised, however, that the book doesnít get anywhere near the mark. Itís far too dependent on you knowing the characters and actors from the TV to make it in its own right, and the one original element Ė the Senior Camper, who relates the episodes here Ė is a straight steal of Wodehouseís Oldest Member. I donít know whether these plots are new, or whether theyíre from the programmes: I didnít recognize them particularly, but that counts for little.

Just one query, if you can help me: Does anyone remember the Elvis impersonator who was, I think, in the pilot episode but who subsequently disappeared? Who played him?


ARTISTIC MERIT: 1/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
2/5


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