A Touch of Daniel
Hodder, London, 1971
price: 35p (7/-); 320 pages
first published 1968
I Didn't Know You Cared
Arrow, London, 1983
price: £1.95; 304 pages
first published 1973
The Home Front
Granada, London, 1982
price: £1.50; 256 pages
The blurbs on the backs:
A Touch of Daniel:
As funny as anything you have read before.
This novel is set in the Brandon household, where life is a fast revolving merry-go-round, but all who manage to scramble aboard are made welcome. The head of the house is Mr Brandon, who receives love letters and occasionally disappears for a few days; Mrs Brandon is a steadying influence; Carter, their son, who is slowly being dragged to the altar by his fiancée Pat; Aunt Lil, who knits and knits and knits - and gets pregnant; Uncle Mort, 'You bloody old ram' as Mr Brandon puts it; Uncle Stavely, who doesn't know whether he's on this Earth of Fuller's, looks after legless Corporal Parkinson in the attic; Jessie Lewis, the lovely loving nurse adds spice and Bentley, the owl, adds some hoots of his own ... and then comes Daniel.
This brilliant pastiche will be laughed at, guffawed at and rolled-in-the-aisle at until they demolish Wigan Pier.
'It is an enormous slice of life seen through a highly original comic eye' - Roy Boulting
'A gorgeous barrage of humorous improbabilities' - London Evening News
I Didn't Know You Cared:
The Brandons are back. Bent and slightly frayed at the edges, they are still unbowed, and still as hilariously eccentric as ever before.
Uncle Mort went to see the specialist. It was his tenth visit. He was told he had a fatal illness and could not be expected to live for more than six months. 'Six months, eh?' said Mr Brandon, when Uncle Mort told him the news. 'Well, at least you'll get a few weeks of the rugby season in before you snuff it.
'Outrageously funny' - Oxford Mail
'Delightfully amusing ... true and touching' - Sunday Express
'The funniest writer of his generation' - The Times
The Home Front:
Tinniswood's new high in hilarity!
It's widely known, of course, that not enough people are meticulous about their persons.
Am I right?
This is only one of the problems faced by Mrs Place as she battles to preserve the values enshrined in The Home Front.
There's Hallam, who's been contaminated by living in the South; there's Garfield who is in shirts; and there's Avril who married beneath her and now has a gifted child to deal with. Then there's the rest of the world (including British Rail, dogs - especially Hallam's very butch standard poodle Wilfred - and holiday cruises). Not to mention Auntie Medora.
A Touch of Daniel:
When Auntie Edna fell off the bus, she landed on her pate and remained unconscious for sixty-three days. At the end of this period she died, and they had a funeral.
At the party Uncle Mort, husband of the deceased, said:
'What I can't fathom is why conductor didn't tell her they was only stopped at a zebra crossing.'
'Well, he were one of them Pakistanis, weren't he?' said cousin George, who had brought his blue hankie.
Here's the kind of question you wouldn't find on one of those BBC nostalgia shows: do you remember I Didn't Know You Cared? One of the most popular British sitcoms of the 1970s, it has become (unlike say Fawlty Towers) a genuine cult: completely unheard of in many places, hugely loved and revered elsewhere. And, curiously, it's one of the few series whose appeal is almost totally regional. Which is why it's almost invisible in the modern world: because in the media heartlands of London and the South, it's long been forgotten.
So, in case you don't know it, I Didn't Know You Cared was set in a particularly depressing Northern family called the Brandons, and wrung its laughs out of misery and petty power struggles - imagine, if you will, the missing link between the kitchen sink dramas of the 1960s and The Royle Family. The series was written by Peter Tinniswood, formerly a writer on That Was The Week That Was, and drew on his novel A Touch of Daniel, which first introduced the Brandons.
Further books on the Brandons followed, as did other TV and radio comedies, of which The Home Front is fairly typical: another Northern family, more wry observations on the minutiae of everyday life, more pig-headed matriarchs and small-minded menfolk. The novel was published simultaneously with the screening of the series, and just about works okay on paper.
Presumably the Brandon saga was written with no thought of future TV adaptation (at least, one hopes so, since it took seven years from A Touch of Daniel and two from I Didn't Know You Cared for it to reach the screen), and the books should therefore be considered as straightforward novels. And, on those terms, they're not a whole-hearted success. Unless you're talking about a genius like PG Wodehouse, the form of the comedy novel tends to date fairly badly, and Peter Tinniswood is no Wodehouse. Well, I don't think so at any rate, but then I'm a soft Southerner, so what do I know?
My tip is to catch any repeats of the TV series (I Didn't Know You Cared has turned up on UK Gold in recent years), which still look strong, and not worry too much if you can't find the books.
Bert Palmer as Uncle Stavely:
'I heard that. Pardon?'
ARTISTIC MERIT: 3/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 3/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT: 2/5
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