• Post category:Television
  • Post last modified:July 8, 2020

‘Allo, ‘Allo: Getting Along in Nouvion

alloalloThroughout the 1970s, David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd were reaping the rewards of having created one of the most successful British sitcoms of the decade, Are You Being Served? (1972-1985). But in the early ‘80s the funnymen were looking for a new project. They decided to make a parody of a well-respected drama series called Secret Army (1977-1979). After all, what could be a more fitting subject for their puerile sense of humor than World War II?

Inexplicably popular with women
‘Allo, ‘Allo
 was set in Nouvion, a French hamlet. At the center of everything was René (Gorden Kaye) who ran the local café. He was not a brave man; bald and overweight, he certainly was not an attractive one either. It was quite a mystery then why René was so popular with women and why he always ended up in dangerous situations. For some reason the French resistance relied on him. So did some of the German officers who were trying to enrich themselves while waiting for the war to end. René was extremely busy trying to please both sides and save his own skin. Every episode would begin with our hero, often in some ridiculous disguise, addressing the viewers and explaining how he got into that particular situation.

Kaye, with his irritated, world-weary appearance, was perfect for the part and there were numerous other memorable performances. How about Guy Siner as the German lieutenant who loved Hubert, his little tank, almost as much as he fancied René? How about Richard Gibson who played the sadistic, impossibly stiff Gestapo agent Herr Flick? Let’s not forget Arthur Bostrom as the British spy who disguised himself as a French cop without realizing that his grasp of that language was comically poor. They all added a lot to a show that would inevitably struggle with its own predictability.

Double entendres and disguises
There were always things you could expect when watching an episode of ‘Allo, ‘Allo. Crabtree would say “Good mourning”, Michelle would “say this only once”, Edith would catch René with Yvette, and there would be plenty of jokes about Gruber’s sexuality. There would be double entendres and a lot of disguises. The show depended on this repetition, it was a deliberate part of it. Coming up with various new ideas where all the old ingredients would fit was a challenge and the writers were not always up for it. That was particularly obvious in the later years; the show never found a reason to reinvent itself. The locations never changed and there were only slight alterations to the cast. For example, a few years into the show an Italian captain was introduced; some of the jokes concerning the disappointing achievements of the Italian army brought a few smiles, but the character never really caught on and was soon sent packing.

At its best, ‘Allo, ‘Allo was a ridiculous but funny take on life and loyalties in occupied France. At its worst, it revealed everything that was wrong with the traditional British farce.

I have very fond memories of watching this show when I was a kid. It did have a great original premise, a wonderful cast and disarming silliness. The writers knew how to poke fun at something that was sad and horrible in real life. But, alas, ‘Allo, ‘Allo did not stay fresh beyond its first seasons.

‘Allo, ‘Allo (Average) 1984-1992:Britain. Made for TV. 85 episodes. Color. Created by, Theme: Jeremy Lloyd, David Croft. Cast: Gorden Kaye (René Artois), Carmen Silvera (Edith Artois), Vicki Michelle (Yvette Carte-Blanche), Richard Marner, Guy Siner, Kim Hartman, Kirsten Cooke, Richard Gibson, Jack Haig (84-89), Francesca Gonshaw (84-87), Sue Hodge (87-92), Sam Kelly (84-87), Arthur Bostrom (85-92), Kenneth Connor, Rose Hill, Gavin Richards (87-89).

Trivia: Later a stage show.

Quote: “Ah, the Italian War Hero Medal. I have never seen one of these…” (Hilary Minster as a Nazi general)



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