A Helping Hound: Episode 11 of Here Come The Double Deckers

Episode 11: A Helping Hound
First shown: 21 November 1970 (US), 19 March 1971 (UK)
Director: Jeremy Summers
Writer: Jan Butlin
Appearing apart from the Double Deckers:
Melvyn Hayes as Albert

Graham Stark as Mr. Brimble the Landlord
Nora Nicholson as Mrs. Vickers
Nicholas Phipps as the Garden Owner
Jennifer Daniel as Snowflake's Owner
(Snowflake doesn't seem to get credited)


The gang's friend Mrs Vickers risks eviction by her landlord because of the condition of her house. The gang try to fix it up, but screw up; they try to earn money to fix it up, but screw up; meanwhile Tiger, who has been told to go away because she is too little, gets a reward for finding a dog and uses it to pay for repairs to Mrs Vickers' house.

Glorious Moments

Not actually one of the great episodes, but there are three brilliant slapstick sequences: the two house repair scenes, and the garden work scene.

The most memorable moment is Albert and Billy skating together through the wallpaper paste.

Also Tiger gets some nice scenes with the dog.

Less glorious moments

Scooper puts his finger on it a few minutes in, when he protests that "the landlord is responsible for structural [problems]". The entire plot depends on a complete inversion of landlord/tenant law. (I'm not an expert on this, but my wife actually is, and two chaps who I knew in Belfast, one of whom subsequently became First Minister of Northern Ireland, literally wrote the book on Northern Ireland Housing Law.) If the gang had consulted a lawyer in the first place, they would have been advised to tell Mr Brimble that it was his job, not Mrs Vickers', to sort out the dodgy walls, doors and floors.

Apart from the gruesome mistake of law, it takes the Double Deckers far from the usual comfort zone of brushing into authority which is then won over by ἀγάπη. Instead they get involved in a nasty civil dispute which they actually make worse. Tiger and Spring get some good lines, and Billie and Albert get to dance, but otherwise none of the characters does anything much, including particularly the guests.

And god bless Tiger, using the reward money that she has earned despite being snubbed by the rest to boost the gang's plan to save Mrs Vickers.

What's all this then?

Glyn Jones, the script editor, recalls that when he solicited stories for the show, "I received half a dozen ideas of which there was only one I could commission. It was disappointing to say the least. Even the one commissioned had to have a virtual rewrite." I suspect that may have been this episode.

In the "Double Deckers Memories" feature on the DVD, Michael Audreson (Brains) reflects (rather inaudibly – his microphone seems to have been turned off) that there were only three plots in Here Come The Double Deckers. “I would invent something which would go wrong, we would meet some hapless adult whose life was in such a mess that they resorted to the help of a bunch of kids, and we would go on an outing somewhere with hilarious results.” This is a slightly warped version of the second combined with the third: the hapless adult, rather than being a charming pop singer, is a little old lady to whom the gang decide to do a Good Turn.

The evil landlord is a stock farce character, though even farces tended to get basic points of law right.

Where's that?

Mrs Vicker's house is 8 Malden Road, Borehamwood, and it is still there.
The garden that the gang try to fix up looks to me like the same one used in Robbie the Robot. It was in the studio in Borehamwood, now demolished.
Snowflake's owner presumably also lived in Borehamwood.

Who's that?

Graham Stark (Mr. Brimble the Landlord), born in 1922, could be considered the fifth Goon, standing in for Spike Milligan on the radio show when he was ill and later appearing in several Pink Panther films. His forte was supporting comedic roles like this, though he did get his own TV show briefly in 1964. He died in 2013.

Nora Nicholson (Mrs. Vickers), born in 1892, had been playing frail ladylike characters on TV for decades. She was given a wider range as a stage actress. This was one of her last roles; she died in 1973.

Nicholas Phipps (the Garden Owner), born in 1913, who tended to play stiff-upper-lip types was perhaps better known as a writer than an actor and adapted Richard Gordon’s book Doctor in the House for the screen in 1954, as well as its sequels. He seems to have stopped writing in 1963 and this is his last credited acting role. He died in 1980.

Jennifer Daniel (Snowflake's Owner) was born in 1939 (IMDB) or 1936 (Wikipedia). At this point she was best known as the female lead in 1960s horror films such as The Kiss of the Vampire (1963) and The Reptile (1966). She went on to a fairly standard career of supporting roles in TV and drama, of which the most recent bigone was Mrs Linton in the 1992 Wuthering Heights with Juliette Binoche as Cathy.

Jan Butlin (writer) had at this point been better known as an actress, especially as one of the girls on the Benny Hill Show. But from here on she became a writer with five sitcoms to her credit, Life Begins at Forty (1978-1980), That Beryl Marston…! (1981), Third Time Lucky (1982), Hell’s Bells (1986) and No Strings (1989), three of which starred Derek Nimmo. She was born in 1940, and died in 1998.

Jeremy Summers (director) might not have been quite as high-powered as Charles Crichton, the director of last week’s episode, but he still had a pretty impressive record, mostly with TV detective shows (seven episodes of the original Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Riptide, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu). Later in his career he settled down and directed soaps, most recently a 2001 episode of Brookside. He was born in 1931 and may well still be with us.

See you next week…

…for Invaders from Space.