Sometimes a series is so good and so memorable that the lead role typecasts the actor for decades to come. In the case of Michael Crawford's "Frank Spencer", the hero of this series - it required a total change of career track, namely starring as the first Phantom of the Opera to get his career restarted.
It was a type of comedy that had been lost somehow in the transition from radio comedy to television comedy, and in the invention of the sitcom. If Benny Hill had brought back elements of vaudeville to television and the hyperviolent Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson reinvented slapstick, Michael Crawford brought back a Buster Keaton-era series of amazing stunt-based sight gags and kinetic comedy that had been missing for decades.
The essence of any drama or story or narrative is conflict. And the essence of any comedy is discomfort. Laughter is a natural reaction to something going wrong and acts as a relief valve for the kinds of feelings that would lead us to kil ourselves. It's why comedy is often found in that which is taboo or uncomfortable and there is often a fine line between stress relief and offense.
Ostensibly, each episode involves Frank either trying to get a job, or retain a job, or do some form of good deed around the house or with the community, with a literal disaster area evolving in his wake. In one memorable episode, they check into a hotel and in a series of mishaps he goes from trying to avoid paying for a small amount of damage by "making some adjustments" to destroying the room entirely, including making a giant hole in the floor, through which they escape at two o clock in the morning.
And the essence of this program is the fact that Frank is a supremely likeable character. Heterosexual but clearly almost uncomfortable with it (he's a very devout Roman Catholic whose priest wishes he wasn't), he's constantly acting as if someone's going to hit him, with a nervous, apologetic tic and defensive, submissive mannerisms. From his sudden horrified "ooooohhhhhs" in response to disaster or shying away from using any kind of vulgarity - referring to what the cat did in his beret in revenge as a "whoopsie", he's an inoffensive, kind and gentle man who is clearly being targeted by the universe, and a victim of his own ineptitude. And the conflict comes from the fact that given he's so innately likeable, especially to his long suffering wife Betty, we want to cheer for him and we want to see him succeed, but know full well that exercising common sense would involve running the other way.
A common throwaway gag is Frank trying to do some home improvement around the house, only he's more dangerous with a set of tools than Tim Taylor of Home Improvement. One of his catchphrases was to say "it just needs a little adjustment", for example when he repairs a pedal-operated garbage can whose new spring now throws the lid across the room. Frank tries so hard to be masculine: to hold down a job, to be a handyman, to do right by his wife, and yet he's in no way capable of doing any of the above. And given we love him so much, it hits us right in the feels.
There are in essence three kinds of humor woven in to the stories. Frank is a very camp character who is extremely prudish and yet who reads all manner of double entendres into things, leading to visible discomfort and "oooh"ing, for example doing an Army aptitude test. "My name is Harold. I have one, and you have one, but Betty doesn't." (the answer he was looking for was the letter "A") The conflict between Frank wanting to please the examiner but only coming to one unacceptable conclusion is horrifyingly fascinating to watch, especially as Frank asks gently if there are any other questions he can answer instead. He also makes others come to different conclusions: informing his priest (he drops in for confession every time he visits the fish shop next door, in other words a few times a week) that he had an "impure thought" about the priest's housekeeper, the priest finally asks him the nature of the thought, to which Frank answers he thought she'd stolen his haddock.
The second is the clear conflict that people around him love him and want him to succeed, and he obviously has no malicious bone in his body, but everything he does leads to complete failure. One can do nothing but sympathize for Betty, especially as she defends her decision to be with Frank to her mother. The mother likes Frank as well but cannot but not want to see her daughter not be with a clear conduit of chaos with no hope for the future, and as Betty is doing so Frank inadvertently starts a vacuum cleaner which chases him down the stairs, causing him to simultaneously roll himself up in the stairs carpet and destroy every bannister on the way down.
And that brings us to the third: Michael Crawford is an actor and comedian but no stuntman- however he did do a series of amazingly dangerous stunts in order to get the laughs. Whether being hauled several stories up on a rope with no net in place, to hanging from the axle of a car over a cliff (with no net) for twenty minutes straight (more, when you consider multiple takes) to piloting a motorcycle whose throttle was stuck (in other words, driving without brakes through traffic and obstacles) or in one of the most famous scenes in British comedy, him (on rollerskates) flying out through the side door of a roller skating rink, going down some spiral staircases, hanging off the back of a passing bus, ending up going down a steep hill causing almost two traffic accidents, ducking under an articulated truck, and finally coming to rest by smashing through a pane of glass and somersaulting into a crib in a maternity store, with two bookcases crashing down upon him. It's literally miraculous that Frank survives many episodes intact, never mind an entire series.
After two seasons, they decided to call it quits because they wanted to go out while they were ahead. One of the best things British television does is to plan for two or three years, execute the story arc, and then quit. However, they did end up doing a third series in the late 1970s to appeal to audiences demanding more.
It's also notable for its theme song, comprised of a piccolo/flute trio playing a bizarre harmonized melody with a peculiar cadence - which turns out to be the show's title in morse code.