This classic british sitcom
was actually considered unlikely to succeed initially, but it soon became hugely popular and even now enjoys repeats, largely due to Michael Crawford
's starring role as the hopelessly inept Frank Spencer
. Although well-meaning and almost childishly innocent
, Frank was utterly unable to cope with even the simplest of things, with every attempt to do so invariably ending in absolute disaster
. With his voice and mannerisms which can only be described as camp
of the highest order, along with his trademark clothing (tank top
and beige mac
), Frank Spencer soon became a legend
of british comedy
Each episode had the hapless and bewildered Frank trying to accomplish some relatively simple task, only to get muddled and confused over some minor point, which of course then caused him to panic and mess things up further. His bumbling disaster-prone ineptitude always ended either in some mass destruction of property (both his own and that of others), or with his infuriating whoever he happened to be dealing with almost to the point of psychosis. In short, anything or anyone unfortunate enough to be near Frank Spencer for any length of time was destined for nothing but misfortune and disaster.
The only person Frank really had in his pitiful life was his long-suffering girlfriend, and later wife, Betty, played by Michele Dotrice. Often exasperated by Frank's nervous and indecisive idiocy, she also served to calm him down and point him in the right direction on those frequent occasions when he had no real idea what to do.
A typical example of Frank's behaviour can be seen in the episode dealing with Betty's pregnancy. Having already enraged the doctor by rushing into the hospital five times during the previous week (three false alarms, two "trial runs"), Frank is thrown into a panic one night when the baby is finally on the way for real. In his panicked attempts to rush her safely to hospital he has within minutes managed to lock them in the house and has catapulted the phone through the kitchen window. He is then forced to squeeze through the window to unlock the door from the outside, and all this just to get into the car which he then parked half on the pavement and half on the ambulance's emergency stop outside the hospital, running over a signpost in the process.
Another running joke was Frank's DIY disasters; in a later episode when they moved house, Frank shuts their front door for the last time and drives away. What he doesn't see is the door handle dropping off, followed by the letter box, then the door itself falling off. One by one, everything either broke or disintegrated until eventually the entire house collapsed into ruins.
The series consisted of nineteen half-hour episodes and three fifty minute specials, which ran from February 1973 until the Christmas special on Christmas 1978. Crawford insisted on doing his own stunts in many of the disastrous and life-threatening situations, and his proficiency at these showcased his talents as an actor, even impressing those who held the show to be immature and childish.
Although he spent six years as Frank Spencer, Michael Crawford is perhaps now better known for his crooning and his being an established musical star both in Broadway and the West End. The legacy of Frank Spencer, however, will no doubt live on for years to come.