On The Buses, episodes 4-7

On The Buses, episodes 4-7


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Some things get better and more appreciated with age, like fine wines, cheese and Citizen Kane. Others, however, seem to degenerate to the status of dire, as sensibilities change - Love Thy Neighbour, anyone?

So, it may come as a surprise to those who, like me, remember On The Buses from those cringeworthy, colour-drenched, spin-off movies, with the cast acting like characters from naughty postcards, to realise that the early black-and-white episodes aren't actually too bad.

They bring back memories of a time when chips were cooked in chip pans on the hob, the term "working class" hadn't become obsolete and people lived at home with their mum, even after they were married; the past culture, represented in On The Buses, is a foreign country. That said, if you can bear to take some of the datedness with a pinch of salt, it is genuinely funny in places.

For anyone not aware of the storyline, the series traces the lives of two likely lads, Stan (Reg Varney) and Jack (Bob Grant), as they go about their double-decker work and hare-brained schemes, while the inspector, Blake (Stephen Lewis), looks on. These episodes are refreshingly free from the later stereotyping and caricature, such as Blakey's catchphrase "I'll get you Butler", with the first two on the disc surviving the ravages of time best. Bus Drivers' Stomach sees Stan forced to swap his chips for milk when a medical inspection is organised, while in The New Inspector, sees him elevated, briefly, to Blake's position.

The most cringe-inducing episode is The Canteen, which sees Stan take on the job of running the place and briefly employing one of the Asian bus driver's wives. Doubtless the Sixties audience, for whom the joys of a late night takeaway would have been unheard, found it hilarious that the Asian lady would serve curry for breakfast. Nowadays, though, it seems at best lame and at worst deeply offensive. It is ironic that the writers have achieved a kind of backhanded racism in their attempts to show a more liberal attitude.

The final episode tackles the age-old battle between the sexes as the "clippy" girls beat them at their own game. Again, there are a couple of attempts at social comment here, with one of the girls saying, "I see, we aren't allowed to drive the buses, we can't have equal pay and now you're saying we can't play darts either!", and I don't think it would be giving too much away to reveal that the girls win, but the manner in which they do has to be taken with a modern day roll of the eyes.

Ultimately, these early episodes are a lot better than you might anticipate, but that still doesn't mean they'll be to everyone's taste.

Reviewed on: 04 Oct 2002
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On The Buses, episodes 4-7 packshot
Somewhat dated comedy about the daily lives of bus workers
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Director: Stuart Allen

Writer: Ronald Wolfe, Ronald Chesney

Starring: Reg Varney, Cicely Courtneidge, Michael Robbins, Anna Karen, Bob Grant, Stephen Lewis

Year: 1969

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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