The Strangest TV Show Ever Made
Where do you get your ideas from?
Writers are frequently asked about the origins of their imagination. I grew up in the sixties, when creativity was king and demographics had yet to take a grip on writing. There was a lot of experimental work in the arts, not all of it successful, and as the decade progressed some of the more non-naturalistic approaches to storytelling tipped into outright strangeness.
No TV programme was quite as strange as this, though. ‘The Worker’ concerned an unemployed (and unemployable) labourer and his relationship with his Labour Exchange officer. Rotund, tiny, ginger, squeaky-voiced Charlie Drake was the worker, and Henry McGee was the officer who, every week, ended up dragging him over his desk in exasperation.
The situations were surreal fables about big business and the little man, some brilliant, some merely bizarre. It was impossible to tell what might happen in a typical episode. The mangled dialogue played like a peculiar fringe satire. Drake was a very physical actor, and in an average half-hour might be blown up, thrown through walls, shot or dropped out of windows. In one episode he knocked himself unconscious and broke his back.
But here’s the astonishing thing; this extremely off-the-wall series was not a flop. It was hugely popular, and ran on and off for thirteen years. It can now be found on a set of five DVDs.
This clip is from the beginning of one episode that escalates into a full-blown gender crisis, complete with a slapstick tango and a surprising reveal at the end that sadly isn’t here in the excerpt. Drake went on to make a number of highly successful films, now all forgotten.