Archive TV review: Red Letter Day (1976), episodes 1-2

Red Letter Day was a series of one-off dramas which focused on a ‘big day’ in a character’s life.  It is now available on DVD in the UK, released by Network, and here are my thoughts on the first two episodes.

‘Ready When You Are, Mr McGill’, written by Jack Rosenthal – who also devised this series – is perhaps the best known of the plays as it has been shown the most and has enjoyed a previous release as part of the DVD boxset ‘Jack Rosenthal at ITV’.  It centres on a small television production shoot and the big day is for the extra, Joe McGill, who has been given a sixteen-word speaking part much to the chagrin of the other, more experienced extras on the coach.  It is a wickedly funny piece with the egotistical director (Jack Shepherd), the sound engineer with over-sensitive ears (Fred Feast, a familar face from 1970s Coronation Street), the harrassed assistant director (Mark Wing-Davey, Hitchhikers Guide’s Zaphod), and other familiar faces including Jill Summers as ‘gossiping housewife’.  A running gag throughout the play – aside from Joe’s attempt to get his line right – is a building being painted throughout the aborted attempts to film the one scene. 

‘The Five Pound Orange’, written by Donald Churchill, is a drama about a man who has had something of a mid-life crisis, having ten months previously left his wife for a younger model with terrible taste in interior decorating.  The title refers to a set of Queen Victoria stamps which he discovers are worth rather more than he imagined, and which currently reside in a tea chest at his old home.  This slight tale involves his attempts to get the stamps back and in doing so, realising that the grass might not be greener on the other side after all.  Peter Barkworth plays the errant husband, Natasha Parry his wife, and Sarah Badel the young mistress.  I rather enjoyed this thanks to the performance of Barkworth in particular (who might be a familiar face from ‘Melissa’) and it is generally nicely done, with the stamps just becoming a peripheral device in something far more of the heart than of the pocket.