DVD review: “Bognor” (1981-1982)

“Bognor” (1981-1982)


Twenty-one Episodes

Created by: T.R. Bowen and Carey Harrison based on the novels written by Tim Heald

Featuring: David Horovitch, Joanna McCallum, Ewan Roberts and Tim Meats

Bognor: (While in bed with Monica, half naked and during champagne) “I have to get back to the Monastery, I have to be on the spot.”

Released recently on DVD is the short lived series “Bognor” (1981-1982), an adaptation of a series of novels by Tim Heald that sees the ongoing adventures of an investigator working for the Board of Trade, titularly named Bognor. The structure of the series is like many series of the time with a series made up of different stories with each story split into different parts with cliff-hander type endings that feed one part into another. In fact the stories are reminiscent of period “Doctor Who” narratives without the science fiction elements. Bognor even has a companion in the form of Monica although his relationship with her is much more adult.

This is a series that takes place in the early eighties with all that entails which means of course that the storytelling, technology and plots are of their time, it is all very white with backdrops that may seem a little ludicrous but there is real fun in this show and not just because it is a window to the past. The original novels were full of humour and much of this is present within this show, but as an audience you must be in tune to all those elements from the early 1980s. If I had to make comparisons to the series it would be to the great Ian McShane vehicle “Lovejoy” (1986-1994) that although broke the fourth wall was about something real, in the aforementioned case, antiques, in “Bognor” it is a government department. The main character does have internal monologues as well as talks to himself which one feel could take an extra step to talk to the audience, alas that is not to be.

Based on the cult mystery novels by author, journalist and royal biographer Tim Heald, this quartet of light-hearted whodunits stars David Horovitch as a bungling but diligent Department of Trade investigator. Featuring guest performances from Patrick Troughton, John Le Mesurier, Glynis Barber, Peter Jeffrey and Elizabeth Spriggs, among many others, this set contains all four stories: Unbecoming HabitsDeadlineLet Sleeping Dogs Die and Just Desserts.

The filming of the series is split between on location shooting as well as sound stages but the as usual with a UK production of the time it is done expertly. The series obviously benefits from the new light weight (for the time) cameras that allowed quick intense sequences of which there are many.

Now while the main character is a government employee he is involved in a lot of action which I would think strays from real life, but there is fun to be had with this series, I wish it had existed for a longer time but it was definitely cancelled before its time.


Series One

Unbecoming Habits: Part 1 – Collingdale’s Dead: After his colleague Collingdale is killed hunting for a double agent selling British agricultural formulas to the Russians, Bognor is sent to replace him.

Unbecoming Habits: Part 2 – Batty Tom: After surviving an attempt on his life, Bognor strikes up a friendship with an unusual monk called Xavier. Meanwhile, the local madman, Batty Tom informs him he might have seen the murderer.

Unbecoming Habits: Part 3 – The Cross Country Monk: Batty Tom turns up dead and so does a letter supposedly written by him in which he confesses to the murder of Collingdale. Bognor is not convinced especially after noticing suspicious goings-on in a mysterious locked room in the shed.

Unbecoming Habits: Part 4 – Lord Dismiss Us: Even after solving the mysteries of the running monk and the locked backroom, Bognor’s troubles are not over, especially after Batty Tom’s father, Lord Collingwood, shows up and blows his cover.

Unbecoming Habits: Part 5 – Keeping Up with the Jones: Bognor is suspicious when he learns that one of the monastery’s regular visitors, a schoolmaster called Jones, is actually the high-level civil servant Graymer Burton.

Unbecoming Habits: Part 6 – Making a Bog of It: Unmasked, the killer gives Bognor the slip and a cross-country chase ensues.

Deadline: Part 1 – They Don’t Make Them Like That Any More: After the murder of a newspaper editor, Bognor is sent undercover to his press room to try and find his killer.

Deadline: Part 2 – Who Goes Home?: While nursing a nasty bruise, Bognor has to find his nightly assailant, find the clue in an ominous poem, and deal with a suspicious journalistic union official. 

Deadline: Part 3 – There Comes No Answer: Bognor gets drunk at a political party event and meets up with an old Oxford pal. Meanwhile, Port gets into a fight with Gringe after Gringe accuses him of being a Russian spy.

Deadline: Part 4 – The Cricketer’s Almanac: Bognor follows Gringe to a rundown motel while Monica helps him solve the dying man’s poetic clue with the help of a painting and the 1932 edition of the Wisden’s Cricketer’s Almanac.

Deadline: Part 5 – Good Luck Willy: A drunken debacle at a rugby game leads to Bognor having a revealing heart-to-heart with Eric Gringe. Meanwhile, Monica begins suspecting he’s having an affair with Molly.

Deadline: Part 6 – Hard Cheese on Eric: Flanders arrests his prime suspect, but Bognor, who’s just survived a poisoning attempt, suspects the secret behind the killer’s true identity may be in a secret merger agreement.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 1 – Dog’s Dinner: Bognor is assigned to investigate a dog smuggling ring after the mysterious death of a prize-winning poodle.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 2 – A Handful of Ashes: With his chief informant down with rabies, Bognor travels to the countryside where he tries to find the corpse of the dog he suspects was murdered.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 3 – Meet the Mole: Rose turns up murdered after meeting with Bognor and Coriander reveals she’s a double agent for the C.I.A. – the Canine Information Agency.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 4 – I Am Yellow: Memoirs of a Danish Dog Lover: Chased out of the countryside by a grumpy police inspector, Bognor travels to Denmark where he hopes to find a missing dog who can identify a certain brand of chewing gum by taste alone.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 5 – Dummy Run: Bognor sets a fiendish trap for the dog smugglers.

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie: Part 6 – Feeding Time: Bognor travels to America where he unmasks the dog smugglers but soon finds himself being chased by a pack of specially bred hounds in his underwear.

Series Two

Just Desserts: Part 1 – Scoff Not: Bognor is assigned a safe job, trying to sell restaurateurs the idea of nationally subsidized restaurants. But his safe job turns very unsafe after one of these restaurateurs turns up dead and somehow the KGB and the CIA are involved.

Just Desserts: Part 2 – A Health Warning: As chefs and chief suspects continue dying under mysterious circumstances, Bognor finds himself in compromising positions with a promiscuous lady and being threatened by a professional cricket player.

Just Desserts: Part 3 – The Fastest Cork in the West: Bognor realises that the entire conspiracy revolves around wine, food guides, and industrial espionage and that the clue he needs to blow the whole thing wide open is in the raspberries.

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