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Last Updated: Friday, 17 October, 2003, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Porridge star back for TV special
Ronnie Barker in Porridge
Ronnie Barker last played Fletcher in Porridge in the late-1970s
Porridge star Ronnie Barker has revived his character, Norman Stanley Fletcher, for a one-off Christmas special.

The classic sitcom character will be the subject of a mock documentary to find out what has happened to him in the 25 years since the show ended.

Barker filmed "a very small scene", and other Porridge stars will also appear, executive producer Leanne Klein said.

A similar programme about The Good Life's Margot Leadbetter is being made - but without actress Penelope Keith.

Ms Klein said she could not reveal what happened to Fletcher, since he was at the centre of the 1970s prison comedy.

The Good Life
Penelope Keith (second right) will not star in a Good Life special
But he was "well and happy", she told BBC News Online.

Barker, who played the role from 1973 to 1978, now gets involved in few TV projects.

"We wrote him a letter and he liked the script. We were very pleased to get him," Ms Klein said.

The hour-long show, to be screened on BBC Two, will include mock archive footage plus interviews with people Fletcher grew up with, worked with and served time with.

Several of Porridge's other stars, such as Richard Beckinsale, who played Lennie Godber, and Fulton Mackay as warder Mr Mackay, have died since the show ended.

But others, including Christopher Biggins, Tony Osoba and Sam Kelly, have been interviewed in character about Fletcher.

"We've got a lot of the surviving cast from Porridge actually in it. Most of his fellow cons are in it," Ms Klein said.

Porridge and The Good Life - about a couple trying to be self-sufficient in the suburbs while their snooty neighbours looked on - were among the most popular shows of the 1970s.

The new shows, under the Life Beyond the Box title, are being made by production company Wall To Wall.

Please find a selection of your comments below.

One small scene with Barker and a bunch of filler interviews with extras is hardly licence money well-spent.
Steve B, Scotland

If these were being revived as ongoing series, I would have grave reservations. Revivals have the hard to reconcile tasks of pleasing lovers of the original productions while being consistent with contemporary expectations.

I think these mock documentaries are the best approach - they don't aspire to be continuations, and are richer projects than talking-head clip show appreciations would be. I look forward to them both.
Dave Owen, UK

I admit it is a tempting and intriguing idea, but my gut instinct is: leave well alone and come up with something original. I already have the complete classic Porridge on DVD, with all those great characters in their heyday - plus, of course, Fulton McKay and Richard Beckinsale in all their brilliance. I don't think this new concoction would live up to the greatness of the original series. Plus, what on earth is the point of making a similar programme about Margot Leadbetter if Penelope Keith isn't going to be in it?!
Simon Harries, UK

Just shows a complete lack of imagination
David Rawsthorn, UK

I really think this is scraping the barrel. Why do we have to resurrect this stuff - doesn't anyone in TV in the UK have an original idea anymore (apart from Ricky Gervais).
John, UK <

I'm looking forward to the Christmas special, but I'm not sure how genuinely funny it will be. I always felt that the 'genius' of Porridge was the relationship between Fletch and Godber and without the comic flair of the talented Richard Beckinsale I don't know how good it will be. That said, it will certainly make interesting viewing.
Clare, England

I think this just highlights the lack of creativity in tv programming at the moment. It smacks of desperation and it's disappointing that the BBC isn't trying to move on with the times and try and create a new classic.
Caroline, UK

Excellent! Both Porridge and The Good Life are still as funny today as they were when originally broadcast. They, along with Are you Being Served? and the later 'Allo 'Allo, are the tops of BBC comedy and even my children, aged 10 and 12, love these classics. Well done!
Davud Fuller, UK

To be fair they aren't being revived, rather they are being remembered, and that is great, it is a shame that Penny won't show in the documentary about Margot, but it should be good anyway.

Excellent idea! Now Ronnie Barker can remind us all again why Porridge still sets the benchmark for entertainment which still hasn't been challenged by any British TV comedy since apart from Blackadder perhaps.
Jason, UK

I think its a good idea to bring them up to date with today's lifestyle. The viewers will be able to see the outcome of how their lives has changed. Its worked for Only Fools and Horses so I can't see why it can't happen for Porridge and The Good Life.
Ms Pamela Robertin, United Kingdom

How can you have a show about the Good Life and Margot Leadbetter without Penelope Keith? It won't work.
Colin B, Scotland

I will certainly be watching them as they have a freshness about them that hasn't diminished, that is to say they are genuinely funny, whereas a lot of todays sitcoms aren't. I feel that Porridge in particular still has a lot of good stories left in it as it reflects society in general which is ever-changing. The Good Life still has mass appeal, as you only have to look at programmes like 'river cottage' and all the garden/lifestyle programmes that are immensely popular. Bring 'em back!
Phil, UK

As long as they are well-done (not a guarantee!), I would welcome such one-off specials - but not a new series.
Dan, UK

Great idea, Porridge and The Good life were both excellent comedies, I will never tire of watching the originals, can't wait to see the new shows. Comedy on TV nowadays, lacks sparkle and decent one-liners.
roz banks, england

Both The Good Life and Porridge are both very special favourites of mine. Showing them at Christmas shall be a real bonus this year. Well Done!!
Nigel Lane, England

What's that I hear in the distance? Is it the sound of a barrel being scraped? Please will someone come up with some original ideas! What's next? The Young Ones 20 years on? Rik works in a call centre, Neil's a billonaire, Viv's a bank manager and Mike's a down and out? Next!
Daran , UK

A new series of either of them would be a mistake, but this 'update' documentary, on the condition that it is done well and in keeping with the spirit of the original programmes, sounds like a brilliant idea. (....and if the great Ronnie Barker likes the idea, then it must be good!)
Timbo, Ingleby Barwick

I am looking forward to these revivals. Many shows today rely on very crude humour. It will be refreshing to once again view material that exhibits good screen writing, plus, of course, some innuendo.
Tim Clarke, USA

Nice idea, but an orignal programme would be nice - though histerically funny sitcoms like these only come along once every now and again!
James, UK

To me it's the scraping of the barrel. I love Porridge and The Good Life but feel that it's better to leave the memories as they were. Are we going to have up-dates of 'Allo 'Allo? Hi-de-Hi! and Dad's Army? What would we see but a set of gravestones. As Victor Meldrew might say..."I don't believe it"!
Steve, Thailand

I think it's a great idea that an 'update' of our favourite characters will be served for us, and why not, especially at Christmas time. To those that complain that we need more originality, what's wrong with producing a programme we are all familiar with in the first place. We know who Ronnie Barker is because we used to have a limited choice of TV channels 20 years ago (and because he is a good comic). My point is? I wouldn't be able to name any of the new wave of actors in today's multi-channel arena.
Christopher Tsangari, London, England

Porridge - I believe that as long as the scripts are good and funny then they should be revived. Ronnie Barker one of our great comedy actors and one of idle's is sadly missed on the British screen. I have at home the entire collection of Porridge. Long live Ronnie Barker! As for The Good Life - it won't be the same without Penelope Keith. regards,
Gary Sidaway, United Kingdom

Hasn't Roz Banks hit the nail on the head, she says that the good life and porridge were both excellent comedies, I will never tire of watching the originals, can't wait to see the new shows. Comedy on TV nowadays, lacks sparkle and decent one-liners, well surely it goes that even though the shows are coming back, albiet in a different way, they will suffer the same as new comedies therefore ruining her views of the originals?
dave g, england

Absolutely FANTASTIC!! Brilliant comedy that has not aged and is eternally funny!! I hope these follow-ups do the originals justice!!
Sandra Wright, UK

Boring! Boring! Stop living on past glories and make us laugh with something new
Norry Wilson, Scotland

I'd like to see a similar programme based around "Never the Twain".

Revivals like these always smack of lack of imagination on behalf of the BBC. They were fantastic shows, and should be left well alone as a testament to great British comedy. Revisiting them is a big mistake and I'm with Penelope Keith!
Ian Shenstone, UK

Any remake, of the character Margot from 'The Good Life', without having Penelope Keith play the part, would be meaningless.
Jim Harbige, UK

Let sleeping dogs lie.
Ian, UK

Sounds like a bit of fun. Steve B - live a little and untighten your belt. I don't think they'll be spending a fortune on it. There are quite a few other licence payers out there - I think we can all cover the expense.
Hutch, UK

These programmes aren't being revived at all. Well loved characters' names are simply being bandied about in order to lure befuddled viewers at Christmas. It a cynical exercise in branding, not a revival. If they "revived" Frank Sinatra by putting an unconvincing wig on Bryan from Boyzone, everyone would cry foul. And quite right. For shame.
Francis, UK

Who can tell if these will be a good or bad idea, only actual viewing will answer that. Nice idea though, anything getting Ronnie Barker back on screen has to be a good thing - even if his actual appearance is very brief. Jason's comments that Blackadder is the only British comedy to come close to Porridge in recent years - has he forgotten about THE best British comedy series Only Fools...?
Neil Hunt, UK

I am a particular fan of The Good Life, having grown up with it when I was young. I watch it occassionally when I stumble over a repeat. However it is a little sad to think that we must reply on bring such programs up-to-date rather than create material. That said I find it extremely hard to find anything today which holds my interest. I have long since stopped buying a TV schedule because I already know what is on, rubbish. I few shows are worth watching, but none are worth "staying in for". TV is dead, long live individual creativity!
Roger, UK

I've missed both shows, especially 'The Good Life' which I used to enjoy on PBS as 'Good Neighbors', so I would be very happy to see both of them revived as specials.
Donna Dotts, USA

Brilliant - anything that brings back legends like Ronnie Barker is well worth watching.
Steve, Northern Ireland

If it is done well with a good script, why not? So long as they leave you with a smile on your face, feeling like it was all a good bit of fun then it will have worked. If Mr Barker thinks the Porridge script good enough then I have no doubt it will be!
Carol, UK

This shows how the BBC are struggling with new ideas. Are re-hashed old comedy prgrammes what we are paying our exorbitant TV licence fee for?
David Murray, Italy

Whilst I have a huge amount of respect for Porridge and its place in our televisual history - and I'll even grudgingly spare The Good Life some credit on that score - I nevertheless find it quite disappointing that we have to keep looking to resurrect past glories. Sequels, specials and other forms of revisit are simply a way to try to avoid innovation and risk. Viewers aren't fooled by it and we're not always so easily seduced by nostalgia. Too much of a good thing, as they say.

I too would steer well clear of a full series remake but I think this mock-doc idea is very promising. On the one hand a good send-up of the all-too-prevalent talking-head style documentary is much needed. Also, if done well, it could be really powerful to use these familar characters to throw a perspective on how society and life has changed. If you were sure you had writers who were up to it why not include a few other characters. What kind of lives would Basil Fawlty, Terry Collier, or Miss Jones from Rising Damp have had in the last 30 years?
Bob C, UK

I look forward to seeing both specials - as long as they are left as one-offs, and not an attempt to revive well-loved parts of the past
Chris, UK

Ronnie Barker is a great comedy actor. I hope enjoys doing this Christmas show enough to come back to TV sitcom. I am sure that he would still be a class act, and he always was an actor with class.
Stephen Franklin, England

Why not! The last "Reggie Perrin" series was a little flat without the central character but worked well and gave us a nicely whimsical ending.

The more Ronnie Barker we can get the better. Like Ronnie Corbett, the Pythons, and The Goodies the man is a national treasure. Besides which - it's an hours' reprieve from the endless home improvement and reality TV programmes. Hell, I'd even watch a programme about what the old test cards are doing 25 years on rather than the Geneva Convention contravening "Changing rooms"...
Mike Allum, England

David Rowley, UK

This is just another total misuse of our licence fees. The BBC are totally bereft of ideas for new programmes and every Christmas churn out rubbish like this.
Philip Ross, England

Being able to see Ronnie Barker perform again in Porridge will undoubtedly gain a huge audience. A natural comedien with such raw talent, it's something we could all do with this Christmas.
Darren, UK

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