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harvey_s_bristol_moon

A play on Harvey's Bristol Cream; a sherry and Shine On Harvey Moon.

Shine On Harvey Moon UK, ITV (Witz End Productions/Central), Comedy serial, colour, 1982 Starring: Kenneth Cranham, Elizabeth Spriggs, Maggie Steed

This first great show from Marks and Gran was not exactly a sitcom. Rather, Shine On Harvey Moon was a humorous evocation of one family's life - the characters, the situations, the predicaments. No studio audience was employed but, for sure, there was end-to-end humour and some scorching lines in every script. While the first and last series were sitcom-style half-hours, the remaining episodes were hour-length, allowing room for the writers to stretch out.

This is the premise: the Second World War has ended, and on 9 November 1945 Corporal Harvey Moon is demobilised and returns home to Hackney, east London, having served His Majesty's Forces in relative safety, as a stores clerk for the RAF in Bombay. Everyone believes him to be dead, killed in action, so plenty of goings-on have been going on in his absence - his wife Rita has been more than accommodating with American GIs; his 17-year-old daughter Maggie is going about with Harvey's RAF pal, the spiv Lou; his infant son Stanley is a street-wise and precocious pre-pubescent youngster; and his home has been bombed flat. This is all a mighty come-down for Harvey, who had built himself up nicely before the war, earning a steady wage as a professional footballer for Clapton Orient.

Amid rationing and rubble, and as the calendar turns through to 1948 (the episodes were sequential), Harvey Moon sets about rebuilding his life, his mum (Nan) providing the only real rock of support. Harvey is elected a local Labour councillor, begins a relationship with Stanley's school headmistress, Harriet Wright, and lives with Stanley and Nan in a prefab bungalow. Unfortunately, this too is blown up, by a hitherto unexploded wartime bomb, so he moves in as lodger with Erich Gottlieb and his sister Frieda.

By the end of the fourth series, Harvey and Rita had reunited, although their relationship remained shaky. But in a surprise revival, in 1995, they were apart once more. This last run carried the story through to 1953 - Maggie marries Lou; Stanley has grown up and been conscripted into the RAF; and Nan is bitterly opposed in general to the 'coloureds' that are 'invading Britain' and specifically opposed to Harvey's Jamaican friend Noah, who is lodging with them. As before, the episodes traced the changes in Britain - and British attitudes - after the war, reflecting the gloom but embracing the bright future engendered by the Festival Of Britain, the Queen's coronation and BBC radio comedy.

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