Funny how the memory plays tricks on you. For the longest time I keep remembering a mid-1990s 8.30pm sitcom starring Keith Barron, working in an all-night bakery. Sometimes I forget what it was called, and it takes ages to recall the title … but my mind keeps coming back to it.
All Night Long, written by Dick Fiddy and Mark Wallington, lasted for exactly six episodes, all of which aired in the summer of 1994.
I had it down as a cosy, prime time affair (it’s even directed and produced by Harold Snoad), but reading about it now, it’s nothing like that at all.
Barron plays an ex-con, recently out of prison for armed robbery. During his stint in jail, he learned how to bake, and is trying now to stay on the straight and narrow, in spite of all the temptations of London’s night life. He’s often accused of crimes by the regular PCs who make up the cast, along side a crime writer, a man who claims he was the shortest person ever to work for British Rail, and a burglar who is caught in the first episode breaking into the bakery, and given a chance to reform by Barron.
The Radio Times billed it like this:
First in a comedy series set in an all-night bakery, starring Keith Barron as reformed burglar Bill Chivers. Helping him run the bakery are Romanian exile Vanda (Maureen Beattie) and an elderly Scotsman, Tom, but the place is always crowded with an assortment of people who drop in for tea and a chat. In this first episode, Bill finds himself short of staff. The series is directed and produced by Harold Snoad , who was responsible for the cult comedy Keeping Up Appearances.Radio Times
In his Guide To TV Comedy, Mark Lewisohn concludes that the show ‘raised few laughs … an oil and water blend of dark comedy and quip humour … the writers ended up as dissatisfied with the mix as the reviewers’ and notes that the original pilot, called In The Dark was much darker, with the Barron role instead taken by Jim Carter, and finding the lure of crime much harder to resist.
I think that version might have been a good sitcom. The first episode though, didn’t make the top 70 for the week, but Broadcast still found time to mention it, saying that it easily saw off that week’s World In Action.
Anyway, I probably turned over afterwards to watch Ian Hislop on Room 101. Which isn’t the same as his appearance on the radio version.