We’ll Think Of Something, Jacko

Sam Kelly has appeared in a number of excellent comedy roles in his time, not least as Warren in Porridge and Hans in ‘Allo ‘Allo. It’s rather suprirsing then that he never really got a chance to lead a sitcom, given those great performances. But he was the starring role in ITV’s We’ll Think Of Something, which aired in the autumn of 1986. Written by Geoff Rowley, it also starred Marcia Warren and Roger Sloman, and was about a recently unemployed man trying to find a way to stay afloat.

WITH MORE than three million unemployed it needs a brave or foolhardy company to start a comedy series on the subject of redundancy. Even if it is given an optimistic title. Not a lot of laughs in being out of work one would have thought, and so it proved.

James Green, The Stage
The Stage – Thursday 18 September 1986

You might be forgiven, after reading the review, that Sam’s sitcom was a bit of a bomb. But a quick look at the ratings tells us a different story. Here’s the top 20 for the week of the first episode.

BARB figures from Broadcast

And look at that … surrounded by the likes of Only Fools And Horses and Open All Hours, there’s We’ll Think Of Something, debuting at number 11 with 10.79 million viewers. In fact, the only things watched more that Monday were Coronation Street and the premiere of the Miss Marple movie Murder With Mirrors.

It’s even more remarkable when you see this.

That very same night, BBC One began showing Brush Strokes, their next big hope from writers Esmonde And Larbey. And look, up against Marple, it only managed 66th and 5.61m. In fact, both sitcoms were being pushed in the press that week …

Coventry Evening Telegraph – Saturday 30 August 1986
Liverpool Echo – Monday 01 September 1986

So, the one that debuted at 66 lasted five blockbuster series, and the one that had double the audience lasted just one series (though they never actually went directly head to head). Let’s have a look at just how quickly those fortunes turned around.

13th for Sam on ITV, and an increased 10.86 million viewers for episode two. Meanwhile …

… Jacko’s gained some more viewers too, but dropped a few places, now that he’s also on opposite Benny Hill on ITV.

The third episodes fared like this.

A pretty big drop for We’ll Think Of Something, down to 23rd and shedding well over half a million.

While Jacko’s on the up (geddit?), adding nearly a million and climbing seven places.

Week four …

… And Brush Strokes is up to 24th, beating that week’s Dallas. That’s an amazing jump, with an extra 2.5 million viewers. To be fair, We’ll Think Of Something wasn’t on that week (I think it was replaced by a special about Charles and Diana), so it’s an unfair comparison. I’m sure things were back to normal the following week.

The ITV show’s decline seems to have steadied a little, but look, it’s been overtaken by Help, the sitcom mentioned in the review above.

So where’s Brush Strokes?

Only in the bloody top ten. Seems like last week’s schedule change did Jacko a lot of favours.

It’s final two episodes saw We’ll Think Of Something hang around in mid-9 millions and the mid-20s. Brush Strokes had a run of 13 episodes for its first season, demonstrating the faith the BBC had put in Esmonde and Larbey (and Howman), and ended its run like this:

Beaten only that night by Corrie, and watched by more viewers than the more succesful replacement for Sam, Executive Stress.

So ends the tale of We’ll Think Of Something.

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