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Sunny Side Up

Radio 4
1999 (six episodes)

This was a poignant comedy drama with romantic undertones, very different in tone from writer Scott Cherry’s earlier Babblewick Hall.  It concerned the lives and hopes of a barbershop quartet in present-day Nottingham, led by the confusingly-named Bill Bailey (Keith Barron) — presumably no relation to the popular comedian and musician.  Following the death of a member, Bill and his cohorts Lionel (Bryan Pringle) and Tommy (Clive Swift) recruit the talented but withdrawn Melvyn (David Ross) and strike out towards the national barbershop tournament finals in Harrogate, determined to see off the challenge of slimy local rival Vic Morrison (Kenneth Cranham).  Unfortunately the quartet, all of or around retirement age, are subject to various afflictions, largely concerning women.  Widowed Melvyn is in mourning for  his beloved wife, whereas Tommy’s other half is very much alive and resents the time he spends in rehearsals with the others.  Only the prosaic Lionel spurns romance entirely, but is a martyr to his bad back; Bill, meanwhile, has spent a lifetime drifting from one casual relationship to the next, without ever feeling the desire to commit himself to one woman — until the arrival of Rita Reeves (Susan Brown), theatrical agent, whose Mills and Boon-addicted assistant Daphne (Thelma Barlow) believes everything will turn out for the best…  With one unlikely obstacle after another throwing itself in our heroes’ path, however, the chances of success in the final and a happy ending in affairs of the heart begin to look extremely remote.  The barbershop songs for Sunny Side Up were performed by Wheel Of Harmony.

© JB Sumner 1999.  Created 20/3/99