Is it possible to have nostalgia for something that was never truly on TV? Let’s find out with ITV comedy Hardwicke House, which received so much outcry from the press and the public that only two of its seven episodes were ever transmitted in the UK, it was never transmitted outside the UK, never repeated and rumour had it that ITV had wiped the master tapes (it hadn’t – the VT department had hidden them).
Remember it? Probably not. Written by Richard Hall and Simon Wright (The Comic Strip Presents…), Hardwicke House was set in the eponymous run-down comprehensive school and attempted to combine the style of The Young Ones and Saturday Live with a standard sitcom – you can probably also spot the influence of producer John Stroud’s Who Dares Wins and Educating Marmalade, as well.
The central gag was that the teachers were as bad, if not worse than the pupils, which would have been fine if it hadn’t been for the exact ways in which they were bad: head teacher Roy Kinnear spends most of his time drinking; deputy head Roger Sloman pervs after the sixth form girls’ gym team (with the help of the history teacher) and offers the younger boys “extra biology lessons”; Pam Ferris uses her French lessons to try to get her pupils to go on political protests with her (“Ou est le Cruise?” – “Le Cruise est dans la silo a Greenham Common”); and so on.
All of that still might have worked if it hadn’t gone out at 8pm on a weekday, next to the likes of Full House and Duty Free, and hadn’t ended up with pupils thrown down stairwells or charred to a crisp testing burglar alarms.
There was uproar, there were complaints on Open Air, even MPs waded in and before you knew it, Hardwicke House was whipped from the screens and replaced by 10-year-old repeats of Chance in a Million. ITV, which had envisaged a good run for the show, had to cancel production, but as Roy Kinnear had convinced the writers and the cast to sign up for a second set of episodes so they would still get paid even if the show was cancelled, it ended up costing them a lot of money.
Although none of the episodes have been repeated, you can still watch those first two episodes below, including the feature-length first episode. And you can also see an out-take from episode five that would have featured former Hardwicke House pupils Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson doing what they were good at: ultra-violence. Enjoy!