‘ABSENT FRIENDS’ (TV)
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When Captain Mainwaring decides not to go to London after all, he finds most of the ‘Dad’s Army’ platoon not attending parade. Most of them have refused to come on parade as they’re playing a darts match in the local pub with the ARP Wardens instead. Mainwaring is shocked and appalled by this.
As this happens, Mainwaring, Wilson, Jones and Pike soon work together to catch an armed hardened criminal. This happens to be J. G. Devlin as Patrick Regan. I’ve seen J.G. Devlin before in an episode of ‘Steptoe and Son’. He played an elderly, desperate criminal alongside Leonard Rossiter in the episode.
‘Absent Friends’ is a rather character-driven episode in the ‘Dad’s Army’ TV series. It demonstrates how the loyalty of Mainwaring’s men to him seems to be misplaced. Mainwaring can’t understand why his platoon members don’t want to come on parade. He considers it to be a highlight of his day.
Wilson also witnesses Janet Davies as Mrs. Pike seemingly dating Bill Pertwee as Chief Warden Hodges when she’s at the pub with him during the darts match. I’m not sure what point Mrs. Pike is trying to prove as she refuses to go with Wilson since she would rather stay with Hodges in the story.
Maybe Mrs. Pike feels neglected by Wilson nowadays with his duties as a Home Guard member. Maybe she wants some attention from Hodges to compensate for it as well as make Wilson jealous. Wilson is clearly distracted and perturbed here. Mainwaring is annoyed with him being in that state.
I enjoyed it when Mainwaring, Wilson, Jones and Pike attempt to capture Regan as the IRA suspect. It was funny when Jonesy draws his bandit at him and tells him ‘he will not like it’. It was a shock when Edward Sinclair as the Verger knocked Regan out with a glass bottle. There was no need for it.
I also liked the stuff where Captain Mainwaring is on the phone to his wife and he goes…(mimics Mainwaring) “Hello, Elizabeth.” Mrs. Mainwaring seems to want oxtail and Captain Mainwaring asks Jones for it. Jones is under the misapprehension that Mrs. Mainwaring may be having a happy event.
The episode ends on a happier note with Mainwaring forgiving his men after they eventually come back and help out with a crisis at the Church Hall. ‘Absent Friends’ is a pretty good character-driven episode. It’s not one of my favourites, but it clearly shows the ‘Dad’s Army’ characters in a new light.
‘Absent Friends’ (TV) rating – 7/10
‘ABSENT FRIENDS’ (AUDIO)
Please feel free to comment on my review.
This is the fifth episode in Series 3 of the ‘Dad’s Army’ radio series. I found this to be a mostly faithful radio adaptation of the TV episode with certain casting changes and elements of dialogue altered to suit characters. I still don’t regard ‘Absent Friends’ as a favourite of mine, but it was intriguing to hear.
Larry Martyn once again reprises his role as Walker in the radio version of this episode. Bill Pertwee also reprises his role as Chief Warden Hodges. Interestingly Mrs. Pike calls Hodges by his first name ‘Bill’ in the episode. I’ve checked and apparently Hodges’ first name is William but it changed later on.
Pearl Hackney also reprises her role as Mrs. Pike in the radio version of the episode. I don’t think the atmosphere and tension created between Wilson and Mrs. Pike in the radio episode is the same as the one in the TV version. Might be due to the difference in actresses playing Mrs. Pike in the episode.
The characters of Regan and Seamus change in the radio version of the TV episode as they’re now Tom and George Pearson. Michael Brennan plays both Tom and George Pearson in the radio episode as opposed to J. G. Devlin and Patrick Connor who’d played the TV counterparts of Regan and Seamus.
Stuart Sherwin plays the Policeman in the radio version of this episode instead of Arthur English. Stuart Sherwin of course usually played the 2nd ARP Warden alongside Chief Warden Hodges in the ‘Dad’s Army’ series. It’s so intriguing how these actors play different roles in the radio series compared to TV.
I found it interesting how the misunderstanding between Mainwaring and Jones over Mrs. Mainwaring’s craving for oxtail is different in radio compared to the TV version. Jonesy explicitly tells Wilson on the phone to Mrs. Mainwaring that he ‘hopes it’s a boy’ to which Mainwaring gets surprised.
It was interesting when Mainwaring, Wilson, Jones and Pike meet Godfrey upon their return to the church hall after capturing George Pearson from his home. Mainwaring tells Godfrey to wait outside which is not what happened during the TV version of this story. Godfrey falls asleep outside of course.
At the episode’s conclusion, Mainwaring immediately clears up the misunderstanding of Mrs. Mainwaring’s craving for oxtail to his men in the church hall office, but he doesn’t forgive them for not being present on parade like he did for the TV version. I would’ve preferred that scene the next day.
‘Absent Friends’ (Audio) rating – 7/10
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