Tuesday, 3 April 2018

On The Omnibuses

On The Omnibuses

We've just had April Fools' Day and talk inevitably turns to either the infamous 1957 Spaghetti Tree report from 'Panorama' or the Lirpa Loof from 'That's Life' in 1984. But I do wonder whether the production team of 'On The Buses' were thinking along similar lines in 1973 when they came up with the really rather odd historical episode 'On The Omnibuses'.

Written by Bob Grant and Stephen Lewis, it comes along in the middle of the show's seventh and final season and almost feels like a pitch for a spin-off prequel series, much in the vein of 'First Of The Summer Wine'.

The write-up in 'TV Times' gives little away, though with 'The Indoor League' hitting the airwaves that week, there was understandably more space devoted to the different sorts of dartboard you might encounter up and down the land.

The Luxton & District Bus Company have staged an exhibition to celebrate the 50th anniversry of their first motor bus. These scenes are shot on OB video and you get a clear indication of how unwieldy the cameras must have been as the framing lurches all over the place from time to time.

There are also some nice old black-and-white photographs that make you think Sapphire & Steel might have to be assigned if things go too badly wrong.

On a side-note, the title sequence still annoys me in that Stephen Lewis is simply credited as 'Inspector' rather than 'Inspector Blake' or simply 'Blakey'. It does seem a trifle dismissive of arguably the most recognisable character from the series...

Stan falls asleep - sadly, this is all a dream sequence - and we find ourselves back in time, where horses are being phased out and Jack is trying to start up a union.

It's by no means brilliant, but the change of location does make for a more interesting story than normal. Olive gets to chain herself to some railings and Blakey ends up dangling from a railway bridge. In fact, note how there is a train visible in the top of the frame as the bus goes underneath. I get the feeling they only had one chance to do that particular shot!

We're on film for the second half of the episode and there are actually some interesting camera angles if you like that sort of thing. According to the book 'On The Buses - The Filming Locations' (by Craig Walker) these scenes were done around Haywards Heath, but trespassing on the railway line to follow in the footsteps of Blakey (here referred to as 'The Kaiser', ahem...) is a very bad idea indeed!

To be honest, I wouldn't have minded if the series had hung around in the past for a few more weeks - though I'm very glad they never attempted a furturistic one. An 'On The Buses' with Blakey in a shiny silver uniform scarely bears thinking about...

(By Andrew Trowbridge)

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