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Going Straight
Going Straight
TV Series
  • Category:
  • Cast:
    Ronnie Barker,Patricia Brake,Richard Beckinsale
  • Time:
Following his release from Slade prison, Fletcher tries to stick to the straight and narrow, but it isn't easy.
Series cast summary:
Ronnie Barker Ronnie Barker - Norman Stanley Fletcher 6 episodes, 1978
Patricia Brake Patricia Brake - Ingrid Fletcher 5 episodes, 1978
Richard Beckinsale Richard Beckinsale - Lennie Godber 4 episodes, 1978
Nicholas Lyndhurst Nicholas Lyndhurst - Raymond Fletcher 4 episodes, 1978
David Swift David Swift - Mr. McEwan 2 episodes, 1978
Rowena Cooper Rowena Cooper - Shirley Chapman 2 episodes, 1978

Going Straight

The series was a big ratings hit for the BBC, and a second season was planned. However, the sudden death of Richard Beckinsale in 1979 at the age of thirty-one resulted in the permanent cancellation of those plans.

The establishment where Fletch is hired as night porter, the Hotel Dolphin, is sited in Sussex Gardens, Bayswater.

Fletcher is forty-five-years-old.

'Going Straight' is often thought of as a failed sequel to 'Porridge.' However, it would help to think of the show as an epilogue to 'Porridge.' If both shows were called 'Fletcher' then I very much doubt that any distinction would be made between the two.

By the time the show was written Ian La Frenais, Dick Clement and Ronnie Barker had the mind of Fletcher down to a tee. This in itself made the series superb - with some of the finest writing and acting to adorn our T.V. screens. But there is a more important point to 'Going Straight.' Although 'Porridge' tried to relate the daily grind of prison life it was, by it's very nature, a comedy programme. Fletcher's spirit, intelligence, humour and status inside 'Slade' almost made you want to commit a felony and go and join him. However, once outside he became a 'nobody.' The writers cleverly showed that outside a prison Fletcher was on life's bottom rung - on course for a life of menial work, low status and even lower pay. Fletcher finds himself very frustrated at the lack of opportunities for ex-cons, especially at his age, and this comes through in the series quite strongly. Personally, I admired him in 'Porridge' and pitied him in 'Going Straight.' In 'Porridge' it was often referred to that the system can't be beaten. 'Going Straight' showed that even after having served time for crimes the system still controls your destiny. A lesson for us all.
Well, I got the DVD of Going Straight the other week, and put it with my DVDs for Porridge. I've read all that stuff that says GS wasn't received as fondly as Porridge - and I've also read that Ronnie Barker thinks it's just as good. I am in full agreement with Mr Barker here.

First off - yes, Going Straight dispensed with the "less is more" approach that made Porridge (and almost all the greatest sitcoms bar Fawlty Towers) so brilliant. But that's the only problem I have with it.

I suspect that the people who dismiss this show were disappointed because it wasn't just more Porridge. Well, the whole point is that he's been released on parole. Alternately, for the people who miss Warren, Lukewarm and Grouty - remember that they were all sent down from different parts of the country, and so when released, all went home to different parts of the country. To have them all on the outside together would not be realistic. The only fellow ex-con to be kept in the series was, of course, Lennie Godber. Plus Fletch's daughter Ingrid has a much bigger part in this series - again, to be expected.

Certainly, the series still has the same emotional resonance - Porridge dealt with the pressures of being in prison, and Going Straight deals with life on the outside for ex-prisoners, and the prejudices they are up against. Much like the prejudices that sequels tend to be up against . . .

Overall, I like this series. Not quite as much as Porridge, I'll admit. But certainly enough to recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Porridge. Who said that sequels aren't as good?!
Like Porridge, Going Straight was a series that was to shine! In 1978 it won a Bafta TV Award and rightly so! With a fantastic theme tune (If you can find the elongated version on LP - do its magnificent!),Writing team and the superb acting of Ronnie Barker- Fulton Mackay and Richard Beckinsale who could say it was bad? As many posters have said here - it didn't live up to the expectations of Porridge and in a way this "could" be correct, but i feel it packs the same punch! It shows the strain of trying to reintegrate back into life, on the straight and narrow, fighting back temptation and the leering face of crime and Barker plays this to an Art! Be it the wittiness of Fletch,The stupidity of remarks from Raymond or the "happy ending" - The series is memorable for it.

And to say that Barker said it was up there with Porridge - what more can one say!
Having just seen Going Straight for the first time on DVD, I'd have to say it's terribly underrated. A sequel to Porridge that was so different (being set "On the outside" and with most of the Slade prison supporting cast gone) was always going to divide audiences. There are some brilliant episodes and moments though- including Fletch bumping into Mr. MacKay on the train home (in one of their best ever scenes together they part company getting drunk together and even shake hands).

A pr Only Fools And Horses Nicholas Lyndhurst is excellent as Fletch's vague son, Raymond too. Most interestingly though, along with the Porridge film, Going Straight represents a kind of missing link between the gentler '70's writing of Clement and La Frenais with series like The Likely Lads and the earthier, more realistic style of Auf Wiedersehen Pet and The Commitments.

The main attraction for most people though, should be to find out what became of Fletcher in the end (although it was made later the Porridge film is obviously set before this).

Whilst it's still mainly broad, old school sitcom humour, Going Straight has several more serious moments as Fletch and his family struggle to make their way without him having to return to crime. The episode in which he helps a cynical teenage thief to change her ways is particularly poignant.

The looming threat of Thatcherism hangs over this series like some huge dark shadow about to turn the British working class into the underclass and unscrupulous, upwardly mobile "Greed is good" types- as the writers would go on to explore with Auf Wiedersehen in the '80's.

Clement and La Frenais have done an incredible job, not just with their almost unbeatable comedy writing (only John Sullivan comes close as far as I'm concerned), they have also left us these brilliant documents of British social history over the past forty years. Going Straight is just as much a valid part of this as Porridge, The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen.
The ongoing adventures of Fletcher after he leaves prison. And whilst it falls just short of that brilliant show it is still better than a lot of other comedies.

That's not to say it's terrible, because it isn't. But when you are trying to make a sequel to comedy gold and it comes out silver then a slight disappointment may appear. Many of the original cast make appearances but the scenario and situation means that some of the original zeitgeist disappears. Ronnie Barker is uniformly excellent of course but a little of the magic that made Porridge such a memorable and brilliantly written series has been lost at this point. However there are still enough laughs to keep it going. Worth watching but not quite as memorable as it's predecessor series.
Brilliance, itself,as a follow on to porridge, unfortunately due to the untimely death of richard beckinsale, i believe this shortened, what would have become, a thriving, multi-series show, as porridge was... British comedy at its best, with legend status, shame nothing these days can come anywhere near , ronnie barkers wisdom and wit...

I thoroughly endorse Liam's well expressed review. Going Straight deals with the same person in very different circumstances and one that has to have non-humorous aspects. The episodes are clever, and funny where they need to be, very funny, with Fletch's repartee as sharp as ever. And his delivery is flawless. I found myself chuckling all the time I wasn't feeling sorry for him or worried about him. It's an excellent supplement to the wonderful Porridge. And Godber was as perfect in his new circumstances as he ever was. Interesting to see some supporting actors who went on to considerable acclaim themselves. If I have any reservations they are only about Ingrid's London accent - though nothing could ever be as bad as Dick Van Dyke's chimney sweep.
PORRIDGE was a classic sit com due to the characters and how they interacted with one another so was it a good idea to have a spin off from the show where most of the characters disappeared ? It's kind of like making a spin off from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES where Del and Rodney don't appear , no one one would ever dream of doing that would they ? What they did ? Oh dear

The most memorable thing about GOING STRAIGHT was the theme song sung by Ronnie Barker " I'm going straight I am straight as an arrow ... " and that's mainly the start and finish of memorable moments . The first episode was undoubtedly the best since it featured the last television appearance of Mr McKay the head screw of HMP Slade . There is a very intelligent context for this since the opening episodes of PORRIDGE and GOING STRAIGHT both feature Mckay and Fletcher on a train so we see a dramatic example of full circle . The plot itself featured McKay being mistakenly accused of theft and Fletcher putting the world to rights in a great example of character development where Mckay thanks Fletch " I'll never forget this Fletcher "

Ironically enough McKay seems to be the only person in the world who hasn't forgotten GOING STRAIGHT but it's easy to see why it's forgotten . One episode revolves around Fletch going to collect some money he's buried before he got put away only to discover that a block of houses has been built on his stash . This plot had already appeared in countless British B movies and wasn't all that funny to begin with . Another episode involved a budgie in a cage and Fletch feeling sorry for it so he releases it and he later relates to his daughter and Godber what he has done " I knew how it felt so I let it go ... and next doors cat eat it "

GOING STRAIGHT shows that if you have a winning formula like PORRIDGE it's a bad idea to change the formula via a spin off
This series in my opinion was just as good as the ground breaking prison comedy "Porridge", it was interesting to see Fletcher on the outside struggling with everyday life, fighting against temptations for him to go back into crime.

The series had a fitting ending as Fletcher resisted the chance to do one more "Big" crime and instead attended his daughter Ingrid's wedding to his Porridge cell mate Lennie Godber. The series ended with long time friends Fletcher and Godber in the local pub relaxing and Fletch saying he was so glad to be out of prison, so he could do simple things in life like enjoy a nice pint of bitter in the pub etc.

For some reason this show was axed after just one series because people ether A) Thought it was not as good as its predecessor "porridge" or B) it got low ratings (This I'm not sure of,), but the series provided just as many laughs as "porridge" and it also won a BAFTA award, plus Ronnie Barker himself has said that he thought "Going Straight" was just as good as "Porridge".

In closing if you are a fan of Porridge and good old Norman Stanley Fletcher, this series (Available now on DVD) is a must, I guarantee you will enjoy as much or even more so then "Porridge".
'Porridge' ended its final series in 1977 with 'Final Stretch' in which his cell mate Lennie Godber was released from Slade Prison. In 1978, it was Norman Stanley Fletcher's turn to be released from behind bars when writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais engineered a sequel entitled 'Going Straight'.

Norman Stanley Fletcher, now 45 years of age, has decided that upon his release from Slade prison that he will be going straight from now on. However, it becomes clear that life on the outside isn't the bed of roses he thought it would be. In the first episode, on the train home, he meets Mr. MacKay who has retired from Slade Prison as well as an old friend and fellow criminal who tries to involve Fletch in his latest fiddle.

As if the temptation of crime is not bad enough, Fletcher is also dismayed to return home and find that not only has his wife left him for another man, but his daughter Ingrid ( once again played by Patricia Brake ) has started a relationship with Lennie Godber, who is now working as a long-distance lorry driver. Adding to Fletcher's problems is the lack of interaction with his gormless teenage son Raymond ( played by Nicolas Lyndhurst ), who only ever really speaks to ask what time it is.

Eventually, Fletch manages to put his life of crime behind him and secures himself a job as a night watchman at a hotel and in the final episode Ingrid marries Lennie.

'Going Straight' was never ever going to rival 'Porridge' but as a show itself it was great. It was interesting to see what life would be like on the outside for the lovable ex-lag and it also gave Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement a chance to develop the relationship between Ingrid and Lennie ( which began in the 'Heartbreak Hotel' episode of 'Porridge' ). The show is also notable for having given future 'Only Fools & Horses' and 'Goodnight Sweetheart' star Nicolas Lyndhurst early television exposure.

Barker and Beckinsale were as brilliant as ever together and Clement and La Frenais still came up with some razor-sharp lines, such as when Ingrid berated Fletcher for making her party dresses out of parachute material when she was a child. Fletcher retorts: ''Well, you would have been alright if you had ever fallen out of a window, wouldn't you?''. Another witty item, excellently delivered by Barker, had Fletch angrily rounding on his daughter after she questioned his ability to hold down his new job - ''I only took this job to prove a point to my family, but obviously now, the point is pointless, so what's the point, eh?''.

Depsite being a ratings success, as well as scoring a BAFTA award, 'Going Straight' came off air after only one series. It was heavily slated at the time by the critics, who felt that it proved to be too tall an order and that it came too hot on the heels of 'Porridge'. The series was also further marred with the untimely death of Richard Beckinsale shortly after finishing production of the show. It is still genuinely entertaining in my opinion and for fans of Barker it can't be missed and is miles funnier than Barker's later sitcom 'The Magnificent Evans', which was written by Roy Clarke.

In 1979, Fletcher was back, this time back inside for the feature film of 'Porridge'. No mention was made of his time on the outside, nor of Godber's marriage to Ingrid, so we must assume that it was set some time before 'Going Straight'.