This delightfully silly series is a huge success for two main reasons. Firstly the casting of Michael Aldridge and Robin Bailey as our investigative heroes Charters and Caldicott is superb. Secondly the script, by ace journalist and dramatic scribe Keith Waterhouse, takes such exquisite pleasure in its use of language that its unlikely you’ll have encountered anything like it before.
Charters and Caldicott were characters in the 1938 film The Lady Vanishes, passengers on the train on the way to a cricket match. Here they are resurrected in the present day of 1985, clinging resolutely to the old fashioned way of doing things. They go to their club and enjoy conversations about cricketing almanac Wisden over lunch. They are retired men, out of time in a world where fast food restaurants proliferate. And that’s what makes the programme so much fun – they aren’t old fogies refusing to adapt to the modern world, they simply want to maintain an oasis of peace within it. Their dialogue is so dense and funny that it’s entirely conceivable that you’ll miss gags and have to go back to find out more. There’s something wonderfully Wodehousian about the proceedings – Charters and Caldicott describing to each other what is happening with such hilariously analytical and upper class attachment. It is beautifully performed.
That’s not to say all the jokes are wordy, there are some brilliant set-pieces using visual comedy. In the first episode the constant moving of pieces of furniture because they are blocking the view is a brilliantly silly and throw away bit of business.
It may seem odd to describe all of this comedy when the subject of the story is a murder mystery, but it is truly very funny. A caper with twists and turns and nefarious characters.
Our heroes become entangled with the mystery when they have to abandon their regular Friday post luncheon cinema visit when a young woman is found murdered in Caldicott’s flat. Having identified her as the daughter of an old school friend to the police, they are rather surprised when they meet someone who has been trying to get in touch with them. Things get complicated and very involved from there, but very funny with it.
Charters and Caldicott is a huge amount of fun, the witty wordplay and joy of language is so brilliantly unique it’s worth watching just to see the two main characters talking to each about nothing in particular. With the dark conspiracy at the centre of the story, it gets even better.
Charters and Caldicott is out now on DVD and is a highly recommended discovery.