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Beer on DVD  no 42

Couldn't Organise One

The character played by Denis Waterman was Det Sgt George Carter in 53 episodes of The Sweeney then Terry McCann in 73 Minders, followed by Thomas Gynn 27 times in Stay Lucky often using waterway locations around Leeds, 19 times as Tony Carpenter in On The Up, and now he's Terry Standing retired cop in 83 episodes so far of New Tricks. As so often he gets to sing the title song.

How I’ve missed the series until our editor pointed me in the direction of “Couldn’t Organise One” (i.e. the proverbial in a brewery), I’ll never know. Cronies Brian Lane (Alun Armstrong, famous among fans for “Brian Moments” in 80 episodes of New Tricks but also Flintwich in Little Dorrit and Bucket in Bleak House) and Jack Halford (James Bolam, a Likely Lad and Whatever) are supposed to be kept in order by Det Supt Sandra Pullman (Amanda Redman) as they look into cold cases. This one investigates the death by drowning in an open fermenter at the family-owned Felspar Brewery (not Felstar – that’s on a winery in Felsted, Essex). There’s an episode of Morse (called The Sins of the Fathers, name btw of a New Tricks 2013 episode) also featuring a drowning in a brewery and funnily enough John Thaw’s widow Sheila Hancock pops up in "Couldn't Organise One" as Sandra’s dependent mother.

To say these episodes are probably churned out on a weekly basis, this one rates very highly among aficionados and has moments of wrenching emotion. The twists in the plot would be ruined if this article revealed too much. Some of the location shooting took place at Fullers, with exterior shots of their brewery tap the Mawson Arms  and a hospitality bar which I’m pretty certain is the brewery’s Hock Cellar. Other brewery shooting was done at Adnams in Southwold, including that open fermenter. Exterior twilight shots of Felspar’s Brewery’s arched gateway may have used a school somewhere in the Ealing area. There’s a scene in a beer festival back in the days when we all used builders’ scaffolding for our stillage – lots of genuine CAMRA posters, but no way of telling whether it was really something like Ealing Beer festival. A gross Trevor Cooper plays Malcolm Hagley (you can tell his life’s been wrecked by alcoholism because his staple diet has become tinnies of Special Brew) the erstwhile head brewer at Felspar whose protégé Graham Thomson was the murder victim). Part of the mischief and mayhem stems from the illicit  use of genetically modified barley – curiously it’s always referred to as barley not malt. Hilarious episodes include Waterman and Bolam getting increasingly kali’d as they test bottled samples from the 5 years when Felspar’s Far reaching Bitter won champion beer of the South of England and then inexplicably bombed   Other threads include a brewing dynastic marriage and incest! Of course there have to be twists in the plot so the guy what done it is not the guy what you think done it. In this episode Sandra also learns that the career the detective father whom she idolised had been about to come crashing down, disgraced in the Force as a habitual skirtlifter, only prevented by his death.

If you’re quick you’ll spot a nasty Roger Lloyd Pack, uncredited (gormless Trigger from Only Fools). You’ll also find Ellie Haddington as downtrodden ex prostitute Jean Bennett who’s now in Sky One’s The Café, a gentle sitcom based around a Weston-super-Mare café which acts as the social hub for the seaside town.

Series 5 brand new box sets can be had from the Acorn Media store for £9.99 or you can do a download of a single episode, can’t think why.

It’s our editor’s all-time favourite episode and also rated 12th in the listing of Amanda Redman’s top film/tv appearances.



printed in O-to-K in 2014  text ©RKW 2013