A TRIUMPHANT return to prime time Friday nights for redoubtable amusical pentheraphobe LES DAWSON. The format was a ‘look at life’ sketch show, linked by the man himself and covering a different topic each week, in the manner of such familiar fare as Terry Scott’s Scott On. But Dawson, typically, went one better, packaging his skits in the format of an urgent investigative current affairs programme (complete with requisite groovy, doomy theme tune) concerning the nefarious machinations of “them” – a faceless race of aliens manipulating mankind into its perennial state of hapless discord for their own sinister ends. Such extra-terrestrial encroachment took the form, naturally, of British Rail sandwiches, Post Office queues and Bank Holiday traffic. The links were presented from ‘Dawson Control’, a futuristic bunker full of spinning tape reels, banks of flashing lights and that big projection TV screen they used to display song lyrics on Top of the Pops for a bit, wherein Les would be handed the latest worrying developments on bits of computer paper by a crew of headset-equipped dolly birds. (“Wear the boots tonight!”)
The sketches, co-written by Les with such venerable comedy workhorses as Andy Hamilton and Ian Davidson, were of a more traditional bent than all this techno-tomfoolery might suggest, but solid enough, helped by a supporting cast of the calibre of JOHN JUNKIN, DAVID BATTLEY, MICHAEL KNOWLES, SAM KELLY and, in a rare adult comedy role, JOHNNY BALL. Each show was rounded off with the obligatory Cissy and Ada dialogue betwixt Les and ROY BARRACLOUGH. Technological hi-jinks did occasionally get a look in, with Dawson commenting on sketches via surveillance monitors, and performing little monologues next to a Dr Strangelove-esque illuminated world map (in which the various dots were climactically joined up to spell out words like ‘cobblers’ etc.) For the most part, though, it was Les alone, hands behind back, spouting his finely-hewn baroque monologues unaided. Even the grand piano was kept in its crate (along, presumably, with the wife’s mother). Les would later revisit the theme of alien manipulation in his expectation-confounding (to say nothing of profoundly weird) 1985 science fiction novel A Time Before Genesis, in what must be the only working men’s club comedy/dystopian sci-fi crossover in British telly, unless you count Mike Reid’s unbroadcast Day of the Triffiks.