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44 Episode 7.2

As the put-upon neighbours, the Perkins, Jeffrey Segal and Hal Dyer have something of a repetitive role, with each understandable outrage restored in time for the following week's episode. Yet despite the somewhat predictable path their actions take each week, both performers bring a lot of skill and humour to their part. Claypole's gift of a magic talisman that takes their every wish seriously is here used to amusing effect as Arthur Perkins continually drops everything, and later they appear shrunk inside a teacup. It's all payoffs you can see coming a mile off, but they do it so well it often doesn't seem to matter.
      While the Perkins get their own plot this week, the main story is the Meakers being called to a manor house to see off a ghost that's haunting the place. In the first few series Harold Meaker was a very amusing supporting character, but here the decision for him and Ethel to go on the job and become the focal point ahead of the ghosts themselves shows how the programme has lost its real focus. This is illustrated clearly by the release that year of a Rentaghost Annual (cover-dated 1983), which saw Harold and Ethel get a bigger photo on the front than any of the actual ghosts, Claypole included.

43 Episode 6.1

The episode to first introduce Sue Nicholls as Nadia Popov. While the '80s strain of humour around a "funny foreigner" now seems quite dated, if not to say tiresome, Nicholls must be given credit for being able to remember all of her various standing under a miss (or misunderstanding) of the English language. And, while a count of how many times her "teleporting due to sneezing" schtick was used during series 7-9 must number in treble figures, here it's hardly used at all.
     Perhaps most crucially, while the character presided over the lowest point of Rentaghost, her chemistry with her co-stars is plain to see. In the 2013 Channel 5 programme 50 Greatest Kids Shows (it came 11th) Sue Nicholls spoke about her love for the show, noting that: "Rentaghost is the most wonderful thing in my life... possibly more than the show I'm in now, which is Coronation Street. Because it was mad. [...] It was mad, it was a pantomime. That's probably why I loved it so much, because I love doing pantomime."
      The content of the episode, involving pantomime horse Dobbin on dream potions, and the Perkins (with a patio door in their living room, not later seen) is pretty tedious, but it's all about context. Seen in and of itself and it's pretty awful stuff, but seen after series 7-9 and it's positively restrained.

42 Episode 7.4

Harold tries to organise a surprise birthday party for Ethel, which, if one of the stock sitcom plots, does at least subvert the process somewhat by having "copying spells" and a pantomime horse taking dancing lessons. The show is now so far removed from its origins that Mr. Claypole wears shoulder pads and a baseball cap to go roller skating, but there are still the odd smiles to be had.
     Those who have a desire to see Harold Meaker and/or Adam Painting undressed may also enjoy a scene where a copying spell makes Painting (Christopher Biggins) uncontrollably mimic Harold's actions and get undressed in the middle of the street before trying to "take a bath" in his car, while Harold is in his house doing the real thing. Rather oddly, as Biggins doesn't get naked for his "bath", this does give us the implied revelation that Mr. Meaker keeps his pants on while washing. Though this was, after all, a family show, so there's a reason why we wouldn't get to see Adam Painting's supernatural goolies of the day.
      An outtake from this episode was uploaded to YouTube in June 2020. During the scene where Ethel pours milk over Harold's head, an off-screen voice (presumably director David Crichton) can be heard saying "that was excellent", before Brayshaw quips "it's running down my willy." What makes this doubly surprising is that Brayshaw quickly drops out of his character's accent and into his own posh one, a sobering reminder that the person with the London accent who always asks after "Effel" is just a fictitious character.

41 Episode 6.4

Rentaghost at its most child-orientated, where Dobbin turns into a superhero, the Perkins' car travels into space, and the spooks, the Meakers and Adam Painting all get to experience life as toys in a doll's house for.... well, for no particular reason, really. Except for perhaps that it happened in the sixth episode of Pardon My Genie.
     In terms of trivia, then any perverted viewers with a Rose Perkins fixation might note that this is the episode where she appears in just a leotard... it's also, at less than 21 1/2 minutes, possibly the shortest episode of Rentaghost ever aired. (see entry No.34.)

40 Episode 8.3

Paddie O'Neil returns to the series as Queen Matilda for the final time, after playing the part in three previous episodes (and also a different character, Mrs. Bottomley, in episode 5.4). In one of the more surreal moments of the series, Mr. Claypole wants to remember the spell to send Matilda back... so gets Nadia and McWitch to enter his mind and locate the store of his memories. It is, again, a direct lift from Pardon My Genie, but adds a bit of pace to a slightly flagging episode.
     Less magical is a retroactively sad scene where the Perkins think that Harold Meaker had passed away... the brilliant Edward Brayshaw died from throat cancer just over seven years after this episode aired, aged 57.
     While episodes of this vintage are louder and sillier than what came before, a delight is always the end credits sequence, where the cast drop out of character, and the Perkins finally get to show that they really enjoy being in the programme along with everyone else. This particular episode has Brayshaw and Jeffrey Segal (Arthur Perkins) having a play fight using brooms.

39 Episode 6.2

This is the episode where Nadia first declares her love for Timothy Claypole, with somewhat racy talk of wanting to run barefoot through his beard. Of course, while the depiction of romantic relationships in Rentaghost, going back to Calamity Kate, is always a little trite and childish, it does have added amusement that Staniforth was openly gay, and so his playing of Timothy Claypole as a ladies' man does contain some subtextual amusement.
      A large part of the episode is based around Edward Brayshaw's real-life skill as an ice skater, with Mr. Claypole putting a spell on him to make him a champion skater. Sadly, after this impressive display, the episode falls into a display of silliness, as Claypole gets ill and goes around in a frog costume. The Perkins, much more proactive and aggressive to the Meakers at this stage, hire a psychiatrist to spy on their neighbours to try and get them committed.
      Events start to get even sillier when the illness spreads, and Claypole, McWitch and Dobbin all end up covered in stick-on spots. This results in a delirious McWitch trying to make every spoken wish of the Perkins come true... a precursor of the "magic talisman", which debuted the following episode.

38 Episode 5.5

The episode to introduce Jeremy, Mr. Claypole's robot. Although, in fairness, Jeremy never really impacted on the plots of the episodes in the same way that, say, Dobbin did, it's still a stage removed from a series about ghosts, when more fantasy-based characters like a witch are in the programme, along with a mechanical robot.
      Block's first real experiment with writing machine life came with the aforementioned series Roberts Robots. (That's not a typo - contrary to expectation, there was no apostrophe in the title). Perhaps because most of the material wouldn't translate as readily, Block didn't mine the series as heavily for Rentaghost plots as he did with Pardon My Genie. This said, there were also a dozen more episodes of Genie to choose from, whereas there were just fourteen episodes of Roberts Robots.
      However, some bits and pieces of Roberts Robots did get reworked. Both "copying spells", with Adam Painting taking a bath in his car, or Ethel constantly sitting on Harold were lifted entirely from the episode "One of Our Robots Is Missing". The scene in episode 5.1 where Claypole disturbs Harold in the bath with urgent news, only to then be told he has to keep it secret, so he repeatedly makes small talk about it raining - extracted from "I Spy with My Little Ear". Then there's the ghosts, who can't eat, working in a restaurant in Episode 8.2 and trying not to be sick at the mention of food - a lift from "Gastronomics Anonymous".
      Speaking of "I Spy with My Little Ear", then it, and the very first episode of Roberts Robots, "Follow That Robot", both feature a robot that gets its circuits twisted so all its senses are misaligned - it sees out of its ears and hears through its nose, for example. Reused for episode 5.2 of Rentaghost, it makes a lot less sense for such a thing to happen to Harold Meaker, but it is pleasingly surreal and carried by Edward Brayshaw.
      The idea of a spying private detective, and a "funny foreigner" who mangles the English language (Leon Lissek, who appears to be spoofing Peter Lorre) all happened in Roberts Robots, but such things are generally a "reworking" of material that has been successful, rather than outright recycling entire plots and scenes. As a result, Roberts Robots - one of Block's more childish series, but not without its moments - is less essential to viewers of Rentaghost wanting to study its authorial origins.
     One part of Roberts Robots utilised for this particular episode was a robot programmed so he can't say the word "no", something that happens to Ethel in this story. Having a robot being unable to say a word is fine for kids, but having a woman unable to say the word "no" to her husband does have more sinister connotations.
     An interesting element of series five is that the Meakers still have reasonably natural reactions to things going on around them - rather than jumping up and down in the Perkins' living room, they attempt to conceal everything from the neighbours. A final point of trivia is that Claypole is seen eating a grape just before the end credits start... though as said end credits involve the private detective joining everyone in a conga, it's perhaps not to be assumed that they're "in continuity".

37 Episode 7.12

Airing on the 21st December 1982, there are very real signs that this episode was intended as a standalone Christmas special. While its 28'28m runtime isn't quite the 40 minute length of "Rentasanta", it is significantly longer than a "regular" instalment.
      However, while the 1970s version of Rentaghost made a pantomime-based musical episode something of a left-field oddity, by this stage it's almost de rigueur. Indeed, the first Christmas special had the incongruity of bringing a pantomime horse to life... here said horse is a regular cast member. (Humour is subjective, but Dobbin does seem funnier as an adult, where his comic charms are sold to the audience almost entirely by the talented Edward Brayshaw... as a child Dobbin's continued presence was more of a "line in the sand" between the old and the new).
      Depending on your point of view, real pantomimes can be a chore to sit through, though a rendition of "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)" does show the talent of the cast. There's also some decent jokes, such as Humpty Dumpty (Segal) thinking that the golden goose is his mother, or a racy remark of "silly cow", when someone's talking about Dobbin, who is playing a pantomime cow for the duration. The use of the word "cow" is one of the lost slang terms of the UK, where to the Rentaghost generation and younger, it's just a childlike term of abuse, but to the generation above, it was a slang term for prostitute. None of which is as naughty as what sounds like someone stopping themselves from saying "shit!" when Michael Staniforth appears to accidentally fall over while entering the giant's castle.
      It's nice to see Paddie O'Neil having fun as a slightly different role to Matilda, playing a warmer "Fairy Godmother", but the strangest thing about this pantomime episode is that the cast give more restrained performances than they do every other week.