It's That Man Again. Tommy (Tommy Handley). Image credit: British Broadcasting Corporation.

It's That Man Again

Wartime comedy series starring Tommy Handley which spawned many of the catchphrases popular all over the country during the 1940s

ITMA; I.T.M.A.; It's That Sand Again
1939 - 1949  (BBC Home Service)
310 (12 series)
Tommy Handley, Hugh Morton, Cecilia Eddy, Eric Egan, Sam Heppner, Lionel Gamlin, Vera Lennox, Maurice Denham, Jack Train, Dorothy Summers, Sydney Keith & more
Tommy Handley, Ted Kavanagh
British Broadcasting Corporation

ITMA followed the adventures of Tommy Handley as he undertook a series of (fictional) bizarre jobs that involved working with strange characters.

The first series began with Handley working on a private radio station, but he later moved on to work as Minister of Aggravation and Mysteries at the Office of Twerps; the Mayor of seedy seaside resort Foaming at the Mouth; and Governor of the South Sea island Tomtopia.

Accompanying Handley during the twelve series were a range of characters with their own catchphrases, most notable of these being Mrs Mopp (Dorothy Summers) the char-lady whose line "Can I do you now, sir?" was the most popular catchpharse of the day; and Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap, who managed to interpret almost any remark as the suggestion for a drink, quipping in reply: "I don't mind if I do".

Our Review: ITMA, sadly, rarely receives airtime any longer; some episodes were never recorded but broadcast live, whilst the vast majority were - as with so, so many others - deemed of little worth and 'wiped'. The series' topicality, however, meant that even as the show was finishing in 1949, writer Ted Kavanagh remarked that "I myself cannot now understand some of the jokes. They were skits on ... a headline of that day's paper, and dead the following week."

However, it would be nearly impossible to overstate ITMA's popularity and influence in its day - episodes regularly attracted nearly half of the population to their wireless sets. The catchphrases of the show were known off by heart by man, woman and child alike. Easily the match and better of those produced by TV sketch shows now.

Although the surviving episodes of the show have dated badly in many respects, we should not forget that it was never intended to be long-lasting, but to soothe and calm the resident population at a time of mass upheaval and tragedy. This is the show that helped many forget the horrors of war and remember that there was still time for laughter.