The final chapter of this comforting hug of a programme focuses on the third and final series of Porridge - and its best, according to writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Also the spin-offs: Going Straight, in which Fletcher returns to civvy street; the 1979 movie (filmed at Chelmsford Prison during refurbishment after a fire); and the US adaptation, which featured a Puerto-Rican Fletch.
Going Straight is regularly dismissed in comedy textbooks as disappointing, but the only series made (in 1978) still attracted 15 million and won a Bafta. And marked an early appearance of Nicholas (Only Fools) Lyndhurst as Fletcher's son Raymond.
Christopher Biggins (Lukewarm), Sam Kelly ("Bunny" Warren) and Tony Osoba (McLaren) express pride at their involvement in co-starring in Porridge. And Kate Beckinsale, only five on the death of her father Richard, who played Godber, says she finds repeats "endlessly consoling and surprising". As do many.Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 4th June 2014
This is quite simply TV heaven. Just stick two colossi of comedy writing in front of a telly and get them to comment on favourite scenes. At one point in another delicious serving of Porridge memories, writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais do just that, the latter nailing the success of the show's plots and its main character with one phrase.
But there's much more besides. Celebrity fan Simon Day tracks down the famous, clanging doors of HM Prison Slade, there's brief behind-the-scenes footage from 1977 (more!), and Kate Beckinsale, daughter of Richard (Godber) will bring a lump to your throat with a story about her favourite episode.Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 28th May 2014
In the comedy's 40th year, Gabriel Tate argues that putting Ronnie Barker in a prison cell was a stroke of genius.Gabriel Tate, The Telegraph, 21st May 2014
If Ronnie Barker's vote had counted, we could have been celebrating 40 years of Welsh gambler Evan Owen, not cynical jailbird Norman Stanley Fletcher. But instead of I'll Fly You for a Quid it was Porridge pilot Prisoner and Escort that was picked up for a series in 1974.
In the first of a three-part series, creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, now in their 70s but still pitching ideas in Hollywood ("It's Spielberg: tell him to go away!") reveal the unlikely origins of and initial fears for one of our finest ever sitcoms. One fab sequence sees the pair dissect their favourite scene, chuckling along with every familiar line.
Later, über-fan Keith Allen drives a police van around Porridge locations, while we hear rare Barker recordings intended for real prison inmates. Eric Idle points out the roundedness of HM Prison Slade's wiliest character, and Kate Beckinsale, daughter of Richard (Godber), reminds us that the series really clicked when it became a two-hander.
It's a total treat for devotees of the kind of comedy where not a word was wasted. David "Old Man Blanco" Jason is the narrator.Mark Braxton, Radio Times, 21st May 2014
The first of three programmes looking at the enduring affection for Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais's classic prison sitcom Porridge. Eric Idle, Keith Allen, David Walliams, Ronnie Corbett and Ian McShane join together in celebration of Ronnie Barker's iconic lag Norman Stanley Fletcher beneath a voiceover from former co-star David Jason. La Frenais and Clement dissect their own rather sterling work while original locations are visited, as is the little-known story of how the show very nearly never reached the screen.Ben Arnold, The Guardian, 21st May 2014