The Rag Trade is a true British comedy classic which attracted enormous audiences when first broadcast in 1961. Widely praised not just for its hilarious script and energetic performances, but for its ground-breaking strong female characters. And its iconic catchphrase Everybody out! has earned its place in TV comedy history. Penny-pinching Harold Fenner (Peter Jones) runs Fenner Fashions, a small clothing workshop in London that makes high quality clothing, where nothing ever runs smoothly. Work life is constantly disrupted by the shop s militant steward Paddy Fleming (Miriam Karlin), who leads the female workforce. Paddy is after any excuse to take on Fenner and lead the women out on strike yelling Everybody out! Amongst the long-suffering workforce are Carole (Sheila Hancock), Little Lil (Esma Cannon), Shirley (Wanda Ventham) and Gloria (Barbara Windsor). And stuck in the middle of the whole situation is poor downtrodden foreman Reg (Reg Varney), trying to keep everyone happy and failing miserably! Created and written by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney (On the Buses)
Groundbreaking comedy series from the BBC
This is one series I’m looking forward to seeing again now that it’s coming out on DVD.
Reg Varney, Peter Jones and Miriam Karlin are a great team but for me the best character was the unforgettable Esma Cannon as Lily. Shelia Hancock was memorable as well. Irene Handl as Reg’s mum was another great actress who if memory serves me correctly, played Tony Hancock’s landlady.Ronald Chesney and partner would never write a better series than this although Chesney’s Aussie comedy series “Barley Charlie” is one I still recall with fondness.
It’s sad to think Chesney and Wolfe will be most-remembered for arguably the worst so-called ‘comedy’ in the history of British television, “On the Buses”. “‘Allo, ‘Allo” is still entertaining but for me “The Rag Trade” was Chesney and Wolfe at their best.