For a TV show of its age (it celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2010) and popularity (its ratings reaching 21 million at its peak), it seems odd that Coronation Street’s only real spin-off came in 1965 with Pardon the Expression.
Following the misadventures of one-time Street resident and ex-fiancee of Emily Nugent (later Bishop), Leonard Swindley (Arthur Lowe), Pardon the Expression featured the character leaving Weatherfield for the giddy heights of a new department store.
Utilising Swindley’s catchphrase, whereby he started many sentences with the words “If you’ll pardon the expression…”, as the series title, he took up his new position as deputy manager in the busy Dobson and Hawks staffed by store manager Mr Parbold (Paul Dawkins), Mrs Edgeley (a young, pre-Corrie, Betty Driver) and Miss Sinclair (Joy Stewart with a grating faux-Scottish accent).
Each of the 12 first season episodes sees Swindley drawn into some new work-based problem, whether its trying to drum up new business from a local school or trying to decide who from his staff to invite to a local dance.
At a time when viewers knew exactly what to expect from their sitcoms, there’s little here to tax or challenge, just joke after joke with the best lines saved for Lowe.
Indeed, Lowe is clearly in training for his later iconic turn as Mainwairing in Dad’s Army, his middle class foibles and attempts to better himself the source of much of his humour.
While the series inevitably covers much of the same ground as the BBC’s later Are You Being Served, though without the overt smuttiness and 70s fashions, Pardon the Expression is a curio from the archives which Dad’s Army fans in particular will find much to enjoy.