Down the 'Gate (partially found ITV comedy series; 1975-1976)
Down the 'Gate is a British comedy series broadcast on ITV that ran for two series from 1975 to 1976. It was a sitcom starring Reg Varney as Reg Furnell, a fish porter within London's Billingsgate fish market.
Most known for starring in On the Buses as bus driver Stan Butler, Reg Varney ultimately left the show midway in its final series to focus on new cabaret shows. After starring in a sketch show of his own name from 1973 to 1974, Varney successfully pitched the creation of Down the 'Gate to ATV. This was his first sitcom since On the Buses, but would also prove to be his last.
Down the 'Gate followed the life and misadventures of Reg Furnell, a fish porter for Preston & Davies situated within London's Billingsgate fish market. Alongside recurring characters such as Old Wol and Harry, Furnell would also be in continual conflict with his aggressive and demanding boss Mr Preston, with him generally attempting to bunk off work. Additionally, Furnell would engage in challenges and battles with Harry, as well as his brother-in-law Clive. He is also married to Irene, but generally engages in risqué interactions with other women at work, much to Irene's dismay. Written by Roy Tuvey and Maurice Sellar, who also wrote sketches for Varney's sketch show, the show was described by Television Heaven as a "typical mid 70s fare", with many comparisons to On the Buses. Aside from the aforementioned authoritarian conflict, Down the 'Gate also contained jokes of its era, including corny humour and women in somewhat revealing clothing.
Because of On the Buses' success, Varney was deemed a valuable asset for ITV, who were keen to broadcast Down the 'Gate in prime-time Wednesday night slots. Its first episode aired on 23rd July 1975. Ultimately, the show was not especially regarded from a critical or rating standpoint, as despite the comparisons to On the Buses, it suffered with poor characterisation. Additionally, DVD Talk criticised the show for its over-reliance on slapstick humour that fails to fully deliver. ATV produced another series in 1976, imposing several character changes, but unremarkable ratings resulted in the show's cancellation, following its final episode on 29th August 1976. In total, 12 episodes were produced; this consisted of five for the first series, and seven for the second.
Because of the show's failure, ATV opted not to archive it. Thus, no broadcast copies of either series are known to have survived. However, when it appeared that Down the 'Gate would become another completely missing British television show, it was revealed that Varney had made home recordings of the entirety of Series 2. These would all be made publicly available as part of a DVD set, where they were deemed of good quality by DVD Talk considering they were recorded back in 1976. No episodes of the first series have resurfaced since.
- On the Buses: The Complete Story detailing Varney leaving On the Buses and appearing in shows like Down the 'Gate. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- DVD Talk's review of Down the 'Gate. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- The Sunday Mirror reporting on Varney starring in Down the 'Gate following On the Buses. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- Television Heaven detailing the show, its conception, and providing a summary of its content. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- British Classic Comedy summarising the show and noting ITV assumed it would be a hit. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- Network summarising the show and noting the recordings Varney provided that are now sold on DVD. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- British Comedy Guide listing all episodes of Series 1. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- Kaleidoscope noting that Series 1 is completely missing, and that the broadcast tapes for Series 2 are lost. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22
- British Comedy Guide listing all episodes of Series 2. Retrieved 22nd Aug '22