15 facts you may not know about BBC’s Porridge – no theme tune to original name
30th May 2022

Porridge star Patricia Brake has died at the age of 79 after battling cancer.

The actress played Ingrid, the daughter of Ronnie Barker’s wise-cracking lag Norman Stanley Fletcher on the hit 1970s prison sitcom.

But what do you know about the iconic BBC show? Here Daily Star helps you get your oats by revealing 15 fascinating facts.

1. The show was written by comedy legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who also penned series such as The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. A pilot Porridge episode debuted in 1973 followed by the first series in 1974.

2. Originally called Prisoner and Escort, it was renamed Porridge after a 1950s slang term for jail – “doing porridge” – based on food served up behind bars for breakfast.

3. Porridge ran for 20 episodes over three series until 1977, with two Christmas specials – and there was even a Porridge movie in 1979.

4. Comedian Ronnie Barker played Londoner and habitual criminal “Fletch”. He’d later star in shows including Open All Hours, but reckoned Porridge was his best work. Barker died aged 76 in 2005.

5. Richard Beckinsale played his cellmate and rookie lag Lennie Godber (whose initials Leonard Arthur Godber even spelled “lag”). Beckinsale, father of actress Kate Beckinsale, also starred in ITV’s Rising Damp but died aged just 31 of a heart attack in 1979.

6. Scots actor Fulton Mackay, who played strict prison officer Mr McKay, went on to star in the kids TV series Fraggle Rock. He died of stomach cancer aged 64 in 1987.

7. Brian Wilde who played timid officer Mr Barrowclough also starred as Foggy in Last of the Summer Wine. Wilde died in 2008 aged 80.

8. Other stars of the show included panto and I’m A Celeb favourite Christopher Biggins as Lukewarm, Only Fools and Horses star David Jason as Blanco and Lovejoy’s Dudley Sutton as Reg. Game of Thrones star Peter Vaughan, who played scary lag Grouty, died at 93 in 2016.

9. While the fictional prison HMP Slade was supposedly based in Cumbria, the gates from the opening credits were actually of the old prison in St Albans, now a register office.

10. The shots of cell doors being slammed shut were filmed in London’s Shepherds Bush police station, while for the film version HMP Chelmsford in Essex doubled as Slade.

11. The show had no theme tune – just the voice of the judge sentencing Fletcher, originally voiced by Ronnie Barker too.

12. Because its characters couldn’t swear, the show is credited with popularising the words “naff” and “nerk”, meaning berk. Barker penned Fletcher’s Book of Rhyming Slang on the back of the show.

13. A 1978 TV spin off called Going Straight charted Fletcher’s life outside prison. It also featured Godber marry Patricia Brake’s character. A 2003 mockumentary would see Fletch as a pub landlord.

14. A whopping 16million viewers tuned into the original Porridge. It was a smash hit with real life prisoners too and even inspired a US version called On The Rocks.

15. Porridge’s original writers returned for a 2016 BBC reboot series starring Kevin Bishop as Fletcher’s grandson Nigel, who was inside for cyber hacking.

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