If I can tear myself away from the latest opus from Sam Wollaston, my current favourite piece about television is this absolutely magnificent post by Jason Hazeley: is there a missing episode of Ever Decreasing Circles?
“For many years, British television series were produced in runs of six, seven or thirteen weekly episodes. There was a good reason for this: a 52-week year divides nicely into thirteens, and thirteens split into sixes and sevens. Often, that seventh episode was a bonus – say, a Christmas special. Currently, series length is more fluid: fours are common, and there have been some very good (and shout-about funny) series that have only run for three episodes: Cowards, for instance, the first series of Getting On, and the first two series of The Thick Of It.
Series one of Ever Decreasing Circles (1984) has five episodes. That’s odd. (And not just literally.) It’s one short. The second series has eight. That’s one over (even with its bonus Christmas episode). Was one programme lost from the first series and cashed in on re-commission to make up the shortfall? And if so, why?”
It’s a tale which will take you through half-remembered actor’s recollections, to cold hard facts with scanned scripts and programme numbers. Crucially, however, it also sheds some light on what the show was perhaps intended to be… and how differently it turned out. What looks at first to just be about an unproduced script actually turns out to be about the entire heart of the series. It’s one of the best investigative pieces on sitcom I have ever read.