Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Loftus and the Gateway Drug
The thing about Doctor in the House, in any of its various forms, is that the students/young doctors Waring, Stuart-Clark, Collier, and Upton (who disappeared, alas!) were out to subvert the old institution, St. Swithin's, but St. Swithin's was hardly undefended.
It had Loftus.
That's Professor Sir Geoffrey Loftus to you (and me, and just about everybody else).
What made the show work was that the Establishment was not represented by a futile, misery-making traditionalist (that role fell to Richard O'Sullivan's Lawrence Bingham, memorably dragged away from a rugby match for bad sportsmanship by a crowd chanting "Bingham for the pond! Bingham for the pond!" until they threw him--yes, in the pond.)
No, Loftus was funny, snide, in control, and very rarely caught on the back foot. (Except by his wife, the redoubtable Lady Loftus, played by Joan Benham as a superannuated Gainsborough Girl whose slightly faded good looks masked the ironist within; she and Ernest Clark, who played Loftus, crackled together.) A formidable foe. And sometimes an unexpected ally--though seldom an outright friend.
I remember the show fondly, more fondly than it deserves, frankly, because of how good the cast was, and how much fun they were having. It was my first experience of farce, my first Brit Com. And so it began opening a whole new world to a Long Island school kid. Sarcasm and irony became my drug of choice, and Doctor in the House led me to better things--Butterflies, To the Manor Born, and, eventually, P.G. Wodehouse and his novels and stories.
All because I fell in love with the sarcastic jibe, well placed.
After all, if Loftus was all right with it, how bad could it be?