When we were first introduced to The Worker on 27th February 1965, he had already been found, and dismissed from 980 jobs over a period of 20 years, much to the frustration of local Labour Exchange counter clerk Mr. Whittaker (Percy Herbert), whose job it was to relocate him from the counter of his Weybridge office, where Charlie would bang on the counter every other morning, into permanent employment.
Diminutive comedian Charlie Drake (born Charles Springall in South London on 19th June 1925) had been a TV regular since 1954 (having made his radio debut in 1951), when he first appeared as a children's entertainer alongside Jack Edwardes on Jigsaw. The pair formed something of a double-act, which lasted until 1957 when they decided to go their separate ways and Charlie moved into adult entertainment with a series called Drake's Progress, which also starred Irene Handl, Warren Mitchell and radio's famous Man-In-Black, Valentine Dyall.
It is perhaps the second series of The Worker that is best remembered, when Percy Herbert was replaced by Henry McGee as the new clerk, Mr Pugh, a name which Charlie could never pronounce, instead referring to him as "Mr Peooh", the merest mention of which would lead the Labour Exchange official to yank 5 foot 1 inch Charlie off the ground by the scruff of his neck. (Drake's excuse for being so small was that as a child he'd been fed on condensed milk). These two were the only regulars on the series with a constantly changing supporting cast as Drake tried out a different job in every episode, without success.
The series was revived in December 1969 for 13 more episodes and again in 1978 as part of Bruce Forsyth's Big Night Out, Henry McGee reprising his role in both runs. Drake, whose catchphrase was, "hello my darlings", also had a string of top-ten comedy records in the early sixties including 'Please, Mr Custer' and 'My Boomerang Won't Come Back.' as well as appearing in a string of British comedy films.
Published on February 12th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (February 2001) for Television Heaven.