It should have been hailed as a classic long ago. But such "upstairs/downstairs" class drollery no longer fits in too well with today's social scene, due to "fashionable" political correctness and so forth within western spheres. With the inevitable result, as comedy legend John Cleese recently put it, that "PC takes away all humour and pleasure from all good comedies", thus leaving them sidelined. But this is not the case with defiant Hungary and its ongoing love and general appetite for this Brit extravaganza.

"You Rang, M'Lord?" is an elegant, first-rate TV series set in highfalutin times. Although its main focus is with lords, ladies and the privileged, it also draws attention to the poor living conditions of the servants, who prevail as heroes and villains throughout. Thus the program gives an insight into a bygone era based on riches, rags and romantic escapism; alongside various social issues and political references it provides real substance to the story and events, to what life at the top was like between the two world wars.

It's enough to make anyone wonder: how did this programme, so out of place with the late 20th century, find its place and come out smelling of roses here in Hungary? Ironically, the question adds to the intrigue and provides a different level of humour to that of the former communist sphere. The result is a remarkable televisual feast.

I would have thought the highly popular British show "Only Fools and Horses" would have been more appropriate. This particular earthy comedy, with all its dodgy dealings, is massively popular in neighbouring Serbia – so much so that when I am there everyone from border guards to hoteliers often want to talk to me about it. But, surprisingly, it is not so well-known here.

During the height of communism there wasn’t much to laugh about until the unexpected arrival of the dark Hungarian underground comedy classic "A Tanú" ("The Witness") made its 1969 debut, albeit being banned by the authorities until sometime later. For those searching for an idea of life in those times, I highly recommend this particular, educational film. Aristocracy and imperialism were professed by the Soviets as things to forget, and only good workforces could deliver great socialist societies.

After regime change, it became clear that most local people had no relationship with aristocracy, and clearly felt they had to work hard to make any kind of a living. Eventually the compelling "You Rang, M' Lord?" offered a reminder of what privilege is like – not to mention that when seen in its original format it must have provided a valuable contribution to learning English. The quality of the spoken word is excellent.

But no matter how alluring some English aristocratic traditions and spoils may appear, such as enjoying afternoon tea served in beautiful bespoke china in elegant surroundings, there was no chance of such luxuries in those former times, unless one was high up on the communist ladder. So relating to the deadpan humour of the downtrodden charlady Mable and the activities of the crooked butler Stokes played well with many workers here.

Unwittingly, "Csengetett, Mylord?" has passed the test of time since its first broadcast post-1989, as it now has a generational following. So much so that its impressive Hungarian fan base set up a fundraiser to invite members of the cast to Budapest to celebrate the show's 30th anniversary, and six original cast members attended recently, much to the delight of over 1000 fans.

The cast who came were Jeffrey Holland who stars as the pompous servant James Twelvetrees, Michael Knowles who represents the hapless aristocrat Mr. Teddy, Catherine Rabett who became a gay icon as Miss Cissy, Susie Brann who plays the spoilt Miss Poppy, Amanda Bellamy who acted as Rose the servant girl, and finally Perry Benson, the simple-minded boot boy.

It's a pity that the representative of the British "Guardian" newspaper who attended the celebration felt compelled to write a dismissive article, apparently being "shocked" by the Hungarian craze surrounding "You Rang, M' Lord?/Csengetett, Mylord?". But no one else was, and perhaps this show will rise again.

Needless to say, for those who like English humour this is a must-see. And, if you’re one of the many fans of this very fine show, you’re guaranteed to make new friends in Hungary with general chit-chat with the locals on this TV phenomenon.


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