Adapted from the Mark Wallington novel with the same name, The Missing Postman, a two-episode series that premiered in the BBC in 1997, was produced by Golden Globe and triple BAFTA winner Gareth Neame and won Best BBC Comedy Drama at the 1997 British Comedy Awards.
Clive Peacock (James Bolam) is a happy, old-style postman, who delivers letters on his bike, while his wife Christine (Alison Steadman) does some heavy DIY at home. But when technology arrives at their quiet Royal Mail branch, and Clive is forced into early retirement, he decides, in a whim, to deliver his last mail collection by hand – so he mounts on his bike and off he goes through Britain. Chased by the police (after all, he just stole Royal Mail property, didn’t he) and media (He’s a Don Quijote on a bike, the Robin Hood of the common people against being redundant, the greatest hero with glasses since Eddie the Eagle), Clive is loved and helped by all those that find him, and his “little” improv trip has the unusual flavour of a coming of age story, only what’s at stake it’s not becoming a grown, full-functioning member of society, but ceasing to be one.
A simple, seemingly familiar story that doesn’t shy away from bigger themes, The Missing Postman radically changes tone between its two episodes. If the first is a straightforward, funny escape story, the second becomes somber and more reflexive: there’s a corpse, we find out why Clive doesn’t have a driving license and why Christine is so keen on home repairs, and Clive has an affair (though he’s pretty dismissive about it.) James Bolam is the perfect Clive, the apparently shy, funny man that no one really notices until he surprises everyone by defying conventions and law. His nothing-to-lose attitude, loyalty to his wife (despite everything) and his recently gained charisma (that takes him go from being, in the words of one of his caravan dwelling postal customers, the late Ronnie Corbett to Harrison Ford) make him even bigger than the media wants to paint him. Whilst in his slightly mad perseverance he is as British as full English breakfast and red phone boxes, anyone can identify with his universal fight between being a nobody, and being himself.
The Missing Postman does end in a happy, inspiring note (after all, this is a comedy), but still avoids falling into stereotype (no, Clive doesn’t abandon his wife to go live with his Scottish lover). As there’s nothing for him at home – his wife’s interior designs overshadow him and not being a postman leaves him on a limbo – he takes the only logical decision, helped by a secret envelope given to him by his lover (“for emergencies only”). A fun, entertaining story that will make you feel all mushy inside, and then pick up your bike and go see the world, The Missing Postman binges perfectly with some crumpets and tea during a rainy day.
The Missing Postman was released on DVD on 28th March 2016 and is available now, courtesy of Simply Media