The Dustbinmen

The Dustbinmen

"The Dustbinmen" was a British television sitcom made by Granada Television for ITV, which starred Bryan Pringle, Trevor Bannister, Graham Haberfield and Tim Wylton. The show was a spin-off from a one-off 90-minute TV Movie "There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah" (1968) written by Jack Rosenthal and directed by Michael Apted. This led to the sitcom which ran for three series between 1968 and 1970. Rosenthal wrote all of the episodes of the first two series.

Main characters

Cheese and Egg (Bryan Pringle), Heavy Breathing (Trevor Bannister), Winston (Graham Haberfield) and Eric (Tim Wylton) were the crew of dustcart 'Thunderbird 3' of the Corporation Cleansing Department - the name obviously being an ironic reference to the spacecraft in "Thunderbirds". Also known as 'Number 3 Gang', throughout the day they would collect dustbins and generally be rude to each other or anyone else. Cheese and Egg, whose real name was C. E. Petty, was a fervent Communist and the natural-born leader of the gang; with his knowledge, the gang could get out of sticky situations if they were lucky. Heavy Breathing was 'the one with the good looks', forced to spend much of his time pleasuring housewives - something he finds quite annoying when mostly he would rather just have a rest. Winston Platt was a die-hard fan of Manchester City Football Club and would see one of the players Colin Bell as a god. If anyone slagged his team, they would be for it! Eric was the sensitive one who spent most of time talking about television and saving to buy a colour tv for his mother.

Other characters

The Cleansing Department's Inspector was always known as Bloody Delilah regardless of who he was. He kept the nickname because, according to Cheese and Egg, "they're all bloody Delilahs". John Woodvine played the role in the first series. From the second series onwards, Brian Wilde took over the role, but with a different character with a different real name 'Bernard Pooke'.

Another character that appeared in most episodes was Smellie Ibbotson (John Barrett). He was the scavenger on the tips to start with, and later promoted as Bloody Delilah's abdog, reporting on who was skiving and what they were up to. Not everyone liked Smellie - not just the fact that he was smelly, but also was difficult to understand as he had no teeth.

Casting differences between pilot and sitcom

While the main characters in "There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah" were the same as those in the series, Winston and Smellie Ibbotson were the only roles to be played by the same actors in the sitcom. Originally Jack Macgowran played Cheese and Egg, Frank Windsor played Bloody Delilah, whose real name was Mr Sinclair. Harold Innocent played Heavy Breathing and Henry Livings was Eric.

Links with other programmes

The Dustbinmen has links with other programmes, many of which were also made by Granada Television. Coronation Street was mentioned a few times by Eric; Graham Haberfield, aka Winston once played Jerry Booth in the show. Julie Goodyear appeared in two episodes as a housewife; she later played Bet Lynch. Barbara Knox (at that time Mullaney) who later played Rita Littlewood/Fairclough/Sullivan played a housewife who read tea leaves. Jill Summers (Phyllis Pearce) played a cleaner in one episode. Peter Dudley (Bert Tilsley) appeared as a man in a hospital corridor in one episode and Bryan Mosley (Alf Roberts) once appeared as a doctor. Furthermore, the opening and closing titles contain a recurring motif of a flower in a discarded beercan; "Newton And Ridley" (the Rovers Return brewers) is printed on this beer=can.

Jack Rosenthal left the show to concentrate on developing another Granada sitcom, The Lovers which co-starred Paula Wilcox. She appeared in two episodes of The Dustbinmen as Naomi, Winston's girlfriend.

There are links with Last of the Summer Wine too. Brian Wilde who played the final Bloody Delilah played Foggy Dewhurst in the programme. John Comer who played Sid in the programme, once played a policeman in The Dustbinmen.

In 1988 Brian Wilde starred with Trevor Bannister in the BBC1 show "Wyatt's Watchdogs," a sitcom about bickering neighbours trying to run a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.

Preservation and DVD release

*The original play was shot on black and white film, apparently 16mm.
*Except for the animated titles, series 1 was shot entirely on black and white videotape.
*All subsequent episodes, including a short Christmas sketch, were made on colour videotape with exterior scenes shot on 16mm.
*Only the first episode of series 2 has survived in its colour version; the rest are preserved on black and white 16mm telerecordings with optical sound. These were obviously made for overseas sales, since the opening Granada Television logo is replaced by Granada Television International.
*Except for two episodes believed wiped, Series 3 and the Christmas sketch survive on colour videotapes of widely varying quality.

In 2005 the surviving material was released on Region 2 DVD by Network Video, a company that has gained a reputation for 'rescuing' obscure programmes and films from the vaults, alongside many better-known ones.


The show was noted for its use of "pseudo-profanity" in the speech. Like the later show Porridge, its characters would be expected to swear frequently, but at the time most swear words were forbidden in scripts, especially sitcoms. The characters frequently used the word "piggin'" as an all purpose substitute for swearing, just as characters in Porridge used the word "naff". There was almost more controversy over this than over actual swearing, with accusations of cowardice on the one hand, and complaints about the "made up" swear words on the other.

In the closing credits of the television series, the Granada "G-arrow" logo appears in black on a light coloured background (later blue on yellow) before rapidly expanding, switching to its usual "negative" colours and returning to normal size. This seems to be the only instance of the Granada logo being toyed with in this way, since Granada reportedly disapproved of anything that might appear to trivialise its corporate image.

External links

* [ BBC article on the show]

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