These days it'd be hard to make a long-running series based on a schoolmaster who took pleasure in thwacking his charges and swindling everyone. Fortunately, in olden days sense prevailed.
Whack-O! featured the wonderful Jimmy Edwards as Professor James Edwards. Prof Edwards is one of the great characters of sitcom, an unapologetic, scheming drunk, who constantly runs rings around his fellow masters and thinks nothing of cheating and manipulating charges and colleagues alike.
Teachers v Pupils is standard fare throughout film and TV, but usually it's like St Trinians - we're on the side of the kids.
Whack-O! brilliantly realised that adults wanted to see a teacher prevail, particularly when the teacher in question was a charming sociopath.
Watching the series now is a little painful in one respect - we're too sensitive to find canings amusing - but it's right on the money in other ways, mainly because finding over privileged kids vile hasn't gone out of fashion.
Frank Muir and Denis Norden between them brought 45 episodes of Whack-O! into being, and the series ran successfully from 1956-1960.
The only problem might have been that they thought they were making a monster, whereas in fact they were making a monster so grotesque you couldn't help loving him.
Despite the fact that times changed for the world, Whack-O! continued into the film Bottoms Up, and was relaunched in 1971 in colour.
A series out of its time, it never recaptured its former glory, and whilst sketches such as the fantastic Rowan Atkinson/Richard Curtis outing 'Fatal Beatings' pushed the idea into even more extreme directions, whole series that tried to make light of the odd pupil-beating haven't been able to catch the wave in a more sensitive and correct time.
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