Thursday, 3 January 2013

Same Procedure As Last Year?

New Year's celebrations are over for another year. And so is the broadcast on TV of one of the most successful piece of British comedy ever. You know... The sketch that has been shown on TV over 250 times since it was first broadcast. No, not Monty Python's "parrot sketch"... The one starring the British actors Freddie Frinton and May Warden...

My guess is, if you are from the UK, the US or virtually anywhere in the world, you have no idea what I am on about. Freddie who?

The irony is that the most frequently repeated TV programme ever (according to the Guinness Book of Records) is a British sketch that is totally unknown outside a select few countries (which doesn't include the UK), and features actors are unheard-of even in their native land.

I first came across the sketch, "Dinner for One", many years ago when I lived in Germany. My colleagues at the time could not believe I had never heard of it before because it is an absolute institution in that country.

Just in case you too are ignorant of this 1963 comedy classic, it's about the 90th birthday dinner party of Miss Sophie (played by Warden). Due to her advanced age, all the guests invited to her annual party are long deceased, so it's left to her old butler James (Frinton) to pretend to be her departed friends. The "comedy" is provided by the fact that James has to go around emptying the glasses of the non-existent guests, resulting in him becoming increasingly intoxicated and erratic. At regular intervals, he asks Miss Sophie: "same procedure as last year?"; to which, she replies: "same procedure as every year!"

This is hardly comedy gold in my opinion, but it hasn't stopped German TV broadcasting it in the original English language every New Year's Eve for decades. It's so well known in Germany that the "same procedure" catchphrase is even part of every day vocabulary, to the same extent that "don't mention the war" is in the UK.

Now, until this Christmas, I had always assumed that this obsession with an obscure old largely unfunny British sketch was just one of those uniquely German idiosyncrasies, similar the inexplicable love of David Hasselhoff's music.

But it turns out Dinner for One is also broadcast on New Year's Eve in Finland every year, under name Illallinen yhdelle. Further research on the net revealed to me that the sketch is also shown in a few other countries, most notably in Scandinavia where attempts to end the yearly broadcast tradition were met with a deluge of complaints from viewers.


Anyhow, for your enjoyment (or not), here's a version with Finnish subtitles (this is a blog about Finland after all).


What do you think? Do you find it funny? Do you watch it every year on TV?



  1. I didn't even know this tradition existed he he he he...interesting! Happy New Year to you! Here's to a wackier year ahead! :-D

  2. There's a much higher quality* version available at YLE Areena:

    It's only meant to be available for viewing from Finland, so you might need to use a proxy if you're abroad.

    (*=Not judging only by image quality, the set seems to be built with a larger budget as well.)

    1. Thanks for the link. I am guessing however that it might not work in the long term.

      Interestingly, it seems multiple versions of the play were recorded back in 1963.

    2. I think this is the same as the one available at YLE Areena.
      There are a couple of other versions on YouTube as well.

  3. Same procedure as every year Olli Miekka ;)

  4. I have been watching this every new years almost my entire life.
    It hasn´t been on Finnsh Tv all that long - I first came in contact with it on Swedish Tv back in the day - and it´s a tradition that has been adopted by us Finns.
    Being a swedish speaking Finn I´m familiar with both countries traditions, and have always been able to pick and chose the ones that suit me better :)

    In later years, me and my friends have made the "Dinner for one" sketch into the highlight of our new years celebrations, We´ve made it into a drinking game, any time the butler drinks - we drink... :)

  5. There are actually two versions of this sketch. The one you linked in black & white and another, longer version[1] in full color (it starts as b&w) with the same actors.

    As far back as I can remember, the longer version (with the german introduction) has always been shown in Yle1, though I admit that I may have missed a couple of years.