Thursday, September 8, 2016


In celebration of their “Britcom” heritage, the BBC has launched a showcase of “Landmark Sitcoms” and “Lost Sitcoms” this month.  Already presented have been new takes on ‘Porridge’, ‘Are You Being Served?’, ‘Til Death Us Do Part’ and ‘Young Hyacinth’, while a new version of a lost episode of ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ will be broadcast tomorrow and a new ‘Steptoe And Son’, as another 'Lost Sitcom' is scheduled for the 14th. 

I have no information… information… information yet on those last two, but by hook or by crook, I will.*  In the meantime, I have a few O’Bservations on the others which have already been broadcast. (The difference between the "Landmark Sitcoms" & the "Lost Sitcoms" is that the BBC is re-making an episode of each of 'Hancock's Half Hour', 'Till Death Us Do Part' and 'Steptoe And Son' for which a script still exists but the original recording has been lost from the BBC archives while all the others are continuations in one form or another.)


Only two of these new offerings are accepted as being part of the world of Earth Prime-Time and this is the one I’m most eager in seeing.  It’s all new cast, but they’re playing new roles and in fact the show is even set in a new prison, updated with 21st Century technology.  We still get Fletch as the main character, but he’s the grandson of the great Ronnie Barker’s Norman Stanley Fletcher.  I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to see this somehow and from what I’ve heard it may have a shot at being picked up as a series.


This show is a prequel to ‘Keeping Up Appearances’, set in the 1950s, and it would also be accepted for the Main Toobworld.  Toobworld Central makes allowances for recasting when it comes to aging and this would work in reverse as well.  If this doesn’t find its way across my eyeballs, I won’t get verklempt.  The original series, for me, was carried by Patricia Routledge’s exuberant portrayal of Hyacinth.


This "Lost Sitcom" is definitely a version of Alf Garnett and his family to be found in an alternate TV dimension – most likely the Land O’ Remakes.  It’s set during a time when the Garnetts were already established in their classic incarnations and follows exactly the events in the particular episode that's been wiped from the archives.  Who could ever think they could replace Warren Mitchell as the January 2015 inductee into the TV Crossover Hall of Fame?  (But taking place in an alternate dimension, I have no squabble with Simon Day’s interpretation of the role.)


Of all these shows, I would think this department store comedy is most beloved by the American audience.  So a lot would be riding on it if it did get presented over here.  From what I’ve seen of the pictures, this total remake appears to be a slavish copy of the original.  You look quickly at Mrs. Slocombe and probably could be excused for thinking it was Molly Sugden resurrected.  But so far, I’m not hearing good things about it – perhaps it was too much like the original and modern sensibilities might not be so forgiving of its style of humor.  But I do salute them for bringing racial diversity into the cast with a new character.  So this would also have to be relegated to another dimension, and since it takes place in 1988, perhaps it’s a world in which the events of ‘Grace & Favour’ never took place…..

If you do get a chance to see them, or the new ‘Steptoe And Son’ (which is also an exact remake of an old episode), let me know what you thought of them.  (I admit to not knowing very much about 'Hancock's Half Hour' at all.  Was Hancock and the rest of the cast playing themselves each week, making him on a par with Jack Benny, George Burns, and Jerry Seinfeld?  Was the situation different each week?  Was it more like a sketch comedy show?  I need to learn more!) 

I understand 'Goodnight, Sweetheart', the time-traveling bigamy sitcom, was also remade for this celebration - it picks up 17 years after the events of the last episode, in which Gary Sparrow (perhaps related to Sally Sparrow?) was permanently stuck in the 1940s.  So that means it's now the 1960s for him.  I'm not sure who else is in the cast besides Nicholas Lyndhurst and I'm not even sure if recasting would matter, since the two women in Gary's life became recastaways over the course of its six seasons.

I have a long distance FB friend named John Hadlow, but who uses the “nom de whom” of Jon Pertwee. While appearing on BBC Radio Devon the other day to discuss these remakes, he talked about the show he’d most like to see remade – ‘Come Back, Mrs. Noah’.  It would have to be recast since Molly Sugden is no longer with us, but I think it would be an excellent idea.  (My casting suggestion would be Lesley Nicol, who played Mrs. Patmore in ‘Downton Abbey’.  A fellow named Owen McGhee came up with a good choice as well – Annette Badland.)

Just so long as they avoid a remake of ‘Fawlty Towers’!  A current stage show is one thing, but a new televersion would bring out the villagers with their pitchforks and torches!


* That was a reference to another British series, long my favorite show of all time but now relegated to being the “new Number Two”.  It also had a remake several years ago, albeit not a very good one.


Jeremy Fitzoliver said...

On radio, most of the regular cast of "Hancock's Half Hour" played themselves (Kenneth Williams and Hattie Jacques being exceptions). Hancock played himself as an unsuccessful, more-or-less talentless comedian, with Bill Kerr unsuccessful through laziness. Sid James played himself as a crook, but was ultimately developed as Hancock's friend while Kerr changed from the 'oldest Teddy Boy in Cheam' into cheerful stupidity. As the series developed, a parallel television series began, with Hancock accompanied only by Sim James plus a company of actors who played different roles each week. In both radio and TV, the situation was something of a hybrid between a domestic sitcom and a situation-of-the-week. Usually the setting was Hancock's home, but sometimes the series would find him running a coffee bar, serving on a jury, competing in the Monte Carlo rally, being appointed captain of England (both dreams), being sold a stolen car by Sid, or doing his magic act in front of convicts (sets are a lot easier on radio!). Episodes of the radio series are on Spotify

Toby O'B said...

Thank you for the information, Jeremy! All I knew about Tony Hancock was his cameo in "The Wrong Box"....