Almost As Good As The Real Thing

The Arts

Tony-Hancock-Golden-Hour-Of-To-251085

The BBC gets a lot of stick about what it saved from the postwar years and what it wiped, but back then it was hard to know what would stand the test of time. They kept many Shakespearian productions which have often weathered badly and threw away daily ephemera, much of which is now fascinating for what it reveals about our society then. Nobody knew that the Tony Hancock shows would prove so groundbreaking; the world’s first proper sitcom, the first realistic comedy show, the template for decades of humour.

As noted in an early column, BBC Radio 4 set out to recreate some lost episodes of Hancock’s Half Hour, with a new cast including Pirates of the Caribbean actor Kevin McNally in the title role originally taken by the late Lad from East Cheam.

The missing shows are now airing and turn out not to be an exercise in necrophilia at all. They consist of five of the 20 episodes missing from the archives, and are being broadcast to mark the 60th anniversary of the show’s first transmission. The first, ‘The Matador’, in which Sid James inveigles Hancock into getting in a bullring, is one of the more fanciful, but what they showcase beautifully is how well structured Galton and Simpson’s writing is.

Galton and Simpson changed the face of broadcast humour by writing about the working classes with more realism and pathos than anyone had previously attempted. The feature script that Hancock foolishly turned down was modelled on the work of Jacques Tati and Fernandel. ‘The Day Off’ was a plotless film which echoed Pinter more than it did the traditional joke-punchline comedies that had been produced until then. It was staged in London, where I was thrilled to meet the writers (it’s nice to have the roles reversed sometimes and become a fan).

With this revival in interest, I wonder if they’ll remake the remaining shows to preserve them? The perpetually parlous state of the British film industry (as chronicled in my book ‘Film Freak’) remains, so maybe they won’t get ‘The Day Off’ up and running, but these shows will do nicely in the meantime.

 

 

 

6 comments on “Almost As Good As The Real Thing”

  1. Jo W says:

    All the Hancock shows were good but Sunday Afternoon at Home is my favourite and also the favourite episode of my sons who were brought up listening to the lad. ‘ Do you know if you look at this wallpaper long enough you can see faces in it?’ 😊😊

  2. Helen Martin says:

    As requested, I have talked to Dan Terrell’s wife and here is what has happened: he had surgery while we were there in Sept. and appeared to be recovering. While in rehab he fell and injured himself, he ended up in hospital where he had a stroke, he came home but had to go back to hospital with internal bleeding (source not determined even yet). At one point during all this he contracted c-difficile, from which he appears to be recovering. He is in hospital, weak, somewhat confused from the stroke (although doctors feel he will overcome that), and in some pain. This is a summary of what Heike told me and she was pleased to have Dan asked after. As she says, “Keep him in your thoughts because he is too nice to have to go through all this.” His novel is about ready to go to Print on Demand and she hopes he will be able to hold a copy of it soon. They almost lost him at one point and I think she’s afraid he may not survive this massive illness.
    If anyone wishes to pass messages to Dan I will forward them. My e-mail is helenmartin4@shaw.ca

  3. admin says:

    Good Lord, the poor guy – if you speak to his wife again please tell her that we miss him here at the site and hope that the sight of his book will be the start of a rally and a return to form. If there’s anything he’d like from London that would aid recovery, let Admin know please!

  4. Jo W says:

    Oh for goodness sake. Poor Dan! Wishing him a speedy recovery. 😉

  5. agatha hamilton says:

    Yes, indeed, I echo you Admin, and Jo here, and have sent message via Helen. I had been wondering what had happened to Dan, and missed his comments, he’s so much part of this blog along with Helen herself, Stalky, Snowy, Jo W et al.
    Someone said recently that the greatest invention of recent times is largely used for looking at pictures of cats and starting arguments with strangers. But not always, is it? As here.
    Do hope Dan recovers well.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Putting together a message for Dan and family today. It won’t be the last. I found a bright pink feather in rural Quebec before our drive south to Washington and ws going to give it to Dan’s granddaughter with the tale that it was left by the flamingos that summer in Quebec and go south about now for the winter. She’s too knowledgeable to believe me but it’s a good story.

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