All this week BBC Radio 2 have been repeating a series of programmes originally written for television to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Galton and Simpson, the men who invented the form of the modern sitcom, beginning their groundbreaking partnership. This has suited me - broadcast at 10pm each evening - I get to listen to the shows on the drive back from panto.
There have been four new recordings of classic shows, all with new casts. The episodes have been The Blood Donor with Paul Merton in the title role, Impasse with Mitchell and Webb, I tell you it was Burt Reynolds with Rik Myall and You'll Never Walk Alone with Frank Skinner. But the highlight was a documentary hosted by Stephen Merchant that charter the partnership from them meeting in a TB hospital to their present standing as comedy gurus.
All are still available to listen to on the BBC Radio 2 listen again page - HERE
I've been watching a lot of their work lately - I got DVD box sets of The Complete Hancock (well the surviving episodes at least )and The Complete Steptoe and Son for Christmas. Together these two shows represent the best of the teams work.
Hancock's Half Hour was the first real sitcom, the seed from which the genre developed. Tony Hancock was a comic genius and like many of his ilk he was a troubled man. Although his talent was immense he was often egotistical and it was this that finally ended the show rather than the writers having run out of steam.
"Galton and Simpson showed us that the sitcom could contain real drama." Ben Elton
After Hancock ended Galton and Simpson came up with Steptoe and Son ( I believe the Americans developed Sanford and Son from this series) which was the first true sitcom - tragic true to life situations from which they dragged out the comedy, all of it natural rather than forced. Steptoe and Son became a national institution that regularly topped the ratings. The show went on for eight seasons and remained at the top of its game throughout. Even now it still looks fresh and stands above most all other sitcom from anywhere in the world.
But back to the radio series - if you like comedy that I urge you to listen to these shows, they are available for a few more days.
"They were far more ground breaking than any other writers working at the time." Dennis Norden