The Course Of True Love Never Runs Smooth In Rising Damp
We are looked at what an ITV Landmark comedy season might look like. We picked six of our favourite ITV sitcoms andthis was rumber four.
Without doubt ITV’s finest sitcom sits up there with the classics. Running for twenty eight episodes over four series between 1974 and 1978, the series was produced for ITV by Yorkshire Television.
From Rooksby to Rigsby, Before it was a TV series, Rising Damp actually began life as a stage play in 1971 entitled ‘The Banana Box’. Leonard Rossiter, Don Warrington and Francis De La Tour all played their respective characters in the play, although Rigsby was Rooksby.
The play was being performed at the Newcastle Theatre Royal in 1973 when then Head of Light Entertainment at YTV, John Duncan, was invited to see a performance of a play. Duncan saw its potential as a sitcom immediately.
YTV had commissioned a series of half-hour sitcom pilots of which Rising Damp became one of. These ‘pilots’ were scheduled for broadcast in the autumn of 1974.
By this time Duncan Wood a more experienced producer from the BBC had taken over from John Duncan. The series of six pilots were broadcast as scheduled in the autumn of 1974 and along with Oh No It’s Selwyn Frogitt, Rising Damp was picked up for a full series.
On being adapted for television Richard Beckinsale became the newcomer to the cast, having not appeared in the Banana Boat.
As the series progressed a number of brief and sometimes temporary cast changes were made. Richard Beckinsale did not appear at all in the fourth series due to West End theatre commitments. Eric Chappell wrote some lines to explain Alan’s absence into the intended first episode ‘Fire and Brimstone’, he had passed his exams to become a doctor. However, the lines were cut when it was decided to broadcast the second episode ‘Hello Young Lovers’ as the first episode instead.
Frances de la Tour temporarily left the series in 1975, after appearing in four episodes of the second series, because of theatre commitments, and was ‘replaced’ by Gabrielle Rose for three episodes as new tenant Brenda (she also appeared in la Tour’s last episode of 1975 “Moonlight and Roses”), whilst Henry McGee also stood in for one episode as new tenant Seymour. Frances de la Tour returned for the final two series.
In the 2004 BBC poll to find the 100 best sitcoms Rising Damp was the highest rating ITV sitcom.
Rupert Rigsby is a miserly, seedy, and ludicrously self-regarding landlord that rents out shabby bedsits to a variety of tenants.
In the pilot episode Rigsby is looking for a new tennant to fill his vacant room. Enter Phillip Smith, a planning student. Only one problem he’s black and as such brings about the ill-informed fears and knee-jerk suspicions of Rigsby. Phillip claims to be the son of an African chief which brought about much humour within the show.
However, the landlord quickly accepted his new tenant and henceforth regarded him with a wary respect… wary because of Philip’s intelligence, smooth manners and especially because Miss Jones was attracted to the handsome sophisticate.
The show revolved the day to day lives of the tennants of Rigsby’s seedy boarding house, Rigsby’s constant interference with his tenants lives and their constant ability to get one up on him. There is also the sub plot of Rigsby’s amorous intentions to Miss Jones.
Rigsby – Leonard Rossiter
Miss Jones – Frances De La Tour
Philip – Don Warrington
Alan – Richard Beckinsale
Written By: Eric Chapell
Produced By: Yorkshire Television for ITV
Original Transmission Dates: 2nd September 1974 – 9th May 1978
Spin Offs Rising Damp The Movie was released in 1980