It Ain’t Half Hot Mum! – 1974
It’s almost forty years since this popular sitcom ended and today marks 75 years since VJ Day (victory in Japan).
Whilst in 1945 there were celebrations for VE day the war was not yet over for those fighting the Japanese.
It was those troops that the Royal Artillery Concert Party depicted in this popular sitcom were entertaining.
Running for 56 episodes over 8 series It Ain’t Half Hot Mum was the BBC sitcom centering around the Royal Artillery Concert Party. At it’s peak it attracted audiences of 15 million.
For the first four series the setting is British India and Burma towards the end of the Second World War (in the period just after the German surrender where the Allies were trying to finish the war by defeating Japan in Asia). In the fifth series, the concert party are posted up the jungle, and from then on It Ain’t Half Hot Mum is set in Tin Min, Burmha close to the front line.
Like many shows of the time it courted controversy in its heyday for having Rangi Ram, an Indian character, played by a white actor, Michael Bates.
Co-writer Jimmy Perry said of the show ‘It’s without doubt the funniest series David Croft and I wrote. It’s also the show we’re not allowed to talk about.’
As for repeats it was repeated on satellite channel UK Gold. However future repeats look unlikely, after it was put on a short list by the BBC as a TV show that could be possibly be repeated as a re-run, but it has since been removed.
In 2012 the Mail Online reported ‘The word has gone out the series of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum will never be shown in the future on the channel. (referring to BBC1)
‘The censors feel the undertone of racism and catty remarks about different races and religions has no place on BBC channels.’
They added: ‘When the series was aired in the Seventies it was a different time, and the notions and sympathies of modern cultural Britain were a long way away.’
The story revolves around a large group of British soldiers stationed at the Royal Artillery Depot in Deolali, India.
The main characters are performers in the base’s Concert Party, which involves putting on comic acts and musical performances (similar to those seen in a music hall) for the other soldiers prior to their departure for the front lines. The Concert Party all love this particular job, as it enables them to keep out of combat duty (though some do harbour dreams of becoming world-famous actors when they leave the army).
This is much to the annoyance of Sergeant Major “Shut Up” Williams who having spent almost all of his life as a professional soldier, resents being in charge of a bunch of “nancy boys” and takes every opportunity to bring some form of military regime to the concert party. However the concert party also take every opportunity to thwart him supported by two senior officers who also appreciate their ‘cushy’ number’
Much of the comedy came from the love hate relationship between Sgt Major Williams and gunner “Lofty” Sugden. The two stars (Windsor Davies and Don Estelle) had a hit record with whispering grass.
Written By: Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Produced By: David Croft and Graeme Muir
Directed By: David Croft, Graeme Muir, Bob Spiers, Ray Butt, Paul Bishop, John Kilby
Original Transmission Dates: 3rd January 1974 – 3rd September 1981