Comedy Playhouse, 1961
After Tony Hancock left the BBC, a replacement comedy show was required. As a result of this, then Head Of Light Entertainment. Tom Sloan, determined not to lose his star writers came up with a unique idea. He called it “Comedy Playhouse”. He approached Ray Galton and Alan Simpson with the idea telling them that it had to retain it’s name but that aside they could do whatever they liked with it: act, write, didn’t matter. As writers they decided to do what they did best, write.
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson wrote the first two series The idea proved a success leading to a long running series of one-off unrelated sitcoms that aired for 120 episodes from 1961 to 1975. Many episodes later went on to have their own series, including: Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us do Part, The Liver Birds, All Gas and Gaitors, Are You Being Served? And Last Of The Summer Wine, that ran until 2010, becoming the world’s longest running sitcom to date.
In 2014 the BBC resurrected the idea for six episodes and the same again in 2016. By 2018 there had been eighteen series.
For those readers that would like a full list of the many series click here, it’s a long list.
The first two series of Comedy Playhouse were written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who had previously written very successfully for Tony Hancock, but after that the episodes were written by various writers.
In total there were 27 sitcoms that started out from a pilot in the Comedy Playhouse. The first eight series were broadcast in Black and White, the rest in colour. Like many television programs from the time, many of 1960s episodes are missing from the BBC archive presumed wiped.
Various due to the nature of the show it changed with each new episode.
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (series 1 and 2)
Original Transmission Dates: 15th December 1961 – 9th July 1975
Where To Watch
Many of these pilot episodes are included as part of DVD releases, but unfortunately no DVD release exists of the complete series.