Platinum Jubilee Comedy – 1970’s, Part One, BBC
Marking Her Majesty’s 70 years on the throne we’re looking back through some of the comedy highlights of the last 70 years .
Today it’s the 1970’s. Whilst it never stands out as one of the country’s greatest decades with strikes, dodgy fashions and the winter of discontent television just seemed to get it.
Yes budgets were lower and we didn’t have the effects but neither did we have the political correctness brigade. Comedy was just funny, providing viewers with some all time classics.
These guys certainly didn’t care about political correctness
Down To Business
It was the decade of strikes, the punk rockers and buy the end of the decade Britain had it’ s first woman Prime Minister, but for TV comedy it would become a golden age. There wasn’t just the advent of colour TV, there were so many good sitcoms you were spoilt for choice. Among all this there were some great game shows that had us laughing and on BBC 2 for those of a certain vintage Laurel and Hardy were regular fixtures on our screens along with Charlie Chaplin.
Many great sitcoms also found success on the big screen and radio. These included Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army and Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads
As the decade began Galton and Simpson’s legacy was still with us as BBC Comedy Playhouse continued to produce some of our best loved sitcoms.
In 1972 it was a sitcom about a Department Store: Are You Being Served? that lead to the long running sitcom of the same name that ran for ten years.
It also got the big screen treatment in 1977.
In 1973 Roy Clarke’s Last Of The Summer Wine made it to a full series, well, 30 to be precise. Last Of The Summer Wine focused on the antics of three retired men in a Yorkshire villiage, it went on to become the world’s longest running sitcom to date, running for thirty seven years.
After a successful pilot as part of Comedy Playhouse in 1969 Frankie Howerd returned as slave Lurcio for a full series of innuendo and mirth as Up Pompeii retuned for 2 series, interestingly both were broadcast in 1970.
Galton and Simpson had headed off to pastures new in 1965 after series four of Steptoe and Son, but in 1970 they returned for a second run of their hugely popular sitcom, this time in colour and with two Christmas Specials. Of the two specials, it was the 1974 edition that signed off one of TV’s most popular sitcoms, leaving the writers free from the pressure of an ongoing series to once again pursue projects that interested them.
Like many sitcoms of the 1970’s Steptoe and Son made it to the big screen with Steptoe and Son The Movie in 1972 and Steptoe And Son Ride Again in 1973. Despite writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson feeling that ‘Ride Again’ was sa better script the first movie did better business at the box office.
After appearing in a sketch about class in the Frost Report, Messr’s Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker appeared together in a brand new series that would go on to become a national institution: The Two Ronnies ran for 12 series from 1971 until 1987
Monty Python’s Flying Circus had began life on the BBC back in 1969, it came to an end in 1974 as a TV series springing onto the big screen the following year in 1975 with Monty Python and The Holy Grail, it wasn’t the group’s first film, that was in 1971, And Now For Something Completely Different was a compilation of popular sketches re-filmed for the big screen, Holy Grail however was the first original film script.
After leaving Monty Python John Cleese returned with one of the all time classics
Fawlty Towers ran for just two series one in 1975 the other in 1979 and is still to this day one of Britain’s best loved sitcoms.
Carla Lane had success with The Liver Birds coming off the back of Comedy Playhouse and that was still running, coming to an end in 1978.
Not one to rest on her laurels Carla had another big success in 1978 with Butterflies a sitcom about a frustrated housewife and her family, some of the scenes involving her cooking were comedy gold.
Did TV writers in the 1970’s have a window into the future? Writers John Esmunde and Bob Larbey decided to go green with their hugely successful sitcom The Good Life. The series focussed on The Goods who decide to quit the rat race and become self sufficient, much to the horror their social climbing next-door neighbours. The Good Life remains one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time.
Another endearing sitcom of course was Dad’s Army, the antics of the Walmington On Sea Home Guard had begun in 1968 it’s run came to an end in 1977.
After creating controversy in the 1960’s Alf Garnett got another bite of the cherry as Till Death Us Do Part returned for four more series.
Despite all the uproar that surrounded the Alf Garnett character it’s interesting to note that he was on TV for four decades. The 1970’s saw a second spin off adventure on the big screen with The Alf Garnett Saga
Game Shows became compulsive viewing in the 1970’s. Two classics were Blankety Blank hosted by the late great Terry Wogan
and of course Bruce Forsyth brought us the Generation Game.
The classics of the 70’s were not just limited to the BBC, ITV had plenty of their own. In fact many of their gems were brand new. We’ll look at them in a separate post.