Comedy Playhouse, Series One, Episode 4 – The Offer
A recent trawl brought up some episodes of the long running BBC Comedy Playhouse series. Over the coming weeks we’ll feature some of those classic pilots not all of which went on beyond their appearance on Comedy Playhouse.
Perhaps the most famous of all the episodes is “The Offer” taken from the very first series when it was entitled Galton and Simpson’s Comedy Playhouse.it’s back story is quite different to general opinion.
The Offer came about as a result of writer’s block for Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who had been working on a series of one off comedies for the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse. Looking out of a window they noticed a rag and bone man, that gave them the inspiration for Steptoe and Son.
Popular opinion has it that it was the only episode of the two series to go on to a full series in it’s own right. The BBC liked the idea, particuarly as the setting was seen as cost effective and the actors would be paid at the lower drama rate. However the writers were not keen to return to doing full series and it took many attempts by the BBC to persuade the to write a full series. In a 2014 interview they told us ” we weren’t thinking of a series, we were just enjoying the one offs. Tom Sloan, Head of Light Entertainment at the BBC realised the potential in Steptoe and asked us to write a full series. We said NO and they kept on to us for about six months before we finally agreed to do a full series. We agreed conditional upon using straight actors in the parts as they counted the lines not the laughs”.
After much arm twisting by June of 1962 the first series was being broadcast.
Harold Steptoe is thirty-seven, since leaving the army ,he has been put upon by his widowed, selfish father Albert, working the horse and cart, totting things to sell in their rag-and-bone business. One day Harold gets the offer of a better job and is determined to take it. Albert, however, fearing loneliness if Harold goes, knows just how to keep his son at home.
However when he discovers Albert has been at the cocktail cabinet, he begins to pack up his belongings and leave his dad for good.
Harold Steptoe – Harry H. Corbett
Albert Steptoe – Wilfrid Brambel
Channel: BBC Television (Became BBC1 in 1964 after launch of BBC2)
Written By: Ray Galton and Alan Simpson
Originally Transmitted: 4th January 1962, as part of Comedy Playhouse