Monday, 2 September 2019

A Comedy On This Day: I Didn't Know You Cared - A Knitter In The Family (3 September 1975)

LES: Look at it all. Gloom, muck, desolation. Ugliness.

MORT: Aye. Bloody marvellous, in't it?

 Only the second episode, and the studio audience are audibly subdued and hesitant at times. You can tell that they're trying to orient themselves around what sort of comedy this is and how it works. It has no familiar stars in it, and the rhythm and object of the jokes feels different to anything else. Peter Tinniswood was one of those writers with his own distinct idiom (none of his characters speak like people in any other programme) and I Didn't Know You Cared doesn't try to iron it out, making a virtue of this peculiarity instead. It's also very Northern/ Yorkshire and working-class, and so presumably harder for the Television Centre audience to quickly identify with.
 The audience become more won over by a bravura performance by Vanda Godsell as Carter's soon-to-be mother-in-law. Mrs Partington is a truly appalling woman, mean, judgemental and uninterested in others, traits that are revealed in a near-incessant monologue. Watching and understanding this character makes more sense of the rest of the world depicted in I Didn't Know You Cared, explaining why these menfolk are so gloomy and fatalistic about dealing with women.
 Personally, the one thing that really made me laugh in this episode was it's most extreme statement, when a despondent Uncle Mort reflects that, "Still, there's a lot to be said for death. I'll bet it's not half so boring as life."

Sunday, 1 September 2019

A Comedy On This Day: Rising Damp - The New Tenant (2 September 1974)

 The first episode, but not strictly from the first series. Actually part of an unofficial Comedy Playhouse-type series of six weekly playlets from Yorkshire Television. So what were the other five? A mixed bag, it would seem. Galton & Simpson's You'll Never Walk Alone, about Leeds United fans (led by Brian Glover) on a train to London for the Cup Final, was only ever intended to be a one-off. Brotherly Love with Keith Barron as a miner-turned property speculator. Slater's Day, with John Junkin as a PR man, a rare comedy excursion from Chris Boucher. Barry Took's Badger's Set, featured Julian Orchard doubling as a famous personality and his uncomprehending old father. And a second long-running success for Yorkshire, Oh No It's Selwyn Froggit.

 You can see why you'd immediately commission a series on the strength of this. It has a certain distinct individual personality to it. Eric Chappel's dialogue is quite densely-packed, full of allusions and reminiscences, and doesn't sound like anything that I've heard spoken in any earlier ITV sitcom. The Victorian house doesn't feel quite like anywhere we've seen before on ITV, not just in the detailed set (the bashed lampshade in the 'best' room) but in the relentless mentions of cold and discomfort - even the title, explained by Rigsby to Alan, "That's not rising damp, it's condensation!". Even Vienna is a geriatric cat of a type rarely allowed onto the television screen.
 It's obviously perfectly cast, with four identifiable characters who all seem to have some sort of gap in their past that has brought them to here. One thing that's rare about Rising Damp is that I'm equally interested in how all of the four characters get on with each of the other three, making six intriguing combinations.

 The studio audience are clearly very taken with what they're seeing, with one male and one female laugh particularly prominent. It is noticeable how the one thing that they find most hilarious is the very idea of having to respond to a black man...