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...

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