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ALAN SIMPSON & RAY GALTON
Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock:
four scripts for television


click to enlarge

Corgi, London, 1962
(price: 2/6; 64 pages)

(first published in 1961 by André Deutsch)


Everyone knows that comedy dates faster than any other art form, but the very best comedy survives even when the laughs no longer flow freely. Such is the case with Hancock's Half Hour, without question the greatest sitcom Britain ever produced (which means that only Cheers and possibly Seinfeld outrank it). It's still funny, but more than that, it's still hugely entertaining and illuminating.

The show started on the radio and - for many of us - that's where it was at its best. Apart from anything else (such as radio being inherently a superior medium to television), it featured a fantastic ensemble that included Sid James, Bill Kerr and Hattie Jacques all living in Tony Hancock's house, and allowed Kenneth Williams to make the occasional appearance as police officer, judge, nosy neighbour or other irritant. When the show transferred to TV, only Sid survived, with the relationship between Hancock and him effectively becoming a double-act. And then, of course, in the legendary final BBC series, Hancock broke free even of Sid, and created some of his most cherished work as a solo act: 'The Radio Ham', 'The Blood Donor', 'Hancock Alone'.

Throughout all this, the scriptwriting of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson just got better and better. Having invented the modern sitcom, they refined the style to perfection, with the consequence that their scripts remain popular despite Paul Merton's assaults upon them.

The most successful collection of scripts was the Futura paperback from the mid-1970s, but this book is the real collector's item. Four TV shows are included - 'The Economy Drive', 'The Train Journey', 'Going Down' and 'Mayday' (the latter two better known as 'The Lift' and 'The Radio Ham') - together with a neat little introduction and a tremendous selection of photos spread over 32 pages. Amongst these is perhaps my favourite publicity shot of The Lad Himself, which goes something like this:

Homburg


ARTISTIC MERIT: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
4/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
4/5


visit the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society web site
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