3 September 2017 | alexanderdavies-99382
Still the funniest British sitcom of all time!
"Steptoe and Son" set new standards for both comedy writing and acting. The quality of both has rarely been equalled and never surpassed. A lot has been written about the alleged animosity between the leading actors, Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett. To this day, those rumours remain just that. The recent biography on Corbett completely denies that there was ill feeling of any kind but admits that the two actors were never friends. For writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (R.I.P to a fine talent), they had a golden opportunity to write what they wanted after they split with Tony Hancock. Originally, they planned to write a sitcom for Frankie Howerd but BBC producer Duncan Wood rejected this for reasons to do with Howerd not being very popular at the time. That was when Galton and Simpson created one of the defining British sitcoms. After holding talks over what their new sitcom would be about, the ideas became more developed. No one but Wilfred Brambell and Harry H. Corbett could have played the characters of Albert and Harold Steptoe. Both actors were legitimately trained theatre performers and who had a lot of experience behind them when "Steptoe and Son" came into their lives. The characters are given so much depth, they are brought vividly to life. Galton and Simpson also blended drama into the comedy and the actors effortlessly created both funny and touching performances. Although there was always a bit of tragedy included in "Steptoe and Son," it never interfered with the comedy. It isn't every writer or actor who can combine comedy with drama. The series never needed much in the way of location shooting or lavish production values on order to create comedy gold. A lot of the time, the episodes played along the lines of being theatre which I would say is one of the best things that could have happened. Rag and Bone men, Albert and Harold Steptoe, are father and son. They usually inhibit an environment of conflict and tension. Relations between the two are usually strained, on account of the fact that they are always arguing. Harold has ambitions of various kinds so that he can escape his rather domineering, overbearing and devious father. Inevitably, Harold's plans don't usually bear fruition and usually because Albert sabotages his son's efforts and goals. The reason Albert behaves the way he does, is because he can't bear to be alone now that he is getting older. His wife passed away many years before whilst Harold was still a child. The responsibility of raising his son fell on Albert's shoulders and he was a neglectful father in more ways than one. Harold grew to resent his lack of upbringing due to his father. For Albert, his son was all he had left in the world. Underneath the hostility, father and son do care for one another. Occasionally, they are more united against someone else and the volatility is temporarily placed on hold. The series ran from 1962 until 1974, lasting 57 episodes. There was a gap of five years before "Steptoe and Son" resurfaced in 1970 and this time in colour. Most of the colour episodes from 1970 are missing but fortunately the black and white versions exist. I enjoy nearly all episodes but I think the series grew in quality in the episodes from 1970 to 1972. I can't stop laughing during those particular episodes and it's down to the brilliant on-screen chemistry between the two leads and the writing being of a high calibre. I would hazard a guess that Brambell and Corbett grew a bit tired of their respective characters by the time the series finished in 1974. They had had a great 12 year run and the viewing figures were something in the region of 20 million on a few occasions. The series won prestigious television awards and rightly so. There will never be another sitcom like "Steptoe and Son." It is a unique sitcom and its legacy is assured.