Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

TV Timewarp

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

TV Timewarp

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graham Pratt

Programme of the Week: Rising Damp

First episode transmitted: September 2, 1974.

Last episode transmitted: May 9, 1978.

1974 was a golden year for TV sitcoms. Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em and Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads were going strong on BBC1. Steptoe & Son was in its final series and this trio was joined in 1974 by Porridge.

Over on ITV, Man About The House starring Richard O'Sullivan, was top of the ratings. It was to be a similar theme ( people sharing a house ( that would give ITV its next sitcom hit, Rising Damp.

It was set in a nameless Northern town with its own university, hence the tenants living in the bedsit being students, and was the creation of Eric Chappell, who would later go on to create ITV's biggest sitcom hit of the 80s, Duty Free.

Rising Damp started life in a play by Chappell called The Banana Box, with the character of Rigsby then being called Rooksby. When it was transferred to the TV screen, it was as part of a comedy pilot series for Yorkshire Television which included Alan Plater's Oh No It's Selwyn Frogitt.

Rigsby was the landlord of a set of seedy bedsits. The man who was to make him immortal, Leonard Rossiter, described Rigsby as someone "who makes Alf Garnett look like a tolerant chairman of the Race Relations Board".

His tenants were a sex-starved spinster Ruth Jones, played by Frances de la Tour, the naive but equally sex-starved medical student Alan (Richard Beckinsale, who became the hottest property on TV in 1974 as he also appeared as Ronnie Barker's cellmate in Porridge) and `son of an African tribal chief' Phillip, played by Don Warrington.

It was the combination of these four actors that made the show, as opposed to any classic lines. While you laughed at each one, you also felt empathy for them.

The show was also no stranger to controversy. At the end of the first series, the boys decide to lend their support to a local Labour Party candidate in an election. …

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