[color=red]PLEASE NOTE: This is series 4 of 8 each series has 2 CDs.[/color]
Steptoe and Son rightly deserves to be recognised as a programme that changed the future of TV comedy.
Before their arrival on the scene most comedy shows featured a series of short sketches featuring the show’s main stars.
Even though Hancock’s Half Hour, (also written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson), featured a single story such as The Blood
Donor, the focus was very much on Hancock and his reaction to wherever he was placed. The supporting cast took different
roles each week, one week they could be a lift attendant, the next a librarian.
When Galton and Simpson created Steptoe, they wanted to move away from the personality being the star of the show, to the
characters being the ones we cared about.
This also gave them other opportunities to explore the darker side of a character, something they could not have done in a
show such as Hancock, where the lead character effectively played himself. They therefore made the decision to use establis-
hed actors to play the main characters rather than noted comedians. This decision again allowed the characters to be used
in far greater depth.
Each week we returned to the same location with the same characters and we were able to look at them tackling a different
issue each week. What should you do when times are hard, and an opportunity to buy some dodgy looking lead at rock bottom
price arises? How shall we vote in the election? What do we do when the horse dies? As each of these problems is overcome,
so another aspect of the character is revealed. The situation comedy was born.
Steptoe was first aired as a one off play called “The Offer” broadcast on 5 January 1962. In June of 1962 the Steptoe’s were
back in the first series of 6 episodes. There were eventually eight series in all with the last episode broadcast on 10 Octo
ber 1974. A Christmas special broadcast on 26 December 1974 was to be the last ever Steptoe.
The show is basically about the relationship between Albert Steptoe and his son Harold. The comedy largely came from their
differing view points about the issues that affected them and how they both would use and manipulate each other to achieve
what they wanted. The father, Albert, was the undoubted expert at getting his own way. It didn’t matter that they were father
and son; they could have been husband and wife, mother and daughter or any other relationship between two people. Steptoe and
Son highlighted the unhealthy way some relationships develop. Many of us were laughing at ourselves!!!
In this day and age with countless TV channels and other diversions, it is hard to look back and remember just how popular
the show was with the whole nation. Millions of people would sit down at the same time across the nation to watch Albert
and Harold. The following morning the shows would be discussed, dissected and reviewed in work canteens, school playgrounds
and the pub. Such was the grip that the show had on the nation, that in September 1964, with a general election looming,
Harold Wilson the leader of the opposition, asked the BBC not to show the programme on election day, as he was concerned
that people would stay in and watch Steptoe rather than go out to vote.
As said previously this was a completly new way of writting TV comedy and so a number of small discrepancys occur which would
not be permitable in todays comedy shows. Galtin and Simpson wrote the shows for laughs and they were therefore not always
true to the history of their characters. It would not be possible to put together a comprehensive history of the Steptoes
based upon the dialogue of all the episodes. Occasionaly an actor who had appeard previously in one role, appeard later in
another episode in a different role. Obvious examples of this are Leonard Rossiter, Frank Thornton and Anthony Sharpe, who
many people will remember as the vicar, but he also played a doctor in an earlier episode. However these occurances unlikle
the Hankcock example are not too frequent. It should also be remembered that this was the first time a series like this had
been put togehter and nobody ever realised that their would be sad people out there who would one day pick up on such things.
The Show has stood the test of time and is as funny now as when they were first broadcast. The legacy left us by Albert and
Harold is greater than you may at first realise. Each episode is a beautifully acted 30 minute drama. They are also little
time capsules in their own right, as they reflect not only on what is now an effectively lost profession, but they also
show the attitudes and thoughts of Britain in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Without the confines of political correctness
the Steptoe’s were able to discuss things that real people discussed. While many of today’s TV comedies are undoubtedly
funny, when they are viewed some 30 years later, will we still be able to recognise ourselves?