Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Blessing Sid's Gaffe!

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On the 2nd of February 1971 one of TV's most popular sitcoms was born, Bless This House made by Thames Television. The series was created by the well established comedy writing duo Vince Powell & Harry Driver. There were various writers for the show including the aforementioned creators plus Carla Lane, Myra Taylor, Dave Freeman and others. The producer and director for the whole of the series was William G Stewart, perhaps now more famous in the UK for the Channel 4 quiz show 15-to-1.In total there were 65 episodes produced spread over 6 series broadcast between 1971 and 1976. The show centres around the life of the Abbott family, husband and wife Sid & Jean, and their two children Mike and Sally who live in Birch Avenue in Putney, but this was changed to 2 Howard Road in later episodes. The various writers used just about every typical sitcom plot you can think of which meant the usual misunderstandings, arguments, comic situations etc, you know the type of thing!

Sidney Abbott is played with all the brilliant comic talent you would expect from Sid James. He is a sales representative for a local stationary company and is very successful at his job. Outside of work, he likes to relax (or try to!) at home smoking his pipe listening to his favourite classical piece of music, at weekends he would sometimes go fishing with his next-door neighbour who is also his best mate Trevor (played by Anthony Jackson). Sid's most popular activity is going to his local boozer The Hare and Hounds with Trevor to sink a few pints and discuss the burning issues of the day eg. would Chelsea win the cup this year, or the length (or lack of it) of the barmaid's skirt! The main cause of frustration in Sid's life is trying to understand his children. The generation gap seems to him to be not so much a gap as (perhaps he might say) a great big bloody hole! He holds very traditional views on many things especially sex, and while he encourages his son Mike to enjoy himself (as quoted on the show Here a bit, there a bit, everywhere a bit bit!) he is very protective about his daughter Sally whom he still thinks of as his little girl.

Jean Abbott, played by Diana Coupland, is a devoted wife and mother, she is the 'real' head of the house, but dont tell Sid! She seems to understand her children more than Sid ever could, usually seeing their side of any argument. Her best friend is next-door neighbour Betty (played by Patsy Rowlands) who is married to Trevor. Sid is not too keen on her as she always seems to be coming round to borrow things which usually is food!

Mike Abbott, played by Robin Stewart, is the oldest of the two children and the most gifted but Sid would disagree with you on that one! He is unemployed but occasionally sells pieces of art which he has made. Art is his passion and he is always working on his next masterpiece which unfortunately for Sid usually means a lot of banging and clattering from the garage which never seems to have the space for the car! Sid also struggles to hold a decent conversation with his son as he uses phrases such as Dig it and I'm gonna split which sounds very painful! Sally Abbott, played by Sally Geeson, is the youngest member of the family but she is rapidly growing up. Her attitude to sex leaves her father in turmoil, and she seems to go through boyfriends like there is no tomorrow. Mike and her have very strong opinions and they often go on various demonstrations together in support of the latest cause, this usually ends up with them in trouble with the police which means a trip to the station for Sid!

As with any successful sitcom of the 1970's there was a good chance that a spin-off feature film would be made and Bless This House was no exception. Made in 1972 by Rank, the screenplay was written by Dave Freeman who had also penned scripts for the TV series, producer was Peter Rogers and director was Gerald Thomas who of course had both worked on the immensely successful Carry On films. The film retained most of the regular cast from the TV series with the exceptions of Robin Stewart as Mike who was replaced by Robin Askwith, and Anthony Jackson as next-door neighbour Trevor who was replaced by carry on stalwart Peter Butterworth. There was a good supporting cast of many familiar faces from the British comedy scene of the time including Terry Scott and June Whitfield as the new next-door neighbours Mr & Mrs Baines, George A Cooper as the propietor of a local cafe and Bill Maynard as the owner of an antiques market.

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