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Steptoe and Son (BBC 1962, Harry H. Corbett, Wilfrid Brambell)

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In legendary sitcom Steptoe and Son Harold Steptoe (Harry H. Corbett), a middle aged Rag and Bone man, yearns to break away from the clutches of his elderly conniving (and it has to be said, disgusting) father Albert (Wilfrid Brambell), but events always conspire against him. The Steptoes lived at 24 Oil Drum Lane, Shepherd’s Bush and had a horse called Hercules.

One of TV’s true classics, the show began life as a one off comedy special for the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse before graduating to its own hugely popular series. Harry H. Corbett who played middle aged Harold and Wilfrid Brambrell who played his ‘dirty old man’ of a father both felt incredibly stifled by their time in the series and neither were able to escape from the series even after it had finished, forever known as the characters they played rather than the excellent actors they were.

The show itself, created and written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, hangs on the classic scenario of the two characters being trapped (so many of the golden greats of comedy, Fawlty Towers, The Likely Lads, Porridge etc have this theme in common) with old Albert being caught in being mentally unable to cope on his own and Harold being unable to leave his father to his own devices to make a proper life for himself. Much of the humour of course coming from the sparring between the two as both realise exactly the position they are in.

Show writers Galton and Simpson had just finished writing for Hancocks half hour and were pretty much at the top of their game in the early 60s, the quality of their scripts really shines through. However by the mid 1960’s both stars had tired of their roles and called it quits. Like the characters they played though neither Brambell or Corbett could escape and returned to the series in 1970 for another hugely popular run.

The series was also so popular that it garnered two big screen outings in the early 1970’s (see below) and a whole range of merchandise from novelisations to records and annuals. Brambell and Corbett also starred in radio versions of their TV scripts for most of the show’s run.

On Wednesday the 14 September 2016 the BBC broadcast a remake of Steptoe and Son episode A Winter’s Tale as part of their Sitcom Season celebrating 60 years of sitcoms, especially Hancock’s Half Hour, on the network. A Winter’s Tale was chosen as one of the Lost Episodes for the season because it is one of a huge number of BBC shows no longer in existence.

In between seasons 7 and 8 two big screen movies were made. The first Steptoe and Son was released in 1972 the second Steptoe and Son Ride Again in 1973.

Classic Episode: The Desperate Hours – The episode where Harold and Albert receive unwelcome guests in the shape of two escapees from Wormwood Scrubs Albert soon began to sympathise with the younger of the two convicts, played by Leonard Rossiter who was something of a regular guest (he made three appearances in different roles). Both young men felt constrained by their older partners, while the old men also became friendly and reflected on the ungratefulness of youth. This was one of the best episodes and one which summed up all the underlying tensions between Harold and Albert.

Cast: Harry H. Corbett as Harold Steptoe; Wilfrid Brambell as Albert Steptoe

Writers: Ray Galton and Alan Simpson / Theme Music: Ron Grainer / Incidental Music: Dennis Wilson

UK / BBC One / 55×30 minutes 2×45 minutes / Broadcast 5 January 1962 – 26 December 1974