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Monday, 22 August 2011

Keep Em' Laughing - Top Five 1970's UK sitcoms and the white dog shit mystery

Back in the 1970's TV was a truly interactive experience - this was during the time when the only thing you plugged into the back of the set was an antenna. That antenna often acted as an interface between viewer and show when the only way to get a picture was for some unfortunate family member to stand in an awkward position while holding the antenna out, thrusting it upwards. One movement of the limbs would cause the picture to fade out, which would result in cushions being hurled at the antenna holder. Other problems were waiting for the set to warm up and having the picture ghost over whenever anyone walked past to make a cup of tea - if you weren't constantly drinking tea during the 70's, you were probably a weirdo with a beard, glasses and far too many polyester suits.

I know why this dissapeared
It was a different world back then - a time of white dog shit on the pavements, three day strikes, platform shoes, flared trousers, Ford Cortina's and cheap toys made in Hong Kong which would frequently choke any child foolish enough to stick their new plastic toy into their mouth. And as Linda Lovelace can testify the 70's was the decade of sticking things in your mouth. And before we go on, I actually know what happened to white dog shit, but that's something for another day.The 1970's were perhaps TV's greatest decade - sets had found their way into  91% of UK homes, colour had been introduced and there was no competition from video recorders, computer games or that new fangled Internet thingie. Consequently any TV show that was a hit would attract viewing figures that are astronomical by modern standards.

The 1970's was a decade of paradoxes - one of the coolest inventions of this decade was the digital watch and yet it was created by a man with a very uncool name - no not Elton John, but Wally Crabtree, - I kid you not!

But I digress, here are my choices for the top five TV sitcoms of the 1970's, and only show that originated in the 1970's are included, thus no Steptoe and Son or Dad's Army which were very popular during the decade.

5 - Citizen Smith - written by the late John Sullivan who would years later perfect the sitcom with Only Fools and Horses, this starred Robert Lindsey who these days is better known for his part in  the inexplicably popular, My Family. Lindsay portrayed the Trotskyite 'Tooting Popular Front' leader Wolfie Smith.

4-Some Mothers Do 'Ave Em - Basically this was vintage Hollywood slapstick reborn as British slapstick, complete with shaky sets. Bumbling Frank Spencer had it all - several catchphrases and a knack for getting involved in outlandish situations.

3- Rising Damp - Leonard Rossiter portrayed the creepy landlord Rigsby in, what must qualify as the best sitcom of the decade that wasn't made by the BBC. Rossiter's portrayal of the odd Rigsby was so real that if often made your skin crawl.

2-Porridge - Ronnie Barker's best character is the working class theif, Fletcher. And the writing from Clement and Le Frenais is sparkling. The sitcom set in the confinements of a prison was essential viewing. And still is with the show racking up healthy DVD sales.

1-Fawlty Towers - What can be said? Two series, twelve episodes and each is absolutely brilliant. It is close to impossible to pick a favourite episode from the dozen made. There are so many iconic moments - don't mention the war, the Siberian Hamster, flogging a mini car, the list goes on and on. It is no hyperbole to state that Fawlty Towers is the absolute apogee of what can be achieved in the situation comedy form.

That's the last you see of that

AND - OK, you win. What happened to white dog shit? The disappearance of white dog doo dah's is down to what dogs eat these days.White dog shit is the calcium left behind as the water evaporates, and the 'organic' components of the crap are consumed  leaving the inorganic stuff behind. But nowadays dogs don't eat as much bone as they used to, including bone meal. Also, tighter regulation on dogs crapping on pavements means that turds don't hang around  in public places, George Michael excluded of course, like they used to, giving them less opportunity to dry out and turn white."

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