Hancock's Half Hour

1956 | United Kingdom

Transferring from a successful radio run in 1956, the comedic misadventures of one Tony Aloysius Hancock esq. of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, beguiled the television audience of the UK until 1961.

Written by the prolific writing team of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson (who would go on to create another comedy legend - Steptoe and Son), each hilarious half hour recounted a particular misadventure in the pretentiously uneventful life of the lugubrious, trademark Homburg-hatted, lead character. Partnered initially with the highly experienced comedy actor Sid James, Hancock's immaculate comic timing allied with James' own skill and perfectly pitched and observed scripts from the resident writing team, ensured the series outstanding success. However, Hancock was below the laughter filled surface (like many brilliantly gifted comedians), a darkly troubled, insecure soul. It was these insecurities which, by the show's final season, had ensured the departure of Sid James. Now renamed simply Hancock, the season was overall a pale imitation of its former glory. However, enough of the magic remained to produce two genuinely classic episodes, 'The Blood Donor' and 'The Radio Ham'. 

Following this final season Hancock made an ill advised defection from the BBC to ITV, in the process dispensing with the creative input of Galton and Simpson. The dubious decision of 'The Lad Himself' to read his lines from autocue rather than memorising them was another sad nail in the coffin lid of Hancock's television fame, and one that ultimately led him to take his own life. However, at its peak, Hancock's Half Hour was a genuine Rolls Royce amongst situation comedies, and that kind of sheer style and class never really goes out of fashion.

Published on December 20th, 2018. Written by SRH for Television Heaven.