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The running gag in this show was that every other character of note had
their own name for him. 'Foxie' 'Yeti' 'Smudger' 'Trotsky' & 'Smiffy'
with I think, only Ken actually calling him 'Wolfie' Am I right in
believing nobody ever called him Walter Henry? I have a memory that he
only revealed that as his real name in the penultimate show.
I do remember the original BBC promo for this series. 'Wolfie' was spraying graffiti on a short section of wall while Ken watched. He'd managed to write "THINK AHEA" before running out of wall, and amidst the ironic laughter of the audience began to berate the council for not building a wall long enough
It set the tone for what followed, although almost immediately the show began to die in instalments as actor after actor left during its four season run. Some, like girlfriend Shirley were merely written out while her screen father, the more central character 'Charlie' was recast twice (if we include the pilot.) I feel though that when Stephen Grief's excellent 'Harry Fenning' was replaced, the show had peaked, perhaps reaching its zenith with "Glorious Day" the third season finale. Yep, it was 'that' episode where they 'liberate' the Scorpion Tank and invade London. I think even die hard aficionados would agree with me that should have been that.
Particularly as season three had some of the most memorable episodes of all, introducing John Tordoff as the hyperbolically bizarre 'Tofkin.' Check out "Don't look down" and "Tofkin's revenge." Quite a few have pointed out the similarities between this series and Sullivan's next effort, the rather better known "Only Fools and Horses" and the similarities are indeed there. Both were set in a triangle of flat, pub and occasional exterior, and it is straightforward to recognise equivalent characters across both series. The malapropism that surrounded Wolfie's name was refined for Rodney, who was consistently called 'Dave' throughout by Trig, and of course there is the Citizen Smith episode that was called "Only Fools and Horses" which seems to round things up.
I actually worked on this series in a minor, functionary role, during 1980. It is one of very few productions I can recall halting during the shoot as the studio crew were laughing so much it was putting the actors off, and this was during the fourth, and I consider poorest season. People were still talking about it for some time after, and quoting gags while Only Fools and Horses struggled to take hold in its early years.
I think the reason that 'Only Fools' prospered and 'Smith' rather withered on the vine was the lack of breadth of story lines and a cast limited in numbers. There are only so many scrapes an Urban Revolutionary can get involved in and with so few lead characters, Sullivan ran out of steam rather early. This series has its moments though and is well worth a look. It had a recent re-run (late 2005) on one of the many BBC/ITV archive satellite channels (in this case UKTV Drama) and should re-appear before long. Until then we have the DVD's to keep us going.
Power to the People!
Wolfie Smith is a fanatic who craves revolution. Leader of the Tooting
Popular Front ( a Marxist political party which numbers six members),
is a wannabe freedom fighter who likes to call himself an "urban guerilla".
He wants to overthrow the Capitalist oppressors of the working class and
create a fair, equal and just society (with himself in charge). While he
waits for the glorious day, he plays the guitar and sings his raucous
dressed in a Che Guevara T-shirt and a black beret with one star on
Wolfie's attempts to seize power are thwarted time and time again, usually with hilarious consequences. Wolfie keeps a book containing a list of anyone who gets on the wrong side of him. Come the Glorious Revolution they'll be first against the wall, blindfold, last cigarette etc. But it's a very long list...
"Citizen Smith" was written by John Sullivan, who went on to write the even funnier "Only Fools and Horses". This show contains characters with similar personalities. Wolfie Smith is a fast talker like Del-Boy, Ken is artistic like Rodney and Tucker is vague and confused like Grandad.
"Citizen Smith" was a witty comedy from the 1970s that got better as it went along. The later series seemed funnier than the early episodes. Hopefully the show will be screened again. This is a classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The nearest British television ever got to a 'Fonzie'-type character
was Walter Henry 'Wolfie' Smith. In his 'Freedom For Tooting!' T-shirt,
khaki jacket, braces, jeans and black beret, he was an ineffectual
youthful rebel somehow left over from the '60's, marvellously played by
talented Robert Lindsay, fresh from I.T.V.'s 'Get Some In!'. Marxist
Wolfie worshipped Che Guevara, and dreamt of 'the glorious day' when
the downtrodden working classes rose up en masse and threw off the
shackles imposed on them by their capitalist masters. Each episode
began with 'The Red Flag' and concluded with Wolfie bellowing: "Power
to the people!" often to the bemusement of passers-by. The excellent
song over the end credits was sung by Lindsay.
Also in the 'Tooting Popular Front' were Buddhist Ken ( Mike Grady ), sad cowboy Tucker ( Tony Millan ), and psychotic criminal Speed ( George Sweeney ). Luckily, Wolfie had an understanding girlfriend in the shape of Shirley ( Cheryl Hall, then Lindsay's wife ), who worked in a record shop. Her father Charles Johnson ( Peter Vaughan ) - a Tory voting chief security guard at Haydon Electronics - didn't see Wolfie's appeal, and disparaged him constantly as 'that long-haired Yeti in plimsolls!". Charlie's wife was Florence, who had an unfortunate habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time ( marvellously played by Hilda Braid ). Wolfie stood no chance of realising his dream. When he ran in a local by-election, he only polled six votes. But, rather than simply accept defeat, he ploughed on.
This was the first major sitcom to be penned by the great John Sullivan. As you would expect, it is marvellously funny. One of the best episodes was 'The Hostage' in which the T.P.F. kidnapped a man they thought to be their local Tory M.P., only to discover that they had nabbed by mistake protection racketeer Harry Fenning ( Stephen Grief )!
Cheryl Hall left after Season 2, as did Peter Vaughan. Shirley went to Italy to work, but her Dad was still around ( played by Tony Steedman ). Stephen Grief's 'Harry Fenning' was replaced in Season 3 by David Garfield's 'Ronnie Lynch'. Arguably the most famous episode was the final one of Season Three, in which the T.F.B. found an abandoned Scorpion tank on Salisbury Plain, and tried to take the reins of power by storming Parliament. But it was a summer recess and the M.P.'s were on holiday. After being in prison for a year, they came back for one final series, which concluded with Wolfie fleeing Tooting, having angered Lynch.
'Citizen Smith' had a good run, and is fondly remembered ( Lindsay was appearing on Broadway some years ago when someone in the crowd yelled "Freedom for Tooting!" ). He may have done other things since, but to me he'll always be 'Wolfie'. Sullivan's next series was the even more successful 'Only Fools & Horses'.
We are still waiting for Smith's vision of a socialist utopia to come true. Where are you when we need you, Wolfie?
Citizen Smith was my favourite 70s sitcom.
The first review on this gives an accurate picture of what it was about, and the people involved.
Wolfie is one of lifes eternal losers, with visions of socialist political power (to the people).
the most memorable scene I remember was when they launched a protest, and broke into the houses of parliament in order to vioce their disaproval, only to discover that all the MPs were on holiday.
There are many similarities between 'Smith' and 'Only Fools & Horses' - the writing in both was superb.
Perhaps the BBC & Robert Lindsay would consider a revival of this series, although I feel it is probably better left as it was - simply perfect!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Sullivan was working at the BBC as a scenery shifter when he came
up with this amusing series about a would-be Marxist who doesn't seem
to realise that the '60's are over. During a conversation with producer
Dennis Main Wilson, Sullivan told him of a script he had written as a
pilot for a sitcom entitled 'Citizen Smith'. Wilson snapped it up and
ordered that it be put into production straight away. The pilot,
broadcast as part of the 'Comedy Special' series on 12/04/77, was so
well-received that a full series followed just seven months later.
Robert Lindsay ( who up until this point was best-known for his role as Jakey Smith in ITV's 'Get Some In' ) played freedom fighter Wolfie Smith - leader of the Tooting Popular Front ( who really are not all that popular ). Members of the front include practising Buddhist Ken ( Mike Grady ), clinically depressed Tucker ( Tony Millan ) who according to Wolfie has had 'more kids than 'The Waltons'', violent nut-case Speed ( George Sweeney ) and his tarty girlfriend Desiree ( the gorgeous Anna Nygh ). Stephen Grief played local protection racketeer Harry Fenning but was replaced in the final series by David Garfield as Ronnie Lynch.
Wolfie's girlfriend was the lovely Shirley Johnson ( played by Lindsay's then wife, the gorgeous Cheryl Hall ) who still lived at home with her parents - the cantankerous Charles ( who was played by three different actors. Artro Morris in the pilot, Peter Vaughan in series 1 & 2 and Tony Steedman in series 3 & 4 ) and dim-witted Florence ( the much missed Hilda Braid ). Later, Wolfie and Ken ended up lodging with them.
The first two series boasted some very funny episodes such as 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?' ( Wolfie meets Shirley's parents for the first time ), 'The Hostage' ( Wolfie and the gang endeavour to kidnap an M.P but instead accidentally kidnap Fenning ) and 'Speed's Return' ( Speed is released from jail and is horrified to learn that his girlfriend may be pregnant ) but the final two series, plus the concluding special were rather below-par. Sullivan should have stopped when Hall decided to leave.
I personally would not go as far as to say that 'Citizen Smith' was a particularly brilliant show, but it was fun, at first anyway. One episode was titled 'Only Fools & Horses', which went on to become the title of Sullivan's next sitcom. Anyone ever heard of it?
Was the word Katanga ever used by Wolfie after "Power to the people" quote? I watched the series for all episode 1977 onward. The series brilliantly depicted the many small rebel groups of the era. Wolfies character was exceptional, Shirl his girlfriend was played to perfection and her father and mother were typical of the Old Ways are best Brigade of the time. Any change from the norm was viewed with suspicion and was considered against society and only harm could come from such thoughts and actions. Wolfie and his comrades were a magnificent creation depicting urban unrest in the UK with humour, pathos and with a certain amount of sincerity in the beliefs that society should be changed. Even Wolfies avid avoidance of work in any shape or form and his bumming for drinks and money was humorous and extremely funny. Need to know about Katanga to settle argument.
Writer John Sullivan was a genius, there is no doubt about that. He
gave the world so many laughs through 'Only Fools' and 'Just Good
Friends', as well as being able to make us cry too.
'Citizen Smith' was his first show, and although more patchy in terms of quality in comparison to the previously mentioned shows, contains lots of laugh out loud moments, with Robert Lindsay giving a fantastic performance as Wolfie Smith.
It is Lindsay's performance that carries the show, though credit must go to Hilda Braid and the recently deceased Peter Vaughn (much missed in the final two series) who make up the ensemble.
As with many comedies, it simply went on too long. Key actors were replaced and the plots begin to thin, especially after the 'glorious day' happened. But when it was good, 'Citizen Smith' was very good.
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