TILL DEATH US DO PART was never going to be a series to placate the liberals. With its monstrous central character Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell) dominating the one-set sequences, aided and abetted by a wonderful trio of supporting players (Dandy Nichols, Una Stubbs, and Anthony Booth), the comedy bestrode the BBC's schedules like a Colossus, alternately infuriating and delighting audiences in turn.
Viewed afresh from a perspective of forty years later, we have to admire the sheer brilliance of Johnny Speight's writing. Not for him the anodyne jokes and bawdy exchanges characteristic of mainstream sitcom; his scripts included overt contemporary references to some of the controversial figures of the early Seventies - Enoch Powell, Harold Wilson, Lord Longford, Mary Whitehouse, Ted Heath and others. This was up-to-the-minute drama, allowing Alf to comment on what he perceived as the social and moral ills of a country only just emerging from the rigors of a three-day week.
Compared with the earlier series of the Sixties, the Seventies reboot of TILL DEATH was far more in-your-face, as if Speight had finally become more than frustrated with life in Britain at that time, and wanted to use Alf and Mike to voice his frustrations. The exchanges between the two of them were undoubtedly funny, but there was a malicious edge to them which made us realize just how contemporary TILL DEATH actually was.
Needless to say Alf was outwitted in the end of this episode, as he was forced to climb down off his moral hobby-horse and allow Mike to pay an outstanding television license debt to a BBC inspector (played by a young Gorden Kaye), but we still felt that the Monster of Wapping was a fundamentally frustrated personality.
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