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28 October 2014

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Citizen James

Citizen James

In the late 50s Tony Hancock had decided to ring in the changes and Hancock's Half-Hour became, simply, Hancock. The newer, sleeker model cast off the programme's current stock of supporting players, with Sid James being the most famous casualty.

Nevertheless, the BBC weren't going to let the character actor, who'd come close to stealing the show from its eponymous star, slip through their fingers.

At the end of November, 1960, Citizen James took to our screens.

Written by Hancock scribes Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, this initial six-part run of episodes felt almost like a direct continuation of the previous show.

James played Sidney Balmoral James, the same fast-talking shyster viewers had grown to love over the last four years and was teamed up with fellow Hancock co-star Bill Kerr.

Sid James and Sydney Tafler in Citizen James

The series also featured Liz Fraser as Sid's commitment-hungry girlfriend and Sydney Tafler as his betting shop-owning chum.

The series proved a modest success and Citizen James found itself forming a part of that year's Christmas Night With the Stars line-up.

When the show returned in 1961, experienced comedy scribes Sid Green and Dick Hill were now providing the scripts. With their arrival came a change in tone.

Sid was no longer the fast-dealing scoundrel looking out for number one. Instead he developed a penchant for good causes, albeit proving to be something of a bungler in practice.

With these character changes, Kerr and Fraser were phased out and by the third series, the transformation was complete, with Sid now a fully fledged defender of the underdog, and people's hero.

Although never in the Hancock league, James' own show remained well-crafted fun, and a fine vehicle for the comic actor.


Sid James
Sidney Balmoral James
Bill Kerr
Liz Fraser
Sydney Tafler
Charlie Davenport


Ray Galton
Alan Simpson
Sid Green
Dick Hills
Philip Barker
Duncan Wood
Ronald Marsh

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