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21 August 2014
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Citizen Smith

Citizen 'Wolfie' Smith

John Sullivan was working as a scene shifter at the BBC when he pestered producer Dennis Main Wilson to have a look at a script he'd written as a reaction to what he saw as the shortcomings of contemporary sitcoms.

BBC Head of Comedy John Howard Davies has since said that it was the first script he'd ever seen that was ready to go into production straight away and a successful Comedy Special pilot led to four subsequent series.

Based on someone Sullivan had known, Wolfie Smith was a deluded anarchist: full of good intentions but beset by idleness.

Wolfie and girlfriend Shirley

Smith's half-baked revolutionary zeal was under constant threat from the imperious father of his long-suffering girlfriend: Shirl.

Dad was a proud, aspirational working man, dismissive and downright threatening to the layabout he thought not good enough for his daughter. Mum on the other hand, was dottily optimistic and rather fond of “Foxy”.

Wolfie founded The Tooting Popular Front (a small bunch of endearing but inadequate misfits including religious philosophiser Ken; downtrodden, greasy haired Tucker and the thuggish Speed).

They met in the pub owned by smooth local thug ('businessman') Harry Fenning, to whom Wolfie was publicly obsequious but privately scathing.

Citizen Smith

The opening titles featured Wolfie emerging from Tooting Tube Station with a rallying cry of "Power to the People", followed by a different resultant disaster in each episode (a car crashing, a baby being woken up etc).

Cast changes and vanishing characters suggest Citizen Smith ended at the right time, but it provided the foundations for subsequent Sullivan successes.

Cheryl Hall's assertion that he couldn't write for women made him challenge himself by penning Just Good Friends and one episode was called Only Fools And Horses, a title he reused a short time later.

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