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19 April 2014
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Comedy Playhouse

Rushton and Cleese as Watson and Holmes

Comedy Playhouse was a long running, eclectic season of what were, effectively, comedy pilots.

The fact that Comedy Playhouse launched Steptoe and Son, Till Death Us Do Part, Are You Being Served, The Liver Birds and Last Of The Summer Wine is an indication of what a contribution it made to British television comedy.

Are you Being Served? Pilot episode

The first two series were intended as a vehicle for Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, freeing them from the rigidity of the single sitcom and allowing them to explore different scenarios and ideas.

As early as episode four (entitled The Offer), a tale about two bickering rag and bone men starring Harry H Corbett and Wilfrid Brambell, they spawned a success.

Although many of these (and subsequent) episodes are now lost (a BBC euphemism for being chucked away), two of them: Lunch In The Park and Impasse, were remade for Paul Merton in Galton and Simpson's…

The Comedy Playhouse banner lasted for thirteen years and has been oft imitated to varying degrees of success, but this original effort, once Galton and Simpson departed, boasted writers of extremely high calibre including Marty Feldman, Richard Waring, David Croft and Johnny Speight.

Frankie Howerd in Comedy Playhouse

The one-off nature of the productions also attracted big names to star including Terry Thomas, Stanley Baxter, Peter Jones and June Whitfield.

Comedy Playhouse spawned a grand total of 27 series, although some, such as Till Death Us Do Part, had changes made to them between pilot and series stage (Alf Garnett was originally called Alf Ramsey and Gretchen Franklin was replaced by Dandy Nicholls).

Comedy Playhouse will rightfully be remembered as an experimental series that utilised the talents of some of the best in the business to road-test a variety of comedic ideas and characters: the fruits of which are apparent in its illustrious legacy.

Cast

Ronnie Barker
Various roles
June Whitfield
Various roles
John Le Mesurier
Various roles
John Cleese
Various roles
Warren Mitchell
Various roles
Bernard Cribbins
Various roles
Frank Thornton
Various roles
Ronald Fraser
Various roles
Graham Stark
Various roles
Peter Jones
Various roles
Derek Francis
Various roles
Alfred Marks
Various roles
Betty Marsden
Various roles
Richard Caldicot
Various roles
James Beck
Various roles
Yootha Joyce
Various roles
Derek Nimmo
Various roles
Freddie Frinton
Various roles
Robert Dorning
Various roles
Dick Emery
Various roles
Frankie Howerd
Various roles
George Cole
Various roles
Barbara Windsor
Various roles
Willie Rushton
Various roles

Crew

Barry Took
writer
Alan Simpson
writer
Ray Galton
writer
Marty Feldman
writer
Ronald Chesney
writer
Ronald Wolfe
writer
Johnny Speight
writer
Richard Waring
writer
David Climie
writer
Peter Jones
writer
Eric Davidson
writer
Neil Munro
writer
James Gilbert
director
Harold Snoad
director
Graeme Muir
producer
Dennis Main-Wilson
producer
Duncan Wood
producer
James Gilbert
producer
Barry Lupino
producer
Michael Mills
producer
Robin Nash
producer
Douglas Argent
producer
Leon Thau
producer
Graeme Muir
executive producer

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