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.
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.
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.
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