Till Death Us Do Part
Till Death gave us the world Alf Garnett and gave Britain a comedic way to understand the changes hitting it in the 1960s and 1970s. Seven series were produced from 1965-1975, and Alf Garnett became a legend.
Garnett was a character whom both writer Johnny Speight and actor Warren Mitchell loathed. Racist, hating everything around him, his tirades are funny because they cannot be taken seriously.
By allowing a hideous bigot to express his bigotry, Speight made fun of those who feared change.
Garnett hates communists, as embodied by his layabout son-in-law. He can't stand women getting above themselves, and continually shouts his daughter (Una Stubbs) down.
Most episodes give Garnett something he'll hate – Labour, a Scouser for a son-in-law, scroungers – and let him run with it in a series of continual arguments.
Catchphrases like 'it stands to reason' became commonplace as Garnett exploded onto the screen in 1965 like Enoch Powell's Golem.
Most people got it – that he was everything wrong with the nation in one man. A few diehard racists never got it, and thought he was just telling it like it was, much to Speight's despair.
A master satirist perhaps writing too well at times, Speight had a genius for making punches count – such as when he appropriated Mary Whitehouse, who had spoken out against the show, and made Garnett a big fan.
At the time, although shocking, Garnett was taken to the heart of the nation and even Royal approval, featuring on Royal Command Performances.
The series ended after seven seasons in the 1975 – when the mindset that Speight had railed against was changing – did Till Death Do Us Part, and Alf Garnett, began to lose their power.
Till Death is a hard watch now, not because it's dated, but because Speight's venom, produced deliberately to channel his own issues over his bigoted father, is hard to take – and you have to ask why.
Perhaps we're just more sensitive to the language of hate now – but more likely, the rants are just as relevant in a world that's as bigoted as before, but just better at glossing over it.
If Speight were still around, he'd make something of it all right; a true satirist, he was more interested in making the right people feel uncomfortable than providing easy laughs.
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