Back in the day, many BBC recordings were “wiped”, the tapes having to be re-used. The lost shows included several sitcoms that are now the stuff of legend. But the scripts had all survived. So someone at the Beeb figured that it might be a good idea to remake examples of the classic shows with new actors. This has been a good advert for the under-fire Corporation. It has also provided its critics with an opportunity to kick it.
At first, even the Mail was upbeat: “Timewarp TV! Alf and co are back: First glimpse of new stars as classic shows Till Death Us Do Part, Steptoe & Son and Hancock's Half Hour are recreated for BBC specials … Original episodes of the shows which were lost from the archives have been revived by the corporation with painstaking attention to detail … The series of revivals will be aired in September to mark 60 years since Hancock’s Half Hour first appeared on BBC TV”. Hancock had made the move from radio.
The Evening Standard added “Also returning is Porridge, with a special from original creators Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, with Kevin Bishop playing the grandson of Ronnie Barker’s character Fletch … Other classic sitcoms set for special episodes include Goodnight Sweetheart, Are You Being Served?, and a Keeping Up Appearances prequel titled Young Hyacinth”. Even the Sun reported the news straight - at first.
But the temptation for the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker to invent a story was too much, and so today we read “BBC vetoed ‘Allo ‘Allo remake fearing Nazi characters would offend viewers who won’t see ‘funny side’ of incompetent Gestapo officer Herr Flick … Beeb execs 'terrified' they would be inundated with complaints if the actors were cracking jokes while wearing SS uniforms”. And to that I call bullshit.
One look at the Sun’s supporting article tells you all you need to know. “A source last night blamed political correctness, saying: ‘It’s so sad because it was really funny … Repeats are even shown on the BBC now without any fuss’”. That assumes there was some kind of political correctness problem - so the Sun’s reasoning goes in a circle.
It gets worse. The idea that there has been a ban on the grounds of political correctness does not explain how the BBC is remaking - from the original scripts - episodes of Steptoe And Son and especially Till Death Us Do Part. Both attracted complaints over what was, at the time, considered strong language, and the latter show brought the full force of Mary Whitehouse and her Viewers And Listeners Association down on the Corporation.
Till Death Us Do Part was infamous for racist bigotry, anti-Semitism, sexism, ageism and much more (those stereotypes were then picked apart and debunked - that was the whole point of the show). No, what really happened was that the BBC had so much material that not all candidates for a one-off revival got on to the short list. It had nothing to do with causing offence (otherwise Are You Being Served? would not have been revived).
The lengths to which the Murdoch doggies will go in order to invent smear stories about the BBC know no bounds. Sad that so many people have no other gainful employment.