Television: It Was 25 Years Ago Today 'Rising Damp', a landmark of TV comedy
Sunday 29 August 1999
Rising Damp was set in a rundown boarding house, lorded over by Leonard Rossiter as the lecherous, cantankerous, cat-kicking Rigsby. His lodgers were Frances de la Tour as Miss Jones, the victim of Rigsby's slavering advances; Don Warrington as Phillip, the son of an African chief, and the victim of Miss Jones's slavering advances; and Richard Beckinsale as Alan, a long-haired student. To complete the claustrophobic circle, Alan was also sex-starved. The show had been developed from Eric Chappell's stage play The Banana Box, which had starred the same cast apart from Beckinsale. Before the pilot was even aired, a series had been commissioned by ITV.
The critics were certain that this commitment was justified: "One of the best comedy shows to come off the commercial screen for some time," said the Express. The proposed series was "very welcome if it keeps up to the same standards of hard work and quiet inventiveness" (Guardian).
Although judgements on Chappell's writing varied - "wavered between sharp wit and bedsitter farce" (Telegraph); "uneven" with "a lot of mediocre padding" (Observer); "precious stuff" (Mirror) - there was no doubt as to his comic legacy. Rigsby was "established at once as a memorable personality ... His voice had the oiliness of Uriah Heep and his lop-sided leer suggested a life spent peering through keyholes" (Telegraph); the "mucus landlord" would have "felt at home in a Jacobean comedy" (Sunday Telegraph). Rossiter gave a "bravura performance'" (Times); de la Tour was praised for her "dexterous gaucheness" (Guardian).
Four series of Rising Damp were produced between 1975 and 1978, though Beckinsale left after three and Rossiter alternated between Rigsby and his other alter ego, Reginald Perrin. Ronnie Baxter, who directed many of the episodes, compares his job to "sitting in a Rolls-Royce": "When you get a good team like that and it clicks in the way that it did, it's a joy. The writing was beautiful. Eric Chappell deserves all the praise, because it all starts with the writer".
Leonard Rossiter died in 1984, five years after Richard Beckinsale. Baxter says it's "anybody's guess" whether the show might have otherwise returned: "With the quality of sitcoms today, it would be nice to see it on screen again. It was unique".
interviewHer estate has become the nation's glossiest food empire
theatreTheatre's hitmaker Daniel Evans on 'Oliver' and bringing 'The Full Monty' to the stage
interviewThe producer and activist, Trudie Styler, whose film 'Filth' is up for five film awards, is tapping into the industry's neglected female talent
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
travelFor broadcaster Mishal Husain, a long-haul Club Med holiday was a chance for her family to explore its sense of 'zen' and 'animation'
Arts & Ents blogs
The 50 Best Christmas songs: Bells continue to ring for the Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York'
Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke and Lady Gaga attacked by Noel Gallagher in 2013 music rant
Back in Black (Sabbath): On the comeback trail with Ozzy Osbourne and crew
Back from the dead? Family Guy's Brian Griffin 'to make a comeback' after fan petition
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 Why Barcelona chose Everton to educate their latest prodigy
- 4 Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis
- 5 Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- < Previous
- Next >