When Ray Galton and Alan Simpson created Hancock's Half Hour--their first big hit before Steptoe and Son
--they needed a supporting cast, and their choices were inspired. Sid James became the quintessential shifty crook, Bill Kerr played Tony Hancock's best friend while Moira Lister became his girlfriend, and as Kenneth Williams intoned a variety of authority-voices--police, magistrates, etc.--another comic star was born. Out of the 16 original programmes from the period under review, the BBC managed to lose six--culpable carelessness--but among the extant 10 there are outright gems, some of which will be unfamiliar even to fans, and many of which would today be banned as hopelessly un-PC. Viz Hancock's cheery greeting: "Morning Charlie. Working? Oh, of course you don't need to, with 28 children!" Or his observation--of some sluggish British workmen building a house--that he's glad they've been provided with shovels complete with arm-rests. Asked for his own address, he replies "I've just moved. They pulled down my house to build a slum". Relayed cold, such comments may not even raise a smile: Hancock's magic was all in the telling, and in the momentum he built up, as in his Monte Carlo rally programme, in which signposts were turned round and bridges blown up. One of the nicest sketches evolves out of him being left to do the housework like Cinderella, while everyone else troops off to the ball. When he died, a victim of depression, in Australia in 1968, Britain lost something irreplaceable: this five-CD set, with its accompanying booklet, makes a splendid memento. The next batch of releases is eagerly awaited. --Betty Tadman
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.