One of the great TV comic creations Rigsby, the sexually frustrated penny pinching land lord of "Rising Damp" was played with incomparable brio by Leonard Rossiter. Rossiters triumph , and make no mistake that despite some fine supporting efforts this is Rossiters show, was to make a character who is by turns lecherous , bigoted, ignorant , meddlesome and at times openly racist so sympathetic . Stalking the dilapidated boarding house (remarkably all the drama took place within those four walls) in some un-named Northern University town, cradling his mangy moggy "Vienna", often bursting in unannounced into his tenants rooms Rigsby should have been a figure who elicited nausea in the audience but remarkably we shared his desire for him to consummate his desire for Miss Jones. Rossiters performance is a true triumph and just to show it was no flash in the pan he did it again with Reginald Perrin.
The pilot episode for Rising Damp aired in 1974 and led to it running over four series and 28 episodes until 1978. Scripted by Eric Chappell the inspiration for the series came from a play Chappell wrote in 1970 called "The Banana Box" which featured a seedy character called "Rooksby". The play toured with the main character being played by Wilfred Bramble before Rossiter took over where it was eventually noticed by executives from Yorkshire TV who commissioned the pilot.
A massive ratings hit "Rising Damp" was aided considerably by the ensemble cast. Frances De la Tour is a wonderful mixture of vulnerability and frustrated longing while Richard Bekinsale shone as the immature gauche medical student Alan and Don Warrington brought a touch of class as sagacious "son of a tribal chief " Philip who as well as being as recipient of Miss Jones frustrated longings constantly turned Rigsby,s ignorance and prejudice back on him always having the last laugh, something that the purveyors of the oft used jibe that this series itself was guilty of racism conveniently forget.
Though these four provided main characters for the series there were line up changes throughout the run with Gay Rose as Brenda temporarily replacing Frances De la Tour during the second season and Richard Bekinsale dropping out for the final season ( he died of a heart attack shortly after) The movie made in 1980 had Richard Strauli in the role of Alan and isn't up to the standard of the series , the half hour format suited it far better and the movie feels like one idea padded out way beyond endurance though it's still funnier than any sitcom of recent times.
Happily an episode from the first series "Stand Up And be Counted" missing from some DVD releases is included here as well. Everyone will have their own particular favourite episode .Mine is "Things That Go Bump In The Night" where Alan convinces Rigsby the house is haunted by "The Grey Lady" but the boxing match is tremendous as is the one where Philip kids Rigsby into thinking burning a special wood will win Miss Jones over with it's aphrodisiac properties. The third series does rely overly on drafting special guest stars but taken as a whole this a magnificent collection and without doubt the finest comedy series ever produced by ITV. If only there was a comedy with half its wit and characters in today's schedules. Even then though, there is no one around today who could match Rossiters performance. A true comedy classic and at this price an absolute bargain.