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The Masters of Sitcom [Kindle Edition]

Christopher Stevens , Alan Simpson , Ray Galton
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson are two of the most influential and celebrated television scriptwriters of our time. Praised for inventing the sitcom, their own seminal creations are still standing the test of time with modern audiences - "Hancock's Half Hour" and "Steptoe and Son" are two of the most successful sitcoms ever made. This book is a charming tribute to their career in comedy, written in collaboration with Galton and Simpson themselves and with exclusive access to their personal archive of scripts.

Readers will discover the fascinating story of their progress from variety shows to television, and how they came to create characters and programmes that have captured the nation's heart for generations. Their insightful comments on their own writing, along with their first-class understanding of the television writers' craft, make this anthology unique, informative and incredibly entertaining.

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Product Description


Comedy without Galton and Simpson would be like literature without Dickens. (Harry Enfield)

An excellent guide to two of Britain's sitcom pioneers. A must-buy for fans of classic comedy. (Paul Merton)

Galton and Simpson are The Beatles of British comedy - they changed everything. (Frank Skinner)

In Christopher Stevens their achievements have found a perceptive and sympathetic chronicler (Sunday Express)

Breathtakingly funny (Matt Lucas and David Walliams)

Descriptive and informative narrative written by an obvious enthusiast of their work (Tony Hancock Archives Newsletter)

About the Author

Christopher Stevens is an author and a national newspaper journalist. His authorised biography of Kenneth Williams, Born Brilliant, was broadcast as Radio 4's Book Of The Week, as well as being shortlisted for the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography. Masters of Sitcom is a celebration and an anthology of Britain's greatest comedy writing duo, and draws on their complete archive of more than 600 scripts, including much material that was broadcast but not kept on tape. It is also based on many hours of interviews with Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, the creators of Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe And Son. ??He lives in Bristol with his wife, Nicola, and his teenage sons, James and David.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1272 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1843176335
  • Publisher: Michael O'Mara Books (23 Sept. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005OZ7USQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #241,139 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Journalist and author - I am the TV critic of the Daily Mail, with a column five days a week to review the previous night's television. I write regularly for the main features pages of the paper, as well as for the Mail's Weekend magazine.

WRITTEN IN STONE traces the Stone Age words that are the basis of English. It unravels the DNA of our language, to show how prehistoric syllables thousands of years old are the source of everything we say and write. You will never think the same way about our ordinary, everyday words.

I am also a passionate fan of classic British comedy. I am the official biographer of Carry On star Kenneth Williams, and of comedy geniuses Ray Galton & Alan Simpson. My proudest moments include interviewing Ray and Alan on stage at the National Theatre on London's South Bank, and compering I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue at the Old Vic theatre in Bristol, with Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Colin Sell.

My biography of the Carry On star Kenneth Williams, BORN BRILLIANT, was authorised by his estate, and I was lucky enough to be entrusted with all his diaries and his archive of letters, more than five million words of comedy history.

BORN BRILLIANT was serialised as a Radio 4 Book of the Week, and shortlisted for a Sherry, the Sheridan Morley Theatre Biography Prize.

Ray Galton and Alan Simpson helped to invent situation comedy - MASTERS OF SITCOM is a celebration of their careers, and includes many extracts from their lost shows. Perhaps the most exciting discovery was the script for the feature film that they wrote for Tony Hancock but which was never made, THE DAY OFF.

A REAL BOY is the story of how my family coped with bringing up our younger son, who is profoundly autistic. It was endorsed by the National Autistic Society, whose president, Jane Asher, called it "wonderfully honest". A GIRL CALLED BARNEY is a novel about a single dad who must come to terms with his little girl's autism.

My guide to mnemonics and traditional memory aids, THIRTY DAYS HAS SEPTEMBER, was the best-selling reference book on Kindle for many weeks.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I ordered this with some trepidation as I do not usually read biographies and it was described as such: however it is a little biography with a lot of original material that has disappeared from the public arena due to the past BBC policy of not necessarily retaining material once broadcast.

Great to see something which has the authority of the scriptwriters: and to see some gems from the past. There is historical detail, which is relevant and describes the approach to writing which I found fascinating. Basically it tells the story of Hancock's Half Hour, its transfer to TV, Steptoe and Son and work with the likes of Frankie Howerd and the start of Comedy Playhouse - I had not realised that Galton and Simpson started the whole thing off with all the wonderful series that have been spawned. It really shows how they laid the basis for much of the excellent sitcoms we have enjoyed through the 1970s and beyond. Christopher Stevens's hypothesis is that Galton and Simpson really were pioneers - and I would not argue with that. He tells the story well with plenty of evidence from actual scripts which I especially enjoyed.

A number of illustrations, some I have seen before but some are fresh.

Interestingly despite Christopher Stevens claim to include as much unseen material as possible I felt that a lot of it was well known material. If you are a fan then you probably have the Radio ham and Blood donor on LP as well as DVD and thus to see large chunks of material that is readily available was a bit of a shame as the author did have access to all the scripts. Personally I would have rather had more of what is only to be found in the basement files of Ray Galton.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By K. Petersen VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book traces the history of one of Britain's greatest comedy writing duos. Galton and Simpson were as much a part of the success of Tony Hancock as the lad 'imself. When Hancock cut the final thread, holding him to his fame, by dismissing the services of his writers, they went on to create Steptoe and Son, a series that took sitcom on another step.

Pre-G&S, comedy, this side of the Atlantic, consisted of comedians, men (and they almost exclusively were men) who had served their time on the boards doing mother-in-law jokes, telling a story packed with jokes. They wrote, initially for Tony Hancock, a different style of comedy: one without punchlines. Their humour was the humour of the ordinary man but, Hancock, although he agreed with this approach, was still that archetypal comedian.

Galton and Simpson's next foray into comedy, with Steptoe and Son, bore no comedian. Wilfred Bramble had played comic roles in the theatre but Harry H Corbett was an actor making a name for himself in serious theatre. They tell a lovely story about the making of the first episode when Harold is frustrated and they were amazed to see real tears in the actor's eyes.

This book is a real tribute: almost fifty per cent of the work is taken up with extracts from Galton and Simpson scripts. These are surrounded by quotes from the writers as to what they were trying to achieve and details of their lives. I have been a fan, through Tony Hancock, for many years and so, I knew most of the information contained in this opus but, there was enough new information to sustain my interest and it is great to have it all within a single set of covers. This book is an essential for anyone with even a passing interest in British comedy - and a darned good read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The glory days of sitcom 21 Sept. 2011
By Hilary French VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Ray Galton and Alan Simpson were well-known to me as comedy writers. They had not only helped create the brilliance of Tony Hancock, but also survived his self-destruction. And then went on to spawn a whole new sitcom genre, with actors, exploring the tragi-comedy of life. But I had no idea where their ideas came from and how they had developed.

This book gives a real insight into the sequence of events. From their very early days, with a new vision of comedy having a social conscience, making relevant social comment, not just playing for laughs, they developed the art of juxtaposing laughter with tears. The story is clearly chronicled here, with facts and scripts side by side, illustrating beautifully their development as writers.

The story of the development of sitcom is fascinating in itself. The actual scripts, some published nowhere else, are amazing. Yes, there are only a few photos, but those are well-chosen. It is not a celebrity line-up of sitcom, it is the honest story of how two men changed the face of sitcom forever, and has its illustration in the scripts. A brilliant book. For anyone interested in the glory days of sitcom, this is an absolute must.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Comfort Reading! 19 Jan. 2012
By Mr. J. C. Clubb VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
My first memories of the work of Alan Simpson and Ray Galton came in the form of a video rental my dad brought home to please my mum. I hadn't a clue who Tony Hancock was and couldn't understand the excitement. My mum and her cousins on the circus were huge fans of the Tony Hancock records and radio shows. They knew many of the scripts off by heart and would often fall into scenes at the drop of a hat. The only connection I made with the video was when Sid James popped up in "The Missing Page". Terrestrial TV in the 1980s ensured that its children grew up on the entire "Carry On" collection. However, even then, I noticed that there was something about Hancock that seemed better than the very broad and brash strokes of the seaside postcard humour that these later films exhibited. Later I was introduced to "Steptoe and Son" on TV and couldn't help but be drawn to its on-going comedy drama. Again, it seemed remarkable how it could pick such a depressing setting and even creepiness and yet make it so funny. Fast forward a few years and we had just moved into our cottage on the farm. It was the night of the terrible and under-anticipated hurricane. Mum had bought the first set of BBC released audio recordings of "Hancock's Half Hour" and we had a battery powered tape recorder to listen to them on. Since then the Hancock radio work especially has been a source of comfort to me. It has accompanied me on long car journeys, recovering in hospital (appropriately listening to "The Hospital Visit" episode for the first time) and it has got me through some tough emotional times too.

Therefore it was of little surprise that "The Masters of Sitcom: From Hancock to Steptoe" was a real joy to read. It's not an in depth analysis of the subject matter or even a "warts `n all" biography.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A trip down memory - and Oil Drum - lane
A fascinating insight into the work/career of two of the UK's greatest comedy writers. A must for any fan of Hancock and Steptoe. This is a book I'll read and read again.
Published 25 days ago by Corinda
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous
Brilliant, utterly brilliant. Great script extracts (some never published before), interwoven with the story of Ray and Alan. Marvellous.
Published 5 months ago by Mr. Toby Howard
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy celebration of comedy writing genius
On the face of it this must have been a relatively easy book for Christopher Stevens to produce as the content is almost exclusively reproducing scripts from the legendary writing... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Peter J. Chambers
5.0 out of 5 stars A blast from the Past - A Good read
A book full of wonderful examples of Galton & Simpson's genius. Bedtime reading right now and enjoying immensely. An absolute hoot!
Published 21 months ago by Simon Newman
5.0 out of 5 stars very good read
a good book packed with nostalgia,as the title suggests. it makes you realise that todays writers are nothing more than mediocre at best.
Published 22 months ago by Mr. G.L. Elelman
5.0 out of 5 stars if you like Galton and Simpson
A fantastic read if you want to reread some of the scripts produced by these two bur does little to explain their relationship and why they stopped working together
Published on 20 Aug. 2013 by cj4472
5.0 out of 5 stars G&S: the story of a fantastic collaboration
The world hasn't seen many truly phenomenal comedic writing partnerships. Clement and Le Frenais are certainly up there, but the undisputed gods must surely be Galton & Simpson. Read more
Published on 2 Jan. 2013 by Karafan
3.0 out of 5 stars Great subject ...dreadful author.. .
I will not write about the content as this as been done several times now and we all know how amazing the subject matter is.. Read more
Published on 31 Dec. 2012 by Neil Franklin
1.0 out of 5 stars Not good
I did not enjoy this book at all it says nothing to the listeners of
Hancock/Steptoe we know it word for word. Read more
Published on 24 Nov. 2012 by Tony
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment
I bought this book hoping to learn a lot more about the brains behind Hancock, and Steptoe and Son.
Instead, here we have a book which is ten percent biography and ninety... Read more
Published on 27 Aug. 2012 by Rotten Johnny
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