As most everyone knows, I’m not a fan of American re-makes of British comedy or drama. The success rate ratio looks more like the odds for a horse that one would not bet on at the Kentucky Derby…i.e. in the neighborhood of say, 50-1. There are a few, however, that were wildly successful such as Till Death Us Do Part (All in the Family), Steptoe and Son (Sanford and Son), Man About the House (Three’s Company) and The Office (The Office). Actually, come to think about it, that might be all of them.
Well this week, our Tellyspotting #TBT focuses on Till Death Us Do Part, which became the 70’s ground-breaking American situation comedy series, All in the Family. Topping the Nielsen ratings for five years from 1971-1976, the series touched on virtually every subject that was considered both untouchable and unsuitable at the time for American television.
It’s British forerunner, Till Death Us Do Part, which centered around the East End lives of Alf Garnett and family was a original carbon copy of it’s American cousin. Garnett, much like Archie Bunker, was a white working-class man who held racist and anti-socialist views. His long-suffering wife, Else, daughter Rita and son-in-law, Mike, did their best to point out how wrong these old guard views were and represent the views of a new generation of thinking. As with All in the Family in the States, the UK series was a huge hit from an audience perspective as it was as much of a commentary on British life as it was a comedy. It addressed racial and political issues at a difficult time in British society, issues that were not only changing but not openly talked about.
To bring this to a full #TBT circle, the interesting thing I did not know about this series was that Alf’s daughter, Rita, was played by Una Stubbs, a.k.a. Mrs. Hudson on Sherlock! Ok, now, I have your attention. Rita, the British Gloria Stivic, represented a new generation. Together with her ‘meat head’ husband, Mike, they supported all aspects of the new era such as relaxed sexual mores, fashions and music. To Alf, they represented everything that was wrong with the younger generation and the liberal attitudes they embraced.
Like All in the Family, Till Death Us Do Part used its fair share of language or catchphrases that were considered unacceptable for television in the 1960s. It was one of the earliest mainstream programs to feature the British swear word ‘bloody’. The show was also one of many held up by Mary Whitehouse, the English social activist known for her strong opposition to social liberalism and the mainstream British media, as a prime example of the BBC’s moral laxity.
So, sit back and enjoy a little #TBT from Tellyspotting featuring Una Stubbs, a.k.a. Mrs. Hudson.