The first of BBC Four’s three recreations of lost sitcom episodes sees The Fast Show’s Simon Day take on Britain’s favourite bigot Alf Garnett in a performance of Till Death Us Do Part’s 1967 episode ‘A Woman’s Place Is In The Home’.
And it being a near word-for-word rendition of the original script is what lets it down.
For better or worse, the thing most remembered about Till Death Us Do Part is the outrageous views of Alf Garnett expressed with absolute vitriol that writer Johnny Speight used to hold a mirror up to society.
Something noticeably missing from this particular episode (taken from Season 2) which, when watching it with a modern eye, definitely makes it feel like a weaker script. The only difference when this recreation is compared to the surviving audio track from 1967 is that a few minutes have been shaved off to fit it into a 25 minute time slot but, when compared to other episodes, it’s a lot quieter and, for the most part, foregoes the kind of content that Till Death Us Do Part is known for.
Despite the fairly flat script, the cast do a credible job of recreating the episode, though Simon Day just doesn’t seem to have the venom of Warren Mitchell’s original performances – something that’s central to the character and, combined with the lacklustre script, its absence leaves the whole thing feeling a bit drab.
Elsewhere, Lizzie Roper’s performance as Alf’s long-suffering wife Elsie (originally played by Dandy Nichols) is uncanny, and Sydney Rae White does a good job of paying tribute to Una Stubbs’ Rita while adding an ever so slightly more confident edge to her than shown in the original episode.
This tribute to Till Death Us Do Part does an admirable job of bringing a lost piece of television to life but falls down on the debatable quality of the original material. Choosing a stronger episode of the 23 missing from the BBC’s archives probably would have improved things but, as an homage to a lost episode, the cast and direction do a perfectly serviceable job and help to bring us that little bit closer to getting back something that was lost.
Aired at 9pm on Thursday 1 September 2016 on BBC Four.