Saturday, October 4, 2008

Till death them do part

BBC/2 Entertain Video released the second series of In Sickness and In Health to DVD a little more than a week ago, and a copy of same made it to the doorstep of Rancho Yesteryear three days after its official release date (September 22, which means I got my copy on the 25th—they must have sent it by slingshot). This is the series (or season, as we say here on the other side of the pond) where Alf Garnett’s (Warren Mitchell) beloved wife Else (Dandy Nichols) passed on, forcing him to soldier on by himself…and prompting a change in both the opening credits and theme song:

Opening: Series 1

Opening: Series 2 and on

Alf isn’t completely alone: he still tosses back a few from time to time with drinking buddy Arthur (Arthur English of Are You Being Served? notoriety) and is still looked after by gay caregiver Winston (Eamonn Walker). (Though the relationship between “Marigold” and Alf was often a contentious one, by Series 2 it’s interesting to note that the two men frequently team up with another whenever they face off against a particularly obnoxious adversary; there’s an episode in this series where a shopkeeper tries to shake Alf down for money apparently owed to him by the dear departed Else.) Daughter Rita (Una Stubbs) also make several appearances in the six episodes that make up the second series (as a way of transitioning the Alf character into widower ship); it’s implied (though never shown) that she’s still married to that “randy scouse git” Michael, played in the original Till Death by Anthony Booth (who would later become known as former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s father-in-law). (Additional note of trivia: the Monkees’ Randy Scouse Git, written by Micky Dolenz in 1967, was partially inspired by the frequent epithet Alf hurled at his son-in-law on the series.)

Series Two also introduced actress Carmel McSharry as Alf’s landlady/upstairs neighbor Camille Hollingbery (though McSharry had appeared on the show in an episode in Series One her character wasn’t given a name); and though I’m not certain that “landlady” is an accurate description I went ahead and used it because so many other sources report it as so. Hollingbery is often concerned that there’s no door-with-locks separating her apartment from Alf’s—but this doesn’t matter much as Alf apparently introduces her to little Alfred in one episode after they both return home drunk from a night at the pub. But she does figure prominently in the final episode of Series Two, which reunites the Garnetts’ former next-door neighbor from Till Death, Min Reed (reprised by actress Patricia Hayes), with Alf in a hilarious outing in which Min and Camille compete for Alf’s attentions. Thrown into the mix is actress Irene Handl (known to British TV audiences as the titular character of the 1970s sitcom For the Love of the Ada) who plays Min’s senile sister Gwyneth; the sequence where the two sisters introduce themselves to Alf is both positively loopy and hysterical (Rita: “Why didn’t you tell her Mum was dead?” Alf: “I can’t get a word in edgewise!”). (The two sisters return for one more episode in Series Three; it was one of Handl’s last TV appearances before her death in 1987.) I also enjoyed seeing former Goodie Graeme Garden in the fifth episode; Garden plays a Labour Party candidate canvassing Alf’s neighborhood, which sets the scene for one of his show-stopping rants against the government.

Series Two’s first episode deals with Else’s passing, and while I was expecting a bit of sloppy sentiment, writer Johnny Speight deftly blends bittersweet elements with his trademark hard-as-nails satire (during Else’s “wake,” Rita and Winston are stunned to learn that the attitudes of the attendees—Mrs. Hollingbery is insistent that her mother not be buried near any “blackies”—aren’t too far removed from her bigoted father’s mind-set). Here’s a short clip of the episode…I’m just sorry I couldn’t track down the episode’s ending where Alf pats his wife’s wheelchair with great emotion, saying to himself: “Silly old moo…”


Sonia said...

Nice post!!! Hey guys have you ever watch Till Death tv show. Its really so nice & every episode of this show is amazing,,, I Download Til Death online with all episodes & now I saw its every episode!!!

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