Thursday, July 16, 2009

“Has he been?”

I don’t know whether this will turn up on many weblogs, but since Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has always been interested in comedy and sitcoms from the other side of the pond, it is with deep sadness that I must report the passing of British comedy writer Vince Powell, who’s left us at the age of 80.

Powell—like the equally proficient David Croft (Are You Being Served?, Dad’s Army, ‘Allo ‘Allo, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Hi-De-Hi!)—was one of the hardest working scribes in the television business in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. With his frequent collaborator, Harry Driver, Powell either created or wrote for such memorable Britcoms as George and the Dragon, Nearest and Dearest, Two in Clover, Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width, For the Love of Ada, Bless This House and Love Thy Neighbour. After Driver’s death in 1973, Powell continued his streak of writing hits with shows like Spring and Autumn, Mind Your Language, A Sharp Intake of Breath, Young at Heart and Never the Twain.

Adaptations of Nearest and Dearest (which I wrote about previously here), For the Love of Ada and Love Thy Neighbour were all brought to these shores in the 1970s during a time when the U.S. networks were enjoying the success of sitcoms like All in the Family (based on the Britcom Till Death Us Do Part) and Sanford and Son (Steptoe and Son). Nearest, a funny vehicle starring Hylda Baker and Jimmy Jewell as a feuding pair of siblings whose dying father left them a pickle factory was transformed into Thicker Than Water, with Julie Harris and Richard Long in the Baker and Jewell roles. Ada—starring Wilfred Pickles and Irene Handl as an elderly couple in love—became a vehicle for the Emmy-winning Shirley Booth (with J. Pat O’Malley as her co-star) in A Touch of Grace, and Neighbour—a controversial comedy in which an upwardly mobile black couple moves next door to an unrepentant bigot and his wife—lost its British “u” in “Neighbor” and starred Harrison Page, Ron Masak, Janet MacLachlan and Joyce Bulifant. (I’ve not had the opportunity to see the original Neighbour but from what I have been told it was far more daring than its American cousin, which was watered down considerably.)

R.I.P, Mr. Powell. You will be missed.

1 comment:

Doc Quatermass said...

At first I thought that the idiot Ben Stein. Oy vey!