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Tony Hancock Show, The (1956-57)

Courtesy of Dr. Julian Hilton

Main image of Tony Hancock Show, The (1956-57)
Jack Hylton Productions / Rediffusion for ITV, 27/04/- 25/01/1957
12 x 30 min in 2 series, black & white
DirectorsKenneth Carter
 Eric Fawcett
ScriptEric Sykes
 Larry Stephens
Script (uncredited)Ray Galton
 Alan Simpson

Cast: Tony Hancock; Clive Dunn; John Vere; June Whitfield

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Sketch-based comedy series starring Tony Hancock.

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After achieving massive success with his BBC radio show, Tony Hancock's first television series was not for the BBC, but for Associated-Rediffusion's Jack Hylton Presents strand. Hancock seemed a little lost without his radio writers, Galton and Simpson, in what was a rather variable series, but with the help of scriptwriter Eric Sykes, he managed to get into his stride, aided by the excellent June Whitfield (Hattie Jacques in one episode), and other regulars Clive Dunn and John Vere. Hancock's visual and verbal ability to be himself, everyman, while partly in character, helped offset some weaker material, and the auction sketch in episode 6, with its spontaneous Mr Punch routine, is close to his best.

We are constantly reminded that this is live TV: apart from inevitable fluffs, and some mistimed interventions, there are deliberate and knowing collusions with the viewing audience: rivals BBC get fun poked at them, the Associated-Rediffusion camera and cameraman are involved in vision in one sketch, and the commercial break is directly referred to.

There are 'safe' older jokes (Arthur Askey was a veteran even in 1956) and allusions to older variety staples, but these are balanced with more topical items. There are even some quite risqué asides - notably Hancock auctioning off dancing girls for himself, and a Lady Chatterley reference. As ever with Hancock, pretensions and pomposity are pricked - modern art, for instance, and a dig at Jack Hylton's expense(s). The series generally follows a sketch format, although this wasn't his strength, with a comic dance routine (and a Whitfield song to cover Hancock's costume change) and some gems amid Hancock's unease.

David Sharp

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Video Clips
Complete episode (27:07)
Before Your Very Eyes (1956-58)
Friday Night with the Crazy Gang (1956)
Emery, Dick (1917-83)
Galton, Ray (1930-) and Simpson, Alan (1929-)
Hancock, Tony (1924-1968)
Hylton, Jack (1892-1965)
Sykes, Eric (1923-2012)
Whitfield, June (1925-)
TV Variety