There's some value in multi-channel television after all. UK Gold are showing the 1961 Hancock series (7pm weeknights). This was the first solo series he did and includes the famous episodes that most people remember him by like The Blood Donor and The Radio Ham. The first, shown yesterday, was the brilliant and groundbreaking episode with Hancock alone in his Earls Court bedsitter for the entire episode.
But it's funny how your memory plays tricks on you. I would have betted a lot of money that the Bertrand Russell book he was reading (he got stuck on page one for several hours) was A History of Western Philosophy. In fact it was Human Knowledge. I'd also forgotten some of the small touches like the fact that nestling amongst the Russell and Camus books on the table was what in those days passed for a pornographic magazine.
What I hadn't forgotten but still marvel at was Hancock's celebrated timing. One of his directors said that he couldn't mis-time a line even if he tried. I don't believe any actor, never mind comic, has ever had his genius for timing a line to the nanosecond.
Self-referential comedies about the medium itself are now ten a penny but last night's Hancock - The Bowmans - must be one of the earliest examples of the genre. Hancock is an actor in a radio soap based on The Archers. In fact it pretty much is The Archers. They even used the Archers signature tune. It's a surprisingly satirical piece for over 40 years ago. I've never been able to take The Archers seriously since.
The Radio Ham, showing tonight, shows a now forgotten technology that, pre-internet, enabled people to talk to others around the world, although it was confined to a handful of anoraks with tons of radio equipment in their spare room. At one point Hancock is extolling the wonders of this new communications technology and comes out with a line that must surely strike a chord with some internet users today: "I've got friends all over the world!........[pause]........none in this country, but all over the world."
I previously wrote about Hancock on Monday 3rd January 2005.
Disappointing Corrections: No 45 in an occasional series
From The Guardian, 2nd March: " In previewing last night's radio programme about the murderer David Atkinson.......we said that Atkinson picked up his victim in Ambridge. We meant to say Cambridge."
Wish it had been Ambridge and that he'd killed the whole bloody lot of them.