Monday, 3 July 2017
726 In Sickness and in Health
First viewed : 1 September 1985
Like many people my age, my first introduction to Alf Garnett was through Mike Yarwood's impersonations of the bigoted loudmouth. Never having seen Till Death Us Do Part , which finished in 1975, I was never quite sure whether he was a real person or not.
This resurrection of the series under a new title ( ignoring ITV's brief, unsuccessful re-boot in 1982 ) finally gave me a chance to see him in action. I can't say I found it enjoyable. Alf ( Warren Mitchell ) was now a pensioner dependent on state services and gradually realising that the party of Churchill that he'd consistently championed actually didn't give a stuff about the likes of him. To make his predicament more unhappy, his home help was the stuff of his worst nightmares, a gay black guy called Winston or "Marigold" ( Eamonn Walker ). There was a fair political point here but probably not a justification for six seasons of the programme.
The main thing that made it difficult to watch was the obvious deterioration in Dandy Nichols who returned as Alf's wife, Else. The wheelchair-bound actress could still perform and I can well understand someone wanting to die with their boots on but her presence gave the whole show a mordant air. Nichols died not long after the first season finished but as ratings had been good the series continued with neighbour Mrs Holingberry ( Carmel McSharry ) taking over as Alf's love interest.
Like the original series, the show had its critics who felt that Alf's prejudices should not be given air time despite the obvious intent to ridicule them.
I never made a point of watching it but would sometimes find it on until it finally finished in 1992. The death of writer Johnny Speight in 1998 put the final seal on its demise.