Original airdate: December 24th, no rx 1973
Running time: 43 minutes
Director: Graeme Muir
Writers: Ray Galton, Alan Simpson
Cast:Wilfrid Brambell, Harry H. Corbett, Frank Thornton
Although the show began way before my time, I became an avid fan of this British comedy classic, Steptoe And Son, albeit with some reluctance. My first memories of this decrepit old man with a selfish streak and his desperate-to-get-away son weren’t exactly pleasant. As I sat with my dad to watch an evening of comedy shows I was looking forward to something along the lines of Only Fool and Horses or Open All Hours. What I got was Steptoe And Son
Their relationship seemed like an antagonistic one. Albert (Wilfrid Brambell), the father, was uncultured and had a way of coming across to others that seemed rude, unsociable and at times, downright dirty. Harold (Harry H. Corbett), in contrast was intent on improving himself, being around others and eventually getting away from his father. He always failed, mostly because of Albert’s sabotage, which I soon learned was just his way of keeping his son around and not having to spend the rest of his days all alone.
They were a rag and bone team, and where they lived kind of frightened me. It reminded me so much of a second hand shop in Stoke Newington my parents once took me to in the 1980’s. They sold old fridges, cookers, heaters and washing machines along with bric-a-brac items, but the place smelt of old cheese and mildew. It made me feel queasy, and so to did Albert and Harold’s home. Yet the comedy of the situations they repeatedly found themselves in proved to be too hard to resist and soon I was looking forward to the weekly re-runs as much as my dad was.
An equally memorable episode was this 1973 Christmas themed one where Harold hopes to do something different for the holidays, for a change. That’s right. Uh-oh – big mistake. He books himself a 10 day trip to Majorca, much to the horror of a posh couple in the travel agency who find out he’ll be staying in the room next to theirs. The clerk is played by none other than Frank Thornton from Are You Being Served? who played Captain Peacock, his reaction to Harold when he first walks in is priceless; mistaking him for the dustbin collector.
Meanwhile, back at home, Albert is making Christmas decorations…to hang around the W.C. As he’s getting ready to do the tree, he starts to remember Christmases past; 1932, Harold’s first Christmas when he was six months old. He then remembers the Christmas of 1936, the year his wife died “Very sudden that was, two days before Christmas and I’d bought her a Christmas present already so that was a waste of money wasn’t it!”
When Harold gets home, Albert’s so excited to show him the decorations and hopes he’ll blow up the balloons because his lungs aren’t what they used to be. He’s got biscuits, fruit and a big box of dates and even crackers. He’s talking so much that Harold can barely get a word in with what he wants to say. Oh, it’s not going to be good. Not going to be good at all.
“I couldn’t bear Christmas on me own, not at my age”. Poor Albert, he’s got no idea that’s exactly what he’ll be doing if Harold gets his way, but we know better than that. If Albert has anything to do with, Harold will certainly not get his way. More often than not it’s the father who usually wins over his son, either through manipulation, luck or ingenuity. Whatever Harold comes up with, Albert pre-empts it.
There are some really priceless moments in this episode including Harold mocking Albert’s genuine distress when he tells him the news, but for all the troubles they put each other through, they do end up with the Christmas they both deserve, making it one of my favourite episodes of this classic show. It’s sad we don’t get many re-runs like this anymore, but that’s one of the great things about Youtube – you can find anything there and at anytime. So while I enjoy these nostalgic moments and remember Christmases past with my dad, spare a thought over the holidays for folks like Albert and Harold who can’t with or without each other.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .