Entertainment & Arts

Simon Day's doubts over playing Alf Garnett

Simon Day as Alf Garnett
Image caption Simon Day said he took on the role of Alf Garnett because it was a 'brilliant script'

The Fast Show star Simon Day has admitted he had reservations about filling Warren Mitchell's shoes as bigot Alf Garnett in a new version of classic sitcom Till Death Us Do Part.

"I did have doubts, because in some ways, it has to be an impersonation - there's no way to do it differently," Day said.

He also said there were gasps from the studio audience at some of the lines.

The one-off is being screened as part of the BBC's Lost Sitcoms series.

Day said of the original series: "Obviously, it was an amazing performance from Warren Mitchell, the way he built and got more and more angry and kept that going. I couldn't do that. I tried to be a bit more pathetic.

"It was very simple. It's very of its time."

'Fantastic comedy'

Day said he decided to take the role because it was "such a brilliant script".

The new episode follows a script dating from January 1967. The recording of the original version has now been lost.

"I grew up watching these comedies," Day said, speaking after the premiere of the first episode at London's BFI. "People of my generation - we absolutely had the most fantastic TV comedy - Porridge, Dad's Army, The Likely Lads.

"There was so much brilliantly-written comedy that you don't really get any more. It's rare to see it.

"So to get that script, and have that cast, I thought - why not?"

Lizzie Roper, currently starring in Boy Meets Girl, plays Alf's long-suffering wife Else, while Sydney Rae White is Rita and Carl Au is her boyfriend Mike.

Image caption Day co-stars with (left-right) Lizzie Roper, Sydney Rae White and Carl Au

Day said when the half-hour episode was filmed in front of a studio audience in Glasgow, there were gasps at some of Garnett's lines - including one when he calls a stranger a "saucy bitch".

"People now think, 'Can you laugh at him shouting at girls? Not really'."

He also added that "a lot of people" had said: "Good luck with that" when they found out he was to take over the role of Garnett, known for his politically incorrect views.

The lost Till Death Us Do Part episode, titled A Woman's Place is in the Home, features Garnett ranting against his wife when he returns home to find no-one is in - and his dinner, in the oven, has burnt.

'Nostalgia'

Shane Allen, controller of comedy commissioning at the BBC said he realised there was an appetite for a series of revived sitcoms after the success of a one-off Open All Hours with David Jason.

"There is nostalgia there," he said.

Writer Johnny Speight was making a satirical point with Garnett's racist and sexist views, he suggested, adding: "He made comments about race and Britain of its time."

The Lost Sitcoms, also recreating Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son, will be shown on BBC Four later this year. The original recordings for the Hancock's Half Hour and Till Death Us Do Part episodes have been lost from BBC archives, while the only recording for the Steptoe and Son episode - A Winter's Tale - is of poor quality.

The episodes form part of a BBC season celebrating 60 years of the TV sitcom. Classics being revived for the occasion include Are You Being Served?, Porridge, Up Pompeii! and Keeping Up Appearances.

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