Andy Capp (ITV, 1988)
Here’s how I got interested in this 80s comedy show. Since 1957 the Andy Capp comic strip that was created by Reg Smythe has appeared regularly in the Daily Mirror. There was also a spin-off comic launched in 1960 called Buster, the self-styled “smashing paper” that ran for almost 40 years and featured the adventures of what was supposed to be Andy’s son (although neither have ever appeared in the other’s strips), and I was very fond of this comic in the early-90s.
Over 30 years on from the launch of the comic strip, in 1988 ITV decided to turn Andy Capp into a live-action sitcom which was written by Keith Waterhouse. Andy (James Bolam) is a rather lazy character who is always wearing a green flat cap, and when he is not asleep on the sofa, his life mostly consists of going down the bookies or the pub, or playing football, much to the irritation of his long-suffering wife Flo (Paula Tilbrook, who later went on to appear in ITV soap Emmerdale for 21 years).
There was much anticipation about this version due to popularity of the strip, and it even had a TV Times cover. Andy Capp was set somewhere in the north-east of England (even though it was a Thames production for ITV), and it was made entirely on location with no studio audience. It also had something of an old-fashioned feel to it, and it was difficult to tell whether it was supposed to be set in the present day or in the late-50s or early-60s.
Other characters included Andy’s mate Chalkie who he was often down the pub with, and just about every other character from the strip appeared in this version, and Andy was often seen with the Daily Mirror. There were also some unusual moments where the characters would break the fourth wall and talk directly to the viewers about how they were feeling, which was usually Flo planning to chuck Andy out again.
Despite all of this, Andy Capp wasn’t much of a success with viewers and it ended after only one low-key series, although all six editions have been released on DVD by Network. The strip still continues to this day though, and it is famous throughout the world. There have even been a couple of references in American sitcom Family Guy, and the name of the strip in Germany is apparently a source for much amusement.
It seems that Andy Capp was being given something of a multimedia push around the late-80s, because along with the sitcom, Andy appeared in a couple of TV adverts, and there was also a computer game released on various formats including the Commodore 64 where you were challenged to get Andy through the day and decided whether he should do things such as have a pint, or have a fight, it was very exciting.