Citizen Smith (BBC1, 1977-1980)
This is another sitcom that was one of the most successful of the late-70s. Citizen Smith is notable not only for giving the career of Robert Lindsay a boost, but this was also the first sitcom that was written by John Sullivan. He had been working behind the scenes at the BBC for a while, decided to submit a comedy script himself, and it’s lucky that they took the chance on this untried writer.
Lindsay played Wolfie Smith, who was the self-appointed leader of the Tooting Popular Front. He was fairly sure that he was going to change the world, but he is going to go to his local pub The Vigilante for a pint or two first. He had started to become delirious because he had managed to get three people to join his cause, and he knew that this was only the beginning.
They were his mates Ken, Tucker, and Speed, although they weren’t hugely enthusiastic. He remained ambitious though, who knows, soon he could have as many as four or five members! The other main characters included his girlfriend Shirley (Cheryl Hall, who was married to Lindsay at the time, had recently appeared in ITV sitcom Lucky Feller, and went to the same school as my mum).
There were also her parents, who were never impressed by Wolfie and his attitude (and her mum always called him “Foxy” for some reason). A few series on, were all sides of the political spectrum almost certain that the state was about to be overthrown? Well no, not really. As much as he would say “paaah to the people!” (catchphrase, etc.), nobody was that impressed.
There were four series and two Christmas specials of Citizen Smith, and they have all been released on DVD. And I do remember watching this because, curiously, this was another of the sitcoms that had a repeat run on BBC1 in the early-90s. While they tried to make some new comedies, they had to fill the gap with some that were over a decade old by this point.
I can’t recall there being a repeat run in more recent years though, on UK Repeats, or any of those type of channels. What is significant though is that the next sitcom by Sullivan would be Only Fools And Horses, which of course is one of the most successful that there has been in this country, but it probably wouldn’t have happened without this one doing well with viewers.