The Comedy Vault – Rising Damp.

Rising Damp (ITV, 1974-1978)

This is widely regarded as one of the best sitcoms of the 70s, along with also being considered to be the best sitcom that there has ever been on ITV, although some might think that this is not that much of an achievement compared to what the BBC has had to offer over the years. Rising Damp started out as a stage play in the early-70s, before transferring to TV.

The writer was Eric Chappell, who went on to be behind other above-average ITV sitcoms including Only When I Laugh and Home To Roost. There were various characters, but they were all really overshadowed by Rigsby, who was the quick-talking and grumpy landlord of a boarding house. Rigsby seemed to have no problem with barging into his tenants’ rooms, having little regard for them, and he could argue with them about everything.

Rigsby was played by Leonard Rossiter, who seemingly wasn’t satisfied with having only one hugely successful comedy character on the go, because around the same time he was also in BBC1’s The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin, which was a rather different idea, but equally popular (it’s probably not a good idea to think about Tripper’s Day though, which barely had a smile in the whole series by comparison).

After the final series, Rising Damp then did something that plenty of other acclaimed sitcoms did. There was a film version that was considered to be vastly inferior. There were 28 episodes in four series, and they have all been released on DVD. What is noticeable as well is just how many repeat runs there have been in the years since. These include many on ITV, and then there were some on Channel 4 that did well, even if this wasn’t as slick as the American imports that were becoming the star attraction of the time.

And there were several runs on ITV3 in just about every slot going. Possibly the most unusual run though was in the mid-2000s when ITV1 were really struggling with their schedule. The CITV afternoon strand was reaching its end by this point, and was shortened. The decision was made to fill the gap with some repeats, which showed a real lack of ideas, that they were still falling back on this.

It also seemed to emphasise the idea that barely any other ITV sitcoms were worth taking out of the archive again. But eventually, they found a few successful game shows to fill the slot. And beyond this, there have also been runs on many other channels including London Live, although they practically apologise in advance for showing anything made before about 2004 now.


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