Ray Galton and Alan Simpson have chosen another selection
of favourite episodes from the classic radio series, and written
an introductory sleeve note to explain just why they love
each one so much. Episodes include The Conjurer, Cyrano
de Hancock, The Diary and The Impersonator...
always smile when I see a "best of" compilation
that proudly displays the words "volume 2". This
usually means that the collection is not as good as "volume
1", as all the best episodes have already been used.
However, in the case of Hancock's Half Hour, there
are very few poor episodes and the best and worst of the episodes
are all down to personal taste anyway. These episodes have
been chosen by the show's original writers Ray Galton and
Alan Simpson, so at least you get a selection of episodes
that the writers feel are amongst the best.
Conjurer is the earliest recording in this collection
and was originally broadcast on 19 February 1956. Back then
the Hancock/James relationship was simple. Sid was an out
and out crook and Hancock was an out and out mug. In this
episode Hancock decides to become a magician in order to keep
the wolf from the door. His first gig sees him being hired
by Sid to give a performance at Dartmoor Prison. Little does
Hancock suspect that he is part of an escape plan.
are some fantastic moments in this show, including Kenneth
Williams as the man who heckles Hancock's act; and Hancock
laughing at the news that there have been several prison breakouts
that have used the magician's act to do a runner.
de Hancock was first broadcast on 02 December 1956 and
sees James acting suspiciously odd. It transpires that he
is in love with miss Pugh, Hancock's secretary. Pugh isn't
aware that James is infatuated with her and when Hancock tries
to act as matchmaker he inadvertently asks her to marry him.
Pugh says yes and Hancock has to talk his way out of the impending
wedding, as well as convince James that he is not trying to
steal his woman.
highlights in this episode include Hancock making James go
through a ceremony that basically makes him give his word
he won't steal from Hancock while in his house; Sid's lovesick
explanations about how he has fallen for the woman of his
dreams; and Hancock's list of excuses as to why he can't marry
Diary was originally broadcast on 30 December 1965 and
sees Hancock revealing that he has been keeping a diary. Sadly,
the contents are not exciting as Hancock would have everyone
believe. The rest of the episode is divided into three mini
tales as Hancock daydreams about how his life could have turned
out if only he'd followed another path.
He imagines what it would have been like if he'd become a
surgeon, lion tamer and test pilot.
personally I wouldn't put this in my top list of Hancock
episodes, it's interesting in as much as it strays from the
normal formula. Highlights include hearing how Bill Kerr received
his war wound; Hancock performing an operation in record time;
and Williams, as an airfield mechanic, accidentally tagging
along with Hancock during the test flight of a new plane.
Impersonator was first aired on 29 December 1959 and was
based on the true story of thespian Alistair Sim who attempted
to sue a company for employing a voice actor to mimic his
voice for a TV commercial. The build up to this episode is
painfully slow. There is a huge section that establishes Hancock
as a serious theatre actor which is redundant as the advertisement
that parodies Hancock relies on the fact that people know
Hancock from Hancock's Half Hour. However, the theatre
heckling is amusing.
episode is by far the least entertaining. It's just one long
joke - that's not even that funny in the first place. It's
a little like a shaggy dog story where you already know the
should have checked the sleeve notes a little more thoroughly
for this release as, depending on which page you read, The
Diary was either first broadcast on the 10 or 30 December
be honest though, all four episodes are entertaining in their
own right, and are as funny today as they were when they were
originally broadcast over 40 years ago. Go on, treat yourself
to a slice of classic comedy.
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