Alan Simpson is dead

by Harry on February 8, 2017

My dad lost a lot of blood a couple of years ago. Enough to have us all quite worried. I knew he was getting better when I asked him how much he’d lost and he said “very nearly a legful”.

Listen to the lead up to the punchline. Listen to every word. Of course, ‘very nearly’ is perfect — better than ‘nearly’ or ‘almost’ or… any other word. But every word Hancock says is perfect — chosen to emphasize all the features of the real Hancock’s personality that make the fictional Hancock so grotesque, pitiable, but loveable. For some reason, Pinter won a Nobel prize for literature, but Galton and Simpson didn’t. And now they won’t.

Alan Simpson obit here. (My dad’s fine — he got refilled thanks, presumably, to someone who had ‘a body full of good British blood’ [1] and was ‘raring to go’).

[1] Just in case anyone misinterprets this, I’m quoting Hancock (who is speaking Galton and Simpson’s words). I don’t for a minute mean to suggest that British blood is any better than any other kind of blood or even, in fact, in the circumstances that my dad got British, rather than some other nationality, of blood, and, just to be clear, he wouldn’t care where the blood came from, just as long as it didn’t come to him over someone equally or more deserving, being a pretty extreme anti-nationalist — indeed I suspect he might prefer non-British blood (as long, again, as no-one else needed as much or more than he did). Mark you, if I ever lose very nearly a legful, there’s not much chance of me being refilled with good British blood since, apparently, however good it is, it can’t be good enough for the American Red Cross. Hancock, of course, is suggesting that British blood is better than other nationalities of blood, and, equally obviously, Galton and Simpson, by getting Hancock to suggest it, are agreeing with me and my dad. Or, perhaps more precisely, they are influencing me and my dad and so many others to have the (correct) view that we have about the relative value of different nationalities of blood.



Placeholder 02.08.17 at 7:51 pm

“I don’t for a minute mean to suggest that British blood is any better than any other kind of blood”

I did not come here for a lecture on Communism, young lady!

Haha, seriously though. I too remember a different, simpler, time when it was credible that a young nurse would support the Conservative party.


Alan White 02.09.17 at 2:58 am

Am I right in thinking his Steptoe and Son was the inspiration for the US comedy Sanford and Son? Though to be honest I preferred the British comedy (I only saw the 70s episodes).


dr ngo 02.09.17 at 4:36 am

Yes, Sanford and Son was directly taken from Steptoe and Son (and so credited, I believe) at about the same time that All in the Family was taken from ‘Til Death Do Us Part, and a few other trans-Atlantic adaptations (Three’s Company?). The British versions were nearly always darker, without the undertone in American sitcoms of the time (and now?) that by the episode the whole viewing/family audience ought to be smiling and feeling better about themselves and the world in general.

(I was fortunate enough to be living in England when the British originals came out, but back in the USA when the American adaptations arrived.)


dr ngo 02.09.17 at 4:36 am

Should have been “by the end of the episode.” Sorry.


Peter Glavodevedhzhe 02.09.17 at 7:17 pm

What is the name of the nurse taking down his information? I see her in re-run after re-run, never known the name.


oldster 02.10.17 at 12:23 am

@5–I believe that is June Whitfield.


harry b 02.10.17 at 12:58 am

Oh I am SO tempted not to tell you….

Its the great June Whitfield, the link between the first ever British sitcom (Take it From Here) and AbFab. Via The Rag Trade, Benny Hill, Dick Emery, The Goodies, Last of the Summer Wine, even Romance with a Double Bass. And Terry and June.

If only she’d been in The Office. Or detectorists.


J-D 02.10.17 at 3:45 am

Three’s Company?

The British original was Man About The House; it produced two spin-offs, George And Mildred and Robin’s Nest, which inspired (respectively) The Ropers and Three’s A Crowd, spin-offs fromThree’s Company.


harry b 02.10.17 at 1:53 pm

Galton and Simpson formed a kind of collective with Spike, Erik Sykes, Frankie Howerd, and, in time, others (Johnny Speight joined later and Terry Nation, who was originally a comedy writer, passed through), called Associated London Scripts. They hired Beryl Vertue as a secretary, who had gone to school with Simpson. I think Vertue was the dynamo who brokered the many transatlantic franchising deals. One story is that she, Galton, and Simpson, went to the US with the idea of selling Steptoe, but insisted that it could only work in the States if the main characters were black, and even identified a comedian called Redd Foxx as the Harold Steptoe character. All the networks were wanted the show, but none would run it with a non-white cast, and Redd Foxx was considered too blue (as it were): so Galton and Simpson walked away. But Vertue soon managed to sell Til Death Us Do Part (by Speight) to CBS (All in the Family).

A couple of years later, when management had completely overturned at all the networks, NBC approached Vertue, completely ignorant of the original round of discussions, asking if they could franchise Steptoe, and proposing that the cast be mainly black, and said they had found this fantastic guy, Redd Foxx, who’d be perfect for the Harold Steptoe character.

Beryl Vertue is an executive producer of Sherlock. Steven Moffat is her son-in-law (I have never seen Coupling, but apparently it is based on the relationship between Moffat and Sue Vertue, Beryl’s daughter).

I’m not sure it is a good sign that I know all this.


Michael Cain 02.12.17 at 10:30 pm

Just for the record, the decision that British blood isn’t good enough was made by the Food and Drug Administration, not by the Red Cross.


harry b 02.13.17 at 1:39 pm

Thanks Michael! I’ll stop blaming the messenger.
I have managed to figure out that, of course, I can just give blood in more sensible countries when I visit them….

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