Till Death Us Do Part: The Complete 1974 Series


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

I watched these episodes back to back late one night. I fell asleep halfway through the second one, with Cockney bigot Alf ranting and raving about the Labour government and the miners and the "coons". I woke up an hour or so later, in the middle of another episode, and Alf was still ranting and raving about the Labour government and the miners and the coons. I fast forwarded to another episode and guess what? Yep, Alf still ranting and raving about the Labour government and the miners and the coons. It was like watching Groundhog Day, only without the laughs.

I was going to review all seven episodes in this double disc set, but why bother when every episode is the same? You know how it goes. Alf (Warren Mitchell), his long-suffering wife Else (Dandy Nichols), their daughter Rita (Una Stubbs) and her husband Mike (Anthony Booth) sit on the sofa in their grubby little East End den and they argue. When they get sick of arguing on the sofa, they troop down to the pub and argue there. Think The Royale Family, but again without the laughs, or the warmth, or the likeable characters.

Alf calls Else a "silly moo," or a "silly old moo," or a "silly bloody moo". Mike's a "Scouse git," or "Shirley Temple" on account of his long hair. It's quite amusing the first couple of times, but then it becomes tiresome, then plain irritating. Alf does most of the talking, but he doesn't just talk, he rages, eyes popping, mouth foaming. Writer Johnny Speight doesn't really do dialogue, or plot, or character development and what we get is a series of carefully scripted rants, with Alf taking pot shots at everyone and everything - Wilson, Labour, the miners, blackies, Commies, Arabs, Jews, coons, American coons, African coons, sambos.

It's meant to be offensive, and it is. The real problem is that it's just not very funny. In one episode, Spike Milligan plays Paki-Paddy, a work shy Pakistani from Dublin, complete with comedy beard and boot-polished face. In another episode Alf proposes sending "coons" down the pit. "Only trouble is they'd all be bashing into each other in the dark," he guffaws, unaware that - yes, you've guessed again - a black man is standing behind him, soaking it all up.

Speight, of course, created Alf to ridicule him, to be held up as a warning sign. Alf's an idiot, a pub bore, who's too stupid to realise just how stupid he is. He has verbal diarrhoea, but rarely gets the last word, with Else, Rita, Mike, even the "darkie," who comes to fix his TV, all giving as good as they get.

Alf's overt racism doesn't bother me - he's too predictable to really get under your skin - but it still left me depressed. Twenty-five million people tuned in every week to watch this in the Seventies, but how many of those were even aware that it was supposed to be a send-up?

Some comedies have a longer shelf life than others. This one is well past its sell-by date.

Reviewed on: 28 Nov 2004
Share this with others on...
Till Death Us Do Part: The Complete 1974 Series packshot
Foul-mouthed rantings from Alf Garnett, the Cockney bigot.
Amazon link

Writer: Johnny Speight

Starring: Warren Mitchell, Dandy Nichols, Anthony Booth, Una Stubbs, Joan Sims, Spike Milligan

Year: 1974

Runtime: 210 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Search database: