Sad news today as it has been announced that the legendary comedy scriptwriter Alan Simpson has died at the age of 87.
Simpson's name will forever be associated with his scriptwriting partner Ray Galton. Together they were responsible for two of the finest British sitcoms ever to grace our screens; Hancock's Half Hour and Steptoe and Son.
The Brixton born Simpson met his writing partner at the age of 17 when they were both patients at a TB sanatorium in Milford, near Godalming in the late 1940s. The two youths made each other laugh and both a friendship and working relationship was forged thanks to the opportunity to devise comic broadcasts to their fellow patients via the sanatorium's radio. Galton would later use this meeting as the basis for his short-lived 1997 sitcom Get Well Soon, which he co-wrote with another writing partner John Antrobus.
Upon their release from the sanatorium, Galton and Simpson offered their services to the BBC where they received their big break writing scripts for Derek Roy's Happy Go Lucky radio show. Their work attracted the attention of Tony Hancock who, in 1954, promptly offered them 25 guineas (5 guineas more than Roy) to write his new programme, Hancock's Half Hour. The pair never looked back; the show transferred to television in 1956 and Galton and Simpson scripted some 160 radio and TV shows for the popular star, along with the script for the feature film The Rebel, over the course of seven years.
Their parting of the ways with troubled Hancock could have been the death knell for some writers, but not for Galton and Simpson who simply picked themselves up and offered a pilot for the BBC's Comedy Playhouse strand entitled The Offer. This one-off, concerning father and son rag and bone men, proved an instant hit and Steptoe and Son was born. It remains one of the BBC's most enduring, classic sitcoms and ran from 1962 to 1965 and returning for a new run in colour from 1970 to 1974, with two spin-off feature films also appearing in the '70s. Later in the decade the pair wrote The Galton and Simpson Playhouse for ITV, and several of these scripts - along with scripts from the Hancock series - were subsequently remade as vehicles for Paul Merton in the 1990s.