Citizen Smith

Last updated

Citizen Smith
Citizen smith.jpg
Created by John Sullivan
Starring Robert Lindsay
Mike Grady
Cheryl Hall
Hilda Braid
Peter Vaughan
Tony Steedman
Tony Millan
George Sweeney
Stephen Greif
David Garfield
Country of originUnited Kingdom
No. of series4
No. of episodes30 (list of episodes)
Production
Running time30 minutes
Release
Original network BBC1
Original release12 April 1977 (1977-04-12) 
31 December 1980 (1980-12-31)

Citizen Smith is a British television sitcom written by John Sullivan, first broadcast from 1977 to 1980. [1]

Contents

It starred Robert Lindsay as "Wolfie" Smith, a young Marxist [2] "urban guerrilla" in Tooting, south London, who is attempting to emulate his hero Che Guevara. [3] Wolfie is a reference to the Irish revolutionary Wolfe Tone, who used the pseudonym Citizen Smith in order to evade capture by the British. Wolfie is the self-proclaimed leader of the revolutionary Tooting Popular Front (the TPF, merely a small bunch of his friends), the goals of which are "Power to the People" and "Freedom for Tooting". In reality, he is an unemployed slacker and low-life criminal whose plans fail through his own laziness, cowardice and incompetence.

Wolfie dressed in a stereotypical fashion for rebellious students of the period: logoed T-shirt, denim jeans and Afghan coat. He supports Fulham F. C. and occasionally wears a Fulham scarf. He drives a scooter and spends most of his time at his girlfriend's house, which means he constantly clashes with her parents.

Cast

History

John Sullivan became a scenery shifter at the BBC in 1974 [4] because of his desire to write a sitcom outline he had called Citizen Smith; fearing rejection if he sent the idea in, he decided it would be better to get a job, any job, at the BBC, learn more about the business and then meet someone who would actually take notice of his as yet unwritten script. After he approached producer Dennis Main Wilson, [5] the first Citizen Smith script was written. Main Wilson loved the script, and saw the potential for a series; it was put into production almost immediately as a pilot for Comedy Special—a showcase for new talent, which had succeeded Comedy Playhouse —under the title Citizen Smith. The pilot was a success, and four series and a Christmas special were produced between 1977 and 1980.

It has been claimed that the "Tooting Popular Front"—fictionally based near to writer John Sullivan's childhood home of Balham—was partly inspired by a real-life fellow-South London far-left group, the Brixton-based Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, [6] activities of which were reported in The Times ' diary of April 1977, [7] the same month the pilot episode of Citizen Smith was broadcast. [8] However, this seems to be contradicted by claims that Sullivan already had the idea for his series before starting working at the BBC in 1974, and therefore before the Workers Institute was formed.

Opening titles

The opening titles of each episode of series 1 and 2 always began in the same way with Wolfie emerging from Tooting Broadway Underground station, then with a shot of Wolfie kicking a can across a bridge until he is in close up, accompanied by a background rendition of the socialist anthem The Red Flag . They always ended with him shouting "Power to the People" resulting in awkward consequences, for example, waking a sleeping baby or causing a vehicle to crash. From Series 3, this was altered: in place of the shots of Wolfie on the bridge, the other cast members were now credited individually; their names were accompanied with an on-screen clip of them, rather than just the list of names that had been used before, and the reactions to Wolfie's shout were dropped entirely. Series 4 had a new title sequence, which began with Tucker's van driving past Tooting Broadway tube station with 'The Revolution is Back' painted on it. The rest of the credits were backed by clips from the last episode of series three, "The Glorious Day", and Wolfie's shout is heard but not seen.

Plot

Series 1

From episode three, "Abide with Me", Wolfie Smith (Robert Lindsay) lives, with his religious, teetotal friend Ken Mills (Mike Grady), in a flat in the house of his girlfriend's family—Shirley Johnson (Cheryl Hall, at the time Lindsay's wife); her affable but naïve mother, Florence, who mistakenly calls Wolfie "Foxy"; and her strict, right-wing father, Charlie, who disapproves of Smith's lifestyle and refers to him as a "flaming yeti" or "Chairman Mao". Shirley considers herself engaged to Wolfie, on account of a fake crocodile tooth necklace he gave her after she was asked when they would get engaged.

Other regular characters in the series are the other 'urban guerrillas': Tucker (married to the ever-pregnant but never-seen June); Speed, the TPF's Warlord, and his girlfriend Desiree; and local gangster publican Harry Fenning (played by Stephen Greif), who refers to Wolfie as "Trotsky". Wolfie and the TPF frequent Harry's pub, 'The Vigilante', and are at times menaced by Harry's hired muscle Floyd and Cyril (played by Dana Michie and Barry Hayes), who are referred to by Florence as "Mr Fenning's foster children".

The nearest Wolfie comes to legitimate political office is contesting the Tooting North constituency as the TPF candidate at a parliamentary by-election whose election night declaration is televised; however, he gains only six votes, losing to the Conservative candidate David West. He and the gang attempt to kidnap the new MP from a victory celebration, only to mistakenly capture Harry Fenning (who was leaving the Conservative Club during the occasion) instead (Episode 6 - "The Hostage").

Series 2

Series two consists of six episodes; however, owing to industrial action at the BBC on 22 December 1978, one episode ("Spanish Fly") had to be rescheduled as a special in August 1979.

Series 3

"The Glorious Day", which Wolfie had always been plotting, comes at the end of the third series, in an episode of the same name, in which the Tooting Popular Front 'liberate' a Scorpion tank and use it to invade the Houses of Parliament, only to find the place empty, owing to a parliamentary recess. During the TPF's 'annual manoeuvres' on Salisbury Plain, Wolfie, Ken, Tucker and Speed decide to camp down after an evening of heavy drinking; unbeknownst to them, they are in the middle of a military live firing area. During the night, the British Army hold an exercise, and the Scorpion is 'abandoned' by its crew after being declared "knocked out" by a "landmine" during a training exercise. When Wolfie and his comrades discover this, Wolfie comes up with his revolutionary plan. Speed states that he learned to drive a Scorpion during his time in the Territorial Army, at which point the lads steal it and drive it back to London.

On returning, they hide it in Charlie Johnson's garage. Charlie comes home from work and opens the garage door to park his car. Curious as to the purpose of the Scorpion parked amongst the garden tools, he climbs down inside and accidentally steps on the machine-gun fire button. The result is that their neat garden is raked with heavy machine-gun fire, narrowly missing his wife Florence who is hanging out the washing, and annihilating their garden gnomes. This episode also includes a new song from John Sullivan and sung by Robert Lindsay—"We are the TPF. We are the People."

Series three consists of seven episodes.

Series 4

The series began with Wolfie and company being paroled, a brief flirtation at being pop stars on the back of their 'fame' ended in disaster. While the TPF have been away, a new gangster, Ronnie Lynch, has usurped Fenning's position in Tooting, including his old pub. Wolfie hates him more than he did Fenning, and after various run-ins with Lynch (who constantly refers to Wolfie as "Wally"), the series was concluded in the penultimate episode, with Wolfie fleeing Tooting to escape a £6,000 contract put on his head by Ronnie Lynch after Lynch had caught Wolfie in his wife Mandy's bedroom. Closing with a shot mirroring the opening credits, we see Wolfie entering Tooting Broadway tube station. Series four consisted of seven episodes and a Christmas special, "Buon Natale", in which Wolfie and Ken ride to Rimini on Wolfie's Lambretta to visit Shirley for the festive period, only to find that she has become romantically involved with an Italian named Paolo. This episode was shown after the series officially ended, but is set before the events of the last episode.

Notes

Episodes

The first episode aired on 12 April 1977. This episode was a pilot. Over the next four years, a further four series and a Christmas special were aired, totalling thirty episodes. The last episode aired on 31 December 1980. There is a mythical episode called "Right to Work" which appears in some episode guides; the confusion may arise from the episode "Working Class Hero", which opens with Wolfie involved in a 'Right to Work' protest.

The entire series was repeated on BBC1 in 1992/1993. The series has also been re-run on satellite channels UKGold/UKTV Drama and on Gold, though one episode has never been repeated - "A Story For Christmas" from 1977.[ original research? ] All the episodes have been released on DVD.

Novel

Citizen Smith, a novelisation of the first series written by Christopher Kenworthy, was published by Universal books, London in 1978.

Mooted revival

In 2015, Lindsay was reported as saying he was very keen to reprise the role of Wolfie Smith, particularly with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn. [11] However, it was also reported that the family of the by then deceased Sullivan, who own the rights, did not want to bring it back. [12]

Home release

Playback released two DVD volumes of Citizen Smith, each with two series. Series one and two (including the pilot) were released in 2003 followed by series three and four later that year.

Only two episodes have actually been cut: "Changes" - where Tucker and Wolfie miming to the Beatles tracks "Till There Was You" (and Tucker's line "I think they like us.") and "Help!" have been cut from the scene where Tucker serenades June; and "Prisoners" - where a short scene of Wolfie singing along to the Beatles track "She Loves You", which comes in between the shot of Speed throwing stones at Wolfie's window and the shot of the window breaking, has also been cut.

Cinema Club bought the rights to the series, and later released all four series in a complete series set on 17 July 2017.

Related Research Articles

Tooting Human settlement in England

Tooting is a district of South London, England, forming part of the London Borough of Wandsworth and partly in the London Borough of Merton. It is located 5 miles south south-west of Charing Cross.

<i>Only Fools and Horses</i> British television sitcom

Only Fools and Horses.... is a British television sitcom created and written by John Sullivan. Seven series were originally broadcast on BBC One in the United Kingdom from 1981 to 1991, with sixteen sporadic Christmas specials aired until the end of the show in 2003. Set in Peckham in south-east London, it stars David Jason as ambitious market trader Derek "Del Boy" Trotter and Nicholas Lyndhurst as his younger brother Rodney Trotter, alongside a supporting cast. The series follows the Trotters' highs and lows in life, in particular their attempts to get rich. Episodes are regularly repeated on UKTV comedy channel Gold.

<i>Jonathan Creek</i>

Jonathan Creek is a long-running British mystery crime drama series produced by the BBC and written by David Renwick. It stars Alan Davies as the title character, who works as a creative consultant to a stage magician while also solving seemingly supernatural mysteries through his talent for logical deduction and his understanding of illusions.

<i>My Family</i> British sitcom

My Family is a British sitcom created and initially co-written by Fred Barron, which was produced by DLT Entertainment and Rude Boy Productions, and broadcast by BBC One for eleven series between 2000 and 2011, with Christmas specials broadcast from 2002 onwards. My Family was voted 24th in the BBC's "Britain's Best Sitcom" in 2004 and was the most watched sitcom in the United Kingdom in 2008. As of 2011, it is one of only twelve British sitcoms to pass the 100-episode mark. In April 2020, BBC One began airing the series from the first episode in an 8pm slot on Friday nights, along with this all 11 series were made available on BBC iPlayer.

Vic and Bob

Vic and Bob, also known as Reeves and Mortimer, are a British comedy double act consisting of Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. They have written and starred in several comedy programmes on British television since 1990, with Reeves having made his first TV appearance in 1986.

John Sullivan (writer) English television scriptwriter

John Richard Thomas Sullivan OBE was an English television scriptwriter responsible for several British sitcoms, including Only Fools and Horses, Citizen Smith and Just Good Friends.

Robert Lindsay is an English stage and TV actor. His first major role on TV was playing Wolfie Smith in Citizen Smith. He appeared in sitcoms, most notably as Ben Harper in My Family, playing the role for over a decade, and narrated TV adaptations of the children's television series Brambly Hedge. His film appearances include Fierce Creatures and Wimbledon. He appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in musical theatre. He won a BAFTA, a Tony Award, and two Olivier Awards for his work.

<i>The Thick of It</i> British comedy television series

The Thick of It is a British comedy television series that satirises the inner workings of British government. Written and directed by Armando Iannucci, it was first broadcast for two short series on BBC Four in 2005, initially with a small cast focusing on a government minister, his advisers and their party's spin-doctor. The cast was significantly expanded for two hour-long specials to coincide with Christmas and Gordon Brown's appointment as prime minister in 2007, which saw new characters forming the opposition party added to the cast. These characters continued when the show switched channels to BBC Two for its third series in 2009. A fourth series about a coalition government was broadcast in 2012, with the last episode transmitted on 27 October 2012.

<i>Just Good Friends</i>

Just Good Friends is a British sitcom written by John Sullivan. It starred Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis as former lovers Vincent Pinner and Penny Warrender, who meet in a pub five years after he jilted her at the altar.

The Green Green Grass is a BBC television sitcom, created and initially written by John Sullivan, produced by Shazam Productions for the BBC. It is a sequel/spin-off of the long running sitcom Only Fools and Horses and stars John Challis, Sue Holderness and Jack Doolan. Four series and three Christmas specials were originally broadcast on BBC One between 2005 and 2009.

Cheryl Hall is a British actress. She is best known for playing the role of Shirley, the girlfriend of Wolfie Smith in the British sitcom Citizen Smith. Hall was also married to the lead actor of the show, Robert Lindsay, but they later divorced.

David Huddleston American film and television actor (1930–2016)

David William Huddleston was an American actor. An Emmy Award nominee, Huddleston had a prolific television career, and appeared in many films including Blazing Saddles, Crime Busters, Santa Claus: The Movie, and The Big Lebowski.

<i>The Rag Trade</i>

The Rag Trade is a British television sitcom broadcast by the BBC between 1961 and 1963 and by LWT between 1977 and 1978.

<i>Gavin & Stacey</i> British comedy television series

Gavin & Stacey is a British comedy television show written by James Corden and Ruth Jones about two families: one in Billericay, Essex: one in Barry, South Wales.

Jon Lajoie

Jonathan Lajoie is a Canadian comedian, actor, rapper, singer, musician, and Internet celebrity from Montreal, Quebec. He gained fame mostly from his eponymous YouTube channel, posting comedic original songs and comedy skits. Lajoie is also known for his role as Taco MacArthur on the FXX comedy series The League. Since 2016, he has released acoustic indie music under the moniker Wolfie's Just Fine.

<i>The Green Green Grass</i> (series 3)

The Green Green Grass's third series originally aired between 2 November 2007 and 21 December 2007, beginning with the episode "But is it Art?". A Christmas special aired on 30 December 2007.

<i>Special Agent Oso</i> American childrens animated TV series

Special Agent Oso is an American children's CGI-animated TV series. The series was created by Ford Riley. It premiered on April 4, 2009 with 2 episodes airing that day as part of Disney Channel's Playhouse Disney block, and aired two seasons of 60 episodes through May 17, 2012. After the original broadcast of the series finale on May 17, 2012, reruns continued to air through 2019.

Scot Squad is a Scottish television mockumentary series about a fictional Scottish police force, made in a fly on the wall style. The show is a spoof of police documentaries such as Road Wars and Police Interceptors.

<i>Two Doors Down</i> (TV series) Scottish sitcom television series

Two Doors Down is a Scottish television sitcom, produced by BBC Studios. It was created by Simon Carlyle and Gregor Sharp, and stars Arabella Weir, Alex Norton, Doon Mackichan, Jonathan Watson and Elaine C. Smith as oft-warring neighbours of each other in a suburban street in Scotland.

<i>This Country</i> British television series

This Country is a British mockumentary sitcom, first broadcast in the United Kingdom on BBC Three on 8 February 2017. Created by, written by and starring siblings Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, the series is about the day-to-day lives of two young people living in a small village in the Cotswolds. The programme centres on themes of social clumsiness, the trivialities of human behaviour, the eccentricities of living in rural England, and the boredom and social isolation of young people in small communities. Following rave reviews and over four million iPlayer requests, on 18 July 2017 the BBC renewed the programme for a second series, the first episode of which released on 26 February 2018. On 20 April 2018, the BBC renewed the programme for a 40-minute one-off special, as well as a third and final series, which aired from February 2020 to March 2020.

References

Notes