The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Don't Put Your Daughter On The Stage Mrs Worthington

What really dates sitcoms from the 60’s and 70’s, apart from the sets, videotape stock, make-up and content, are the daughters. I don’t know the reason for it, but whenever there is a daughter in a sitcom the actress concerned will start doing Daughter Acting.

What is Daughter Acting? It’s many things. A tendency to sigh a lot. Some very loud, posh, emphatic enunciation, as though in a theatre. As though in a provincial theatre performing a farce by Ray Cooney or Brian Rix or even Alan Ayckbourn. Big acting. Acting as big as the perms.

Examples? Reggie Perrin’s daughter in the original series. Wolfie Smith’s girlfriend in Citizen Smith. The daughter in No Place Like Home, the one with William Gaunt drinking sherry in the greenhouse. Anything on ITV.

I don’t fault the actresses; if it was one actress, yes, but it seems to be a near-universal rule; something taught at drama school.

If anything, it’s the writers fault, because the part of the daughter was always so painfully underwritten. She gets exasperated at men a lot, that’s it. It’s why sitcoms of that era are so male-dominated; the writers only seem to know of women as tottie, as wives, as mothers. As the set up of a joke where the punchline is delivered by a man.

Evidence for the prosecution; the last BBC Hancock episode, the one they rarely repeat and try to pretend never happened, ‘Son and Heir’, in which Hancock tries to find a girlfriend and discovers that Galton and Simpson really can’t write women.

But it’s the exception to the rule that makes you realise just how good (and ahead-of-his-time) Johnny Speight was, how under-rated Una Stubbs is, that the only properly-written, believable daughter from that era is in Til Death Us Do Part.

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