Tony Hancock had his first introduction to television on the 14th August 1948 when, with his performing partner Derek Scott, they auditioned for BBC TV. The outcome was favourable and they appeared in a programme called ‘New To You’ at 3pm on 1/11/48. Hancock’s next one off appearance was with Flotsam’s Follies on 20/2/50 where he appeared with four other performers in a sketch Called ‘The Conjuror’.
Hancock’s first regular appearance on TV was in the BBC hour long magazine programme ‘Kaleidoscope’. Hancock appeared in 5 editions each time in a short 6 minute sketch playing the part of George Knight who was described as being ‘a would-be rescuer of damsels in distress’. The Hancock sketches were written by Godfrey Harrison who would later write part of Hancock’s ATV show ‘Hancock’.
Returning to one-off shows, Hancock’s next TV appearance was again with the BBC where his role was as a civil servant in the programme ‘The Lighter Side – a humorous slant on current affairs. The subject of the episode was ‘food’ and was again written by Godfrey Harrison.
Interestingly Hancock’s first TV series proper was not Hancock’s Half Hour and was not even on the BBC! The first series commenced in April 1956 on ATV and was written by Eric Sykes with Larry Stephens also collaborating on some of the episodes.
Within a month of the end of this first series, the first Hancock’s Half Hour series had started on BBC TV. Although a second ATV series followed in November the same year, Hancock’s Half Hour was Tony’s principal TV output throughout the rest of the 1950’s. One interesting exception was Hancock’s appearance in a serious play in February 1958. ‘The Government Inspector’ was adapted from Nicolai Gogol’s play and was broadcast live, although a tele-recording was made so that the play could be sold to overseas TV channels; as a result, a recording of this play survives in the archives.
In 1961, the BBC TV series was renamed ‘Hancock’ and each episode was shortened to 25 minutes to enable adverts to be included within the half hour time slot to facilitate greater sales of the episodes overseas. This was the last series to be made for the BBC.
Hancock’s move to ITV coincided with a move away from his writers Galton & Simpson and the result saw 3 ill-fated series for the network: ‘Hancock’ in 1963, ‘The Blackpool Show’ in 1966 and ‘Hancock’s’ in 1967. None of the episodes were ever repeated although all episodes of the 1963 series and 1 episode of the 1966 series are held by the British Film Institute (BFI).
Hoping to revive his career, Hancock started to record a series for Australian TV in 1968 although only 3 episodes were completed before Hancock’s untimely death in 1968. The 3 episodes were assembled into 1 programme and broadcast in 1972.
Whilst Hancock’s Half Hour on radio has achieved significant repeat airtime, particularly since the advent of BBC Radio 7 and subsequently Radio 4 Extra, the TV episodes have never enjoyed such treatment. Whereas the most repeated radio episode can claim 20 repeats as at September 2012, the most repeated TV episode has only been repeated 7 times. It’s no surprise that the most repeated episode is ‘The Blood Donor’ but equalling this number of repeats is ‘The Lift’ from the same series, helped by a repeat on BBC 4 in May 2012. Details of the most repeated episodes are as follows:
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