The Desperate Hours.

This episode of Steptoe & Son (7-7, 03 April 1972) is a masterclass in situation comedy.

A one-room bottle episode with a sublime premise: the penniless rag & bone men are held up in their own home by escaped criminals looking for money, food, goods and a getaway car. The would-be stick-up-men find that there’s nothing worth having — a horse and cart, a slice of mouldy bread, leftover water-based porridge and some foreign coins — and leave with less that they came with.

The characters are richly drawn parallels of the Steptoes, with a brilliant performance by Leonard Rossiter for Corbett and Brambell to play off, exposing the tensions between the father and son: both captive dependents.

Steptoe & Son is the closest sitcoms have got to the absurd desperation of Beckett, barring maybe Bottom. Porridge is far too comfortable and owes much more to ‘Arold Pinter than despairing Samuel.

It’s brilliant, watch:


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