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Encyclopedia > Hancock's Half Hour

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Hancock's Half Hour

Hancock's Half Hour was a famous BBC radio comedy series of the 1950s starring Tony Hancock. Other regular cast members were Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Bill Kerr and Kenneth Williams. Andrée Melly[?] appeared in some early episodes. The scriptwriters were Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and the show's distinctive tuba-based theme tune was by Wally Stott. Some episodes were wiped; the rest have been released on CD box sets from 2000 to 2003. See below for details.

A television version appeared in 1956 under the same name and alternated with the radio version until 1959. The basic situation was similar, but only Sid James transferred from the radio series, although Kenneth Williams made a few guest appearances in early episodes. The final series in 1961 was retitled Hancock, shortened to 25 minutes, and did not feature Sid James.

During 1956-1957 Hancock also starred in a sketch show made by Associated-Rediffusion for ITV which, being live, alternated with his BBC appearances.

Radio Series

Most radio episodes were recorded between one day and three weeks in advance, except in the case of Series 6 which was mostly recorded over a three-week period in June, 1959 to avoid clashing with Series 5 of the television show.

Series 1

16 episodes, November 2, 1954 - February 15, 1955

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Moira Lister, Sid James, Alan Simpson

Episodes 5, 7, 8, 9 and 15 no longer exist

The loss of Episodes 5 and 15 is particularly unfortunate since they feature the only "Hancock" guest appearances by Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers respectively

Series 2

12 episodes, April 17 - July 2, 1955

Shortly before the series was due to be recorded Hancock walked out on a theatre performance suffering from "nervous exhaustion" and flew to Rome. Harry Secombe was brought in at short notice to replace Hancock and appeared in the first four episodes. Hancock himself returned for the fourth episode and completed the series as scheduled.

Regular cast: Harry Secombe (Episodes 1 - 4), Tony Hancock (Episodes 4 - 12), Bill Kerr, Sid James, Andrée Melly, Kenneth Williams, Alan Simpson

Episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 10 and 12 (more than half the series, including all of Harry Secombe's guest appearances) no longer exist

Series 3

20 episodes, October 10, 1955 - February 29, 1956

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Andrée Melly, Alan Simpson

Episodes 4 through 12, 15 and 16 - again, more than half the series - no longer exist.

Series 4

20 episodes, October 14, 1956 - February 24, 1957

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques (debut in Episode 5)

Episodes 3, 5 and 9 no longer exist

Series 5

20 episodes, January 1 - June 3, 1958

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques

All episodes still exist

Christmas Special

"Bill and Father Christmas"

Cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Warren Mitchell

This episode still exists

Special remake series for BBC Transcription Services

4 episodes, recorded November 23 - November 30, 1958

These episodes are remakes for overseas sales, rewritten to remove any topical or UK-specific references

All episodes still exist

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James, Kenneth Williams, Hattie Jacques

Series 6

14 episodes, September 29 - December 29, 1959

Regular cast: Tony Hancock, Bill Kerr, Sid James

All episodes still exist

Television Series

Series 1

6 episodes, broadcast live, every 2 weeks, July 7 - September 14, 1956

No recordings exist

Series 2

6 episodes, broadcast live, every 2 weeks, April 1 - June 10, 1957

Episode 1 exists on a kinescope

Series 3

11 regular episodes plus Christmas special, "Hancock's 43 Minutes", broadcast live, September 9 - December 23, 1957

Episodes 5, 9, 10, 11 and "Hancock's 43 Minutes" exist on kinescopes

Series 4

13 episodes; episodes 1 - 4 pre-recorded on kinescopes, 5 - 13 live, broadcast December 26, 1958 - March 27, 1959 (skipping February 27)

Episodes 1, 3, 4, 11 and 12 exist on kinescopes

Series 5

10 episodes, pre-recorded on videotape, broadcast September 25 - November 27, 1959

The entire series exists on kinescopes

Series 6

10 episodes, pre-recorded on videotape, broadcast February 19 - May 6, 1960

The entire series exists on kinescopes

Series 7

Shortened to 25 minutes per episode and retitled "Hancock"

6 episodes, pre-recorded on videotape, broadcast May 26 - June 30, 1961

The entire series exists on kinescopes

Chronological listing of Hancock's radio and television broadcasts, 1954 - 1961

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 1: November 2, 1954 - February 15, 1955

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 2: April 17 - July 2, 1955

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 3: October 10, 1955 - February 29, 1956

The Tony Hancock Show, Series 1 (Associated-Rediffusion for ITV): April 4 - June 1, 1956

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 1: July 7 - September 14, 1956

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 4: October 14, 1956 - February 24, 1957

The Tony Hancock Show, Series 2: November 16, 1956- January 25, 1957

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 2: April 1 - June 10, 1957

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 3: September 9 - December 23, 1957

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 5: January 1 - June 3, 1958

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 4: December 26, 1958 - March 27, 1959

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 5: September 25 - November 27, 1959

Hancock's Half Hour, radio Series 6: September 29 - December 29, 1959

Hancock's Half Hour, television Series 6: February 19 - May 6, 1960

Hancock, television Series 7: May 26 - June 30, 1961

Information on series dates taken from the book Tony Hancock: Artiste (1978) by Roger Wilmut. Information on wiped radio episodes taken from the CD box sets (BBC Worldwide, 2000 - 2003)

Much more detail on classic episodes to come



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