Saturday, 21 March 2009

Tucker from Citizen Smith

This is the first in a series of occasional articles celebrating a few less well-documented western moments. Some might be well-known, some less so, most perhaps ought to be forgotten, and all add absolutely nothing to the rich history of the western, but they have entertained me.

The first subject is the character of Tucker from British sitcom Citizen Smith, a cowboy so obscure I had to scan my dvd to get an image of the actor Tony Millan.
The British sitcom ran in the late 1970s and was the first work by popular tv writer John Sullivan, the man behind such standard British classics as the unfortunately never-off-the-tv Only Fools and Horses and the sadly never-on-the-tv Dear John. I think the appeal of his shows lies in that they usually feature 'ordinary' working people at the bottom of the pile, rather than the middle-class angst-ridden characters in most British sitcoms or the successful high-achievers of American sitcoms.

I have mixed feelings about most of his comedies, but I did enjoy the earlier work of Citizen Smith, a show that appears to have been largely forgotten, despite the fact that its subject matter is, as they say, as relevant today as it was then, perhaps even more so. In it Wolfie Smith is a low-life, a marxist revolutionary determined to smash the establishment and herald in a workers' paradise.
Not surprisingly the workers' champion doesn't actually work himself. And despite being in essence a terrorist he keeps our sympathy by the fact that he's a bumbling fool, whose plans always fail. In his attempts to bring in the Glorious Day, he's helped by his long-suffering girlfriend (or at least he was until their real-life marriage ended and she left the show), his Buddhist chum Ken, a Nazi thug Speed, and Tucker, the cowboy.

Tucker was the only character I particularly remember from when it was first shown 30 odd years ago, although having seen it again on dvd recently I'm not sure why. Throughout the whole run, Tucker wears cowboy clothes. I must have missed the explanation at the time as I'd often wondered why (well, not that often!). But in the first episode the explanation is that he works at a Wild West restaurant, serving John Wayne Steaks and Alamo Burgers. Why he dressed as a cowboy the rest of the time was explained in the final season as simply, he enjoyed it.

The joke, as such, was that for a character who dresses as a rough, tough Wild West cowpoke, he's completely the opposite. He's always the first to run away, always voting against any of Wolfie's schemes if they sound in the least bit dangerous, and he speaks every single line with either a dreary dull tone or a scared and shaking one. Oh and the other Tucker joke is his vast family of at least 9 children. Although in an early outing for that perennial favourite sitcom joke, we never get to see his wife, but we do get to hear a catalogue of bizarre things about her.

I'm not saying this is a classic series, but it did manage about 30 laughs during its 30 episodes, which is a high rate for British sitcoms. And it did include a rare cowboy character on a British-made tv series, even if the reason wasn't a particularly good one.

Anyhow, I struggled to find a youtube clip from the show (proving I guess that it is a forgotten show) but found this, which by Sod's Law has to be the only moment in the whole series where Tucker isn't wearing a cowboy hat, but then again the 'plot' does call for it. Here the lads are busy trying to bring down civilization as we know it by hijacking a lift.



I remember speaking to John on the set of Sitting Pretty which is one of his most obscure sitcoms and he said that Citizen could have gone at least another two series. But ahh well, that's the way the cookie crumbles.

Paul Brazill said...

Great post! freedom for tooting!

Anonymous said...

I loved this programme, though I was quite young!!!!!


Anonymous said...

The "Dear John" series was aired on British television