Hancock's Half Hour recreated by BBC

Episodes of 1950s radio sitcom that have been lost from archives to be remade for Radio 4, starring Kevin McNally

BBC Radio 4 is to recreate lost episodes of 1950s radio sitcom Hancock's Half Hour, with a new cast including Pirates of the Caribbean actor Kevin McNally in the title role originally taken by the late Tony Hancock.

The Missing Hancocks will consist of five of the 20 episodes missing from the BBC archives. They are to be broadcast in November to mark the 60th anniversary of the show's first transmission.

Hancock's Half Hour was the first major hit for the writing partnership of Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, who went on to create Steptoe and Son. The pair have chosen the five Hancock scripts that will be re-recorded by a cast that also includes Simon Greenall, Kevin Eldon and Robin Sebastian.

The series begins recording on Tuesday evening in front of an audience at the BBC Radio Theatre in central London.

Hancock's Half Hour, based on a fictionalised version of Tony Hancock's life as a struggling comic and actor, was originally broadcast on the BBC Home Service between 1954 and 1959, with 103 episodes recorded. A TV version began in 1956, running for five years and more than 60 episodes.

Bill Kerr co-starred in the radio version as Hancock's dim-witted Australian lodger while Sid James played a cunning businessman, who often succeeded in conning Hancock. Hattie Jacques, Kenneth Williams and Moira Lister are among other comedy actors who featured regularly.

The series is widely regarded as the first British sitcom, focusing on characters and situations over a single half-hour sketch, rather than stand-up comedy or variety which was then dominant in British radio.

Series co-producer Neil Pearson said the idea came about when he was researching some original Hancock scripts for a rare book catalogue and realised many had been "lost" from the BBC archive.

"We will be re-creating as closely as possible the experience you would have had listening to your radio all those years ago. The scripts are perfect and timeless," Pearson said. "We will be recording the programmes in front of a live audience at BBC Radio Theatre and, rather thrillingly, the BBC Concert Orchestra will be re-recording the theme tune for the new series."


Hatty Collier

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sue Perkins confirmed as new host of BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute
Former Bake Off presenter to take helm of comedy panel show after death of Nicholas Parsons

Sasha Mistlin

20, Jul, 2021 @10:42 AM

Article image
Count Arthur Strong's transfer to BBC2 confirms Radio 4 as comedy pioneer

Steve Delaney's creation about ageing variety performer is latest of many BBC radio comedy shows to migrate to television

Mark Lawson

07, Jul, 2013 @2:38 PM

Article image
I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue is greatest radio comedy, says panel
Long-running Radio 4 panel game beats classics Hancock’s Half Hour and Round the Horne

Caroline Davies

17, Nov, 2020 @12:01 AM

Article image
Jo Brand to face no further action over battery acid joke
Broadcasting watchdog ends investigation into remarks that triggered complaints last June

Jedidajah Otte

27, Jan, 2020 @2:25 PM

Article image
Jo Brand's battery acid joke inappropriate for Radio 4, says BBC
Complaints unit dismisses claims by Nigel Farage that comedian was inciting violence

Jim Waterson Media editor

29, Aug, 2019 @4:11 PM

Jazzman and radio host Lyttelton dies at 86

Humphrey Lyttleton, jazz trumpeter and presenter of Radio 4 comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, has died in hospital. By Thair Shaikh

Thair Shaikh

26, Apr, 2008 @5:11 PM

Article image
I’m Sorry, I [Still] Haven’t a Clue … how radio’s smuttiest show has beaten the censors for 50 years
Innuendo, tone-deaf singing and dreadful wages: as the cherished BBC panel game celebrates its half century, we look back at its finest moments – and its future

Mark Lawson

11, Apr, 2022 @4:47 PM

Article image
Jeremy Hardy, the honorary Jew who held out an olive branch | Letters
Letters: Hardy was a goy who pitched ‘insider’ jokes perfectly, says Naomi Wayne. Philip Clayton wonders why comedians’ deaths seem to touch us more than other famous people, Sarah Cemlyn remembers Hardy as laugh-out-loud funny, and challenging too, while Nancy Krois recalls his News Quiz appearances, L Johnston his Guardian dismissal, and George McLean a King Canute joke


04, Feb, 2019 @6:29 PM

Article image
It’s official: the lovely Samantha can keep on scoring with Jack Dee
The BBC Trust has deliberated long and hard and concluded that it won’t uphold a complaint that the imaginary character on the long-running radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue is unacceptably sexist

02, Dec, 2014 @3:53 PM

Article image
Jeremy Hardy: a ferocious talent who radicalised radio comedy
Provocative and political, the stand-up – who has died aged 57 – shook up Radio 4 at a time when it was in danger of resembling a Rotary Club quiz night

Mark Lawson

01, Feb, 2019 @1:30 PM