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Series / Till Death Us Do Part

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A rare moment of civility in this household.note 

Till Death Us Do Part is a classic British situation comedy created by Johnny Speight. The series revolved around Alf Garnett (Warren Mitchell), a staunchly conservative, working-class man who espouses racist and anti-socialist views, and his family consisting of his long-suffering wife, Else (Dandy Nichols); more open-minded daughter, Rita (Una Stubbs); and unemployed, socialist son-in-law, Mike Rawlins (Anthony Booth). Alf and Mike regularly clashed over their opposing worldviews, representing the generation gap between younger, more left-wing Britons and older, right-wing ones, and addressing the increasingly prevalent political issues in British society.

If you're an American and that premise sounds familiar, it's because longtime writer and producer Norman Lear imported this series and officially adapted it as the equally classic CBS sitcom All in the Family.

After a pilot episode broadcast in 1965, the series aired on BBC1 from 1966 to 1968, and again from 1972 to 1975. There were two movies, one in 1969, the other in 1972. There followed a continuation series (Till Death...) on ITV in 1981 and a sequel/aftershow (In Sickness and in Health) on the BBC which ran from 1985 to 1992. Alf Garnett became an iconic figure in British culture and Mitchell would continue playing the character on stage until Speight's death in 1998.

In 2004, it came 32nd in Britains Best Sitcom.

Tropes pertaining to Till Death Us Do Part

  • After Show: Two of them, both written by Johnny Speight.
    • ITV's Till Death... saw a reunited Alf and Else move down to Eastbourne with their friend Min, whose husband Bert had died. Mike and Rita were no longer main characters, although the latter did appear in three episodes. It ran for one series (of six episodes). Might actually count as more of a Revival, as the only reason it had a slightly different name was because the BBC had the rights to the original title.
    • This was followed by the BBC's In Sickness and in Health, in which Alf and an increasingly infirm Else returned to London. Rita and Min made occasional appearances, but other than them the supporting characters were all new. It ran for six series and a total of 47 episodes.
  • Awful Wedded Life: Unlike their American equivalents, Alf and Else had a very dysfunctional marriage. Else, who did not share her husband's extreme views, actually left Alf in the mid-1970s and even filed for divorce, but they were back together by the time of the 1981 sequel series. Unlike Edith Bunker, who tended not to react to Archie whenever he insulted her, Else usually gave as good as she got, calling Alf a "pig" whenever he called her a "silly moo". Alf was shown to be genuinely devastated by Else's death, though.
  • Brick Joke: The cause of Alf's health problems in "In Sickness and in Health" (the 1967 episode, not the 1985-92 After Show) is eventually revealed to be the coin he accidentally swallowed with his Christmas pudding in "Peace and Goodwill". Seven episodes ago.
  • Christmas Episode: Several. The 1966 one was in fact the first episode of the second series. There followed Christmas specials in 1972, 1975 and 1980. Additionally, there was an Easter special in 1967 and a general election special in 1970. The sequel/aftershow In Sickness and in Health had a total of five Christmas specials.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: The 1967 episode "I Can Give It Up Any Time I Like" saw Alf and Mike both try to give up smoking. While Mike did well, Alf struggled, especially when he saw Harold Wilson smoking a pipe on TV. The fact that Else and Rita continued smoking while their husbands tried to go without didn't exactly help either.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Mike and Rita were not regular characters in the later series, the in-universe explanation being that they had moved to Mike's native Liverpool. Una Stubbs agreed to reprise her role, which meant that Rita occasionally visited her parents, but Anthony Booth refused to reprise his. Eventually, an in-universe explanation for this was given — like their American equivalents the Stivics, he and Rita divorced.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: Comes from the traditional Anglican wedding vows in the Book of Common Prayer:
    "I, _____, take thee _____ to my wedded (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."
  • Everybody Smokes: All four main characters did, and Alf was a staunch defender of smoking. Notably, Alf was always shown as a pipe smoker, to the point where Warren Mitchell was named Pipe Smoker of the Year in 1967 (although he refused to accept the award).
  • Expository Theme Tune: In Sickness and in Health had three, all performed by Chas & Dave. The first one described Alf's views on his marriage ("The one who wore the trousers was you") and referenced Else's wheelchair ("After all these years, I'm finally pushing you about"); the second described his situation after losing Else ("My old darling, they've laid her down to rest..."); and the third, when he'd moved to Australia to woo a rich widow, changed the second half of that version ("For richer, not poorer, 'cos I'm fed up being skint, that's why in sickness and in health, I'll say I do").
  • Friendship Moment: A rare one for Alf and Mike occurred in the first movie, when they went to the 1966 World Cup Final together.
  • Hates Everyone Equally: Alf has shades of this. For example, he didn't vote Conservative because he liked the Tories, it was just that he didn't hate them as much as he loathed the Labour party.
  • Humiliation Conga: In "Unemployment" (the last episode of the original series), Alf received a telegram from Else (who by this point had left him and moved to Australia) requesting a divorce ... on the same day he was made redundant.
  • Long-Runners: The pilot episode was broadcast in 1965, and the last episode of the sequel/aftershow series In Sickness and in Health was broadcast in 1992 — so a run of 27 years, admittedly with a few gaps. Warren Mitchell continued to play Alf in stage shows after that, and only stopped doing so when Johnny Speight died in 1998.
  • The Movie: Most British sitcoms of this era got at least one. This one got two — Till Death Us Do Part (1969), in which Alf and Else's younger years are explored, and The Alf Garnett Saga (1972), notable for Alf inadvertently tripping on LSD. Ray Davies of The Kinks did the theme tune for the former.
  • Never My Fault: Alf tended to blame his problems on everyone but himself.
  • Obfuscating Disability: When Else got a wheelchair, Alf used it to get into the disabled section at Upton Park ... but his subterfuge was revealed when he jumped up to celebrate when West Ham scored. In a later episode, he claimed to have injured his leg in an attempt to persuade Rita to stay and help him look after Else, but his ruse was exposed.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • In In Sickness and in Health, Rita and Mike have moved to Liverpool. As noted above, Rita Commutes on a Bus, but Mike doesn't.
    • Done weirdly with Rita herself in the third season. In the first episode, Alf learns she's left Mike and is moving back to London. Initially he thinks she'll be moving back in with him, then he learns that she's actually marrying the local GP, Dr Thompson, all without Rita actually appearing. Despite Dr Thompson appearing in two later episodes, Rita is never seen again, even though "the bus" has actually brought her closer.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: One of the show's most controversial features when it was first broadcast was that it was one of the earliest mainstream TV shows to regularly use the word "bloody" — which was considered much more of a profanity then as it is now.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Rita and Mike's son was subject to this; despite being born in 1972, he was a teenage punk rocker by 1981.
  • Revival: The show originally ended in 1968, but was brought back in colour in 1972. The 1981 ITV After Show Till Death... could also count as an example, as the only reason it had a slightly different name was because the BBC had the rights to the original title.
  • Stay in the Kitchen. Taken up to eleven with Alf, whose dislike of Margaret Thatcher arose from his belief in this trope rather than his views on her politics.
  • Straw Character: Much like Archie Bunker after him in the States, Alf Garnett was a racist, sexist, borderline anti-Semitic idiot whom the audience was meant to laugh at and disagree with. However it backfired, as he became an idol to people who seemed to miss that fact that he was created, scripted and acted by Jews.
  • Take That!: To Mary Whitehouse, whose criticism of the show (particularly the profane language) prompted Speight to write the episode "Alf's Dilemma". Broadcast in February 1967, it begins with Alf reading Mary Whitehouse's book, Cleaning Up TV — which Mike and Rita burn at the end of the episode, chanting "Unclean! Unclean!" while they do so.
  • Transatlantic Equivalent: This series inspired Norman Lear to create an American remake that would eventually become All in the Family.