When British television sitcoms get it right, I think it’s fair to say they can almost prove timeless with respect to the longevity of their characters. The BBC has a good reputation for producing plenty of quality sitcoms over the years, and of one those is Citizen Smith.
First aired in 1977, Citizen Smith starred Robert Lindsay as work-shy Tooting revolutionary Wolfie Smith who spent the next four years planning the freedom of his part of south London from the headquarters of his guerrilla organisation, the Tooting Popular Front. Said HQ was a room he rented in his girlfriend (Cheryl Hall)’s parent’s house, Hilda Braid and Peter Vaughan playing the parents in the first two series, with Tony Steedman playing dad in the final two.
Away from there, Wolfie and his band of revolutionaries, Ken, Speed and Tucker (Mike Grady, George Sweeney and Tony Millan) could be found in the local pub, owned by local villain Harry Fenning (Stephen Greif).
The series was the first to be written by John Sullivan who later went on to write Only Fools and Horses, Just Good Friends, The Green Green Grass and Rock and Chips. It was a bit of a break for Lindsay too, although a series in ITV prior to that, Get Some In brought him to prominence on the small screen.
The characters in Citizen Smith were all quite loveable in their own way, including villain Fenning and dad Charlie who completely disliked the ‘yeti’ but still let him live under his roof. Well, most of the time. The TPF’s mis-adventures were many, from kidnapping politicians to taking a tank into London in an attempt to overthrow Parliament, and while the series was definitely a child of the 70s, watching it back at home today on video it still makes me laugh – a sign of a successful package really.
Apart from the fact it’s a damn good sitcom that I enjoyed in my youth, Wolfie Smith’s chosen model of transport was an old 1950s Lambretta scooter, which as a scooter enthusiast made sure the TV series meant more to me than most from days gone by.
The Lambretta Li Series 1 was loaned to the BBC by the late Mike Karslake, a collector of Lambrettas and creator of the first Lambretta museum. After he sadly passed away in the 1900s his museum was eventually sold off; but while some of the exhibits disappeared into the ether becoming regular ridden scooters again, the more famous machines amongst them still stand out. Wolfie’s old Lambretta is one of them, its current owner both a fan of the show back in the day as well as a dedicated scooter enthusiast who is very aware of it’s provenance. As a scooter that is still ridden today, the owner was happy to share it with readers of ScooterNova magazine, and together with some rare archive material as well as speaking with people who were involved with this scooter over the years, we have put together a fascinating article on the machine and its history from when it was first prepared for the BBC TV sitcom all those years ago.
If you want to revisit your youth or watch what you may have missed, Citizen Smith DVDs are available from a number of retail outlets, both in the high street and online.
ScooterNova magazine edition 19 is available from all good scooter shops, and also from our online shop for delivery direct to your home.
Like Wolfie’s TPF, ScooterNova is also an independent organisation, run by scooterists, although we have never stolen a tank or put laxatives in a bowl of punch.
“Power To The People!”
(all additional images – BBC promotional images)