Rising Damp is certainly one of our family’s favourite British comedies, and it is owing in large part to the comic talent of the agile and energetic late Leonard Rossiter (who died in 1984 of a heart attack at age 58). His character, Rupert Rigsby, is jittery and fast-talking at the best of times, but when he’s nervous about something in particular, he becomes agitated to the point of hilarity.
To briefly introduce the characters, Rigsby is the nosy, bigotted, socially-inept, self-important landlord of a seedy, claustrophobic boarding house. An assortment of lodgers come and go, but there are three regulars: Miss Jones (with whom Rigsby is besotted–the feeling is not mutual), and two students–the naive Alan and the suave, sophisticated, confident Philip. Rigsby constantly insults both Alan and Philip (and most everyone else); nevertheless, for all his criticism, Rigsby’s ineptness and insecurity often result in his willingness to follow their advice–advice which is usually aimed at making him look a fool; at the very least, that is the comical end result.
This collection consists of all eight 25-minute episodes from the second series (from 1975), which includes the Christmas special. All the episodes are well-written and very comical. Two in particular stand out as being among the funniest in my books. In both instances, Rigsby’s delusions about his abilities are an absolute invitation for humiliation. “Food Glorious Food” has him belittling famine-stricken countries and eagerly accepting a wager from Philip that he can abstain from food for 48 hours. Ever boastful, Rigsby ends up in “A Body Like Mine” agreeing to a round of boxing with Philip–unaware that Philip is a very compenent boxer! We also bid a comical (albeit temporary) farewell in “Moonlight and Roses” to Miss Jones (Frances de la Tour). Rigsby’s despair is short-lived, however, with the arrival of the shapely new lodger, Brenda.
Though perhaps not crucial, it is best to watch this series from the beginning. In particular, I strongly recommend watching both the first and second series (at the very least) in order to really get a feel for the comedy and the characters. Give it a chance. This is one of a number of britcoms which, in my opinion, gets even funnier as it goes on. This is classic British comedy at its best, and it is without a doubt one of the funniest shows around.
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This British comedy, which used to play on A&E during the mid-1980s and probably on PBS before that, has been largely unknown in the US in recent years. Worth buying for Leonard Rossiter’s performace alone. The rest of the ensemble are great, too, and a bit of trivia for some of you: Richard Beckinsale (Alan) was Kate Beckinsale’s father. Tragically, Richard died at age 31 (just a year or two after Rising Damp finished).
NOTE FOR COMPLETISTS!
This release (Region 1, Acorn) is the ONLY worldwide release of the series at this time that include not only the vintage Yorkshire Television frontcaps and endboards, but also includes the original “part one” and “part two” ad-break captions. The UK release has these edited out.
Very funny British comedy. A excellent evening’s entertainment. A little suggestive but what British comedy isn’t?