1 9 6 0 – 1 9 6 2 (UK)
32 x 25 minute episodes
This BBC comedy series was a superb vehicle for Sid James – Essentially a spin-off from the character played by James in Hancock’s Half Hour.
When Tony Hancock famously decided that he no longer required the services of a regular supporting cast, and so dispensed with his long-time sparring partner Sid James, the BBC offered the actor a series of his own, to be written for him by Hancock’s writers Galton and Simpson.
The Sidney Balmoral James in Citizen James was a variation on the Hancock’s Half Hour character: a fast-talking, quick-thinking gambler with an eye for a buck and a tendency to become involved in dubious schemes.
Initially, James was supported in his new venture by another former member of the Hancock rep, Bill Kerr, cast as his keen henchman, and by Liz Fraser, as James’s marriage-craving, seven-year fiancée (who was also the owner of a drinking club).
The second series transformed him into a well-meaning but bungling do-gooder, and by the third series, Sid had undergone a complete transformation and was now a defender of the underdog and champion of all lost causes, now aided by pal Charlie Davenport (Sydney Tafler).
Citizen James certainly wasn’t a classic, but it was an entertaining vehicle for the popular James, whose trademark cackle brightened up many a cold, dark winter’s evening at the start of the 1960s.
Sid James’s next major TV venture, also for the BBC, was a drama series, Taxi!, in which he was cast as a London cabbie, Sid Stone. Although some of the stories were lightly humorous this was certainly no comedy, and thus it was a real departure for the Carry On and Hancock star.