Well, there was a certainly a seeping wetness about this programme last night. But what else can one say about this situation comedy now squeezed out into a series?
Those who saw on stage The Banana Box of Eric Chappell, from which it is developed, or who watched the television try-out earlier in the year, will know the situation Rigsby, a seedy landlord, all wind and prejudice, dates on his lady tenant. He has two others as well, both male and one of them a Negro on whom the lady dotes. The interplay of the four makes the fun.
A comparison is obvious and inevitable. Rigsby is a fourth division Alf Garnett. That is mainly Leonard Rossiter’s doing. He has the part. This, however, is not an actor who distinguishes firmly, as Warren Mitchell does, between a serious character and comedy. Save for the words that come out of the mouth the performance is much the same, for instance, as the one that ﬁtted so superbly the petty crook in HTV’s Thick as Thieves. Excellent though it is at first viewing, it remains a petty character, scarcely large enough to sustain a series. For the pettiness palls. What was comic turns ridiculous. The clown becomes a bore.
Nor is Mr Rossiter much helped by his author. Eric Chappell has given us delicious fun on television before now, but having taken a large bite already at this particular comedy he must now chew over slapstick stuff, while his racial humour, the lacking the sheer preposterousness that Johnny Speight would have given it, is merely tedious.
Frances de la Tour comes from haunts of coot and hern to bring a Thurberesque touch to the lady. Don Warrington is nicely ironic as the Negro and Richard Beckinsale baits his landlord as best he can. But the whole thing turns on the ever-appearing, ever-yapping Rigsby. So beware. Up to a point he may well delight you. But then he will bind you rigid.
The Times 14/12/74 Rising Damp Yorkshire Leonard Buckley
The series has been a personal triumph for the versatile and hard-working Leonard Rossiter. He plays it SO frantically at times that it seems he’ll spoil everything by going right over the top. But he knows just what he is doing and always stops short of a hair’s breadth.
James Thomas, Daily Express
One of those exercises in which the parts added up to even more than the whole … If Rossiter in particular can keep this up, and is given the scripts, we should have a gentle treat to look forward to.
Peter Fiddick, The Guardian (3 September 1974)
There is something birdlike about the sidelong glance, rolling eye and beak of a nose. His Rigsby reminds me of a parrot sliding along it’s perch while mulling over some scandalous phrase.
Shaun Usher, Daily Mail
It is marked as a winner straight away.
Gerard Dempsey, Daily Express 1975
Leonard Rossiter whose voice is vinegary and oily by turns made Rigsby with his jealousies and prejudices a somewhat pathetic figure of high comedy while the tenants belonged effectively to farce….It remains to be seen whether the comedy can be sustained on two different levels.
Sylvia Clayton, Daily Telegraph
Oh precious stuff!
William Marshall, Daily Mirror 1975
Leonard Rossiter is worth a quarter mile start to any comedy show.
Shawn Usher, Daily Mail 1975
There are so many factors that make it a paragon of funnies. Firmly based in a human situation, garlanded with topical pokes and timeless ones, it is fully exploited by a marvellous cast.”
Tom Holt, The Stage and Television Today (23 January 1975)
Leonard Rossiter’s Mr. Rigsby, keeper of a seedy boarding house catering mainly for students, established himself at once with a memorable personality..Leonard Rossiter as Rigsby, the passionately inquisitive landlord, forever hovering on the fringe of his tenants’ lives like an avaricious crow…”
Sylvia Clayton, Daily Telegraph 1975
Not since the association of Tony Hancock with Galton and Simpson has such a comic-tragic figure emerged. Rigsby is a delightful fool and the characters spread around him by producer Ronnie Baxter add so well and unobtrusively to the humour.
James Thomas, Daily Express (13 April 1977)
The sort of professional performances that just make you purr.
Peter Fiddick, The Guardian 1975
Magic from the word go…
Chris Watson, Western Daily Press, Bristol 1975
There are so many factors that make it a paragon of funnies…
Tom Holt, The Stage
Leonard Rossiter’s bragging conceited Rigsby is a precisely conceived role superbly executed.
Stewart Lane, Morning Star
The series has been a personal triumph for Leonard Rossiter. He plays it so frantically that at times it seems he’ll spoil everything by going right over the top. But he knows just what he is doing and always stops short by a hairsbreadth.