Susan Morrison: Should these remakes be consigned to the scrapyard of history?

Its hard to top Wilfred Brambell and Harry H Corbett in Steptoe and Son. Picture: BBC
Its hard to top Wilfred Brambell and Harry H Corbett in Steptoe and Son. Picture: BBC
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The remake of Steptoe and Son has been kicking about the BBC iplayer doodah for a while, but I didn’t catch it at the time. I’ve had a cold, the perfect excuse for catching up on telly.

I’ve got nothing against remakes, re-imaginings, lets-put-a-donkey-in-the-lead-for-The-Sound-Of -Music new versions of old classics. If we thought the whole thing was done and dusted, why, Bill Shakespeare’s stuff would have had one run at the Globe then been lost to us forever. Just think what an Edinburgh Fringe run would be like with absolutely no versions of Hamlet, Midsummer Nights Dream or Sunny MacB, the Scottish Play. Hmmm . . .

The big screen has never been slow to cash in on a rehash of a classic. Only this summer we were treated to a new version of Ben Hur, possibly the most pointless remake ever. You can re-shoot scripts or re-imagine ancient landscapes but no-one, absolutely no-one, can recreate the sheer bulk of Charlton Heston chewing the scenery with that weird clenched fist-and-jaw delivery of his. The man’s a moving monument.

Even the chariot race was dull. In the 1959 original, thousands of real people dressed as Romans went bananas at the Circus Maximus as good ol’ Chuck hurled his chariot around to pick up the trophy and mangle Messala in process. Real stuntmen threw real chariots with real horses about. You can still feel the tension today when you watch it. In the remake it’s all bad CGI, and looks about as dangerous as queuing to get into the Gyle Centre. Hang on, that is quite scary around Christmas.

Songs get reinvented all the time with new singers bringing life to old tunes, although I do think that William Shatner could have left Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds alone. Even Burns himself was not above recycling a fine old folk tune to make his words sing.

But Steptoe and Son? Not even a pale imitation, although it did look oddly muted and dull.

Perhaps its because the original is still too close and we can still see it. After all, we can’t see the first night of Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps folk who never saw Wilfred Brambell and Harry H Corbett could like it.

But would they understand it? After all, in the days when Steptoe first aired, the idea of children not flying the nest was itself funny. Poor Harold with his dreams of international travel and ambitions of upward social mobility just never escapes the clutches of old Albert, with his conveniently dicky ticker and filthy habits.

We’re now living with a generation of kids who can’t afford to get out in the world, especially in London, so for a lot of people, having kids underfoot until they hit 30 isn’t quite so amusing.

You couldn’t make a sitcom about a poor father and son owning a junk yard in London now. It’s Shepherds Bush, for heaven’s sake. How much would Steptoe’s yard be worth today? More than enough to swop out old Hercules the horse for a Bentley just to do the rounds.

And, of course we have the added spice of knowing that the animosity between Brambell and Corbett wasn’t just acting. They really couldn’t stand each other.

Girlchild shows real enterprise

And now in a moment of maternal pride, I bring news of the Girlchild. She’s always been a bright spark. I remember a bizarre conversation when she was about six when she asked me about black holes in space.

All I knew about interstellar phenomena had been learned from the Moon landings and Star Trek, so I tried to bluff through with an explanation involving Stephen Hawking, Apollo 13 and the USS Enterprise. She sighed and said I was talking rubbish. I sighed and said she was six. She was supposed to be asking me about rainbows, which I did know about. She sighed and said she knew about them, too.

She is now a Master Of Science, which definitely sounds like something you see on the bridge of the USS Enterprise.

My mission as sloppy childraiser has not been in vain. Other scientists look to space, or explore the seas, or stare down microscopes, but my Girl is now a Master Scientist in Brewing and Distilling. Oh yes, people, this is what I called Applied Science.

Fundraising is a piece of cake

A HUGE thank you to the great people who organised Leith Decides, where the community itself votes for groups get a share of a pot of funding. They set up a terrific “marketplace” so we could meet the folk who make life a little better for Leithers.

The range of groups is wonderful, from playgroups to memory associations, and each stall was a little delight. Particularly the ones with cake. Not saying I could be bribed here, but a good Victoria sponge could easily sway my judgement. Homemade shortbread is nice too . . .