Comrade Dad, the chilling BBC sitcom that gave us ‘Londongrad’ – and enraged the Soviets

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Watched with nearly 40 years of hindsight, Comrade Dad sometimes looks like a serious satire.

There were other World War III-themed sitcoms of the time: Only Fools and Horses building a fallout shelter; or David Renwick’s apocalyptic farce, Whoops Apocalypse. Cold War paranoia pervaded light entertainment.

“I don’t think we suffer from paranoia,” laughs Ian Davidson. “Comrade dad was a whim, a nonsense, a confection – we weren’t making serious comments.”

Peter Vincent agrees: there was no political agenda. The real target, if there ever was one, says Ian Davidson, was bureaucracy. In one episode, Reg discovers a hidden garden party, where upper-class toffs drink champagne and laugh at smoked salmon. The scene is so incredible that Reg spends the rest of the episode thinking it must have been a dream. “I think we were just pointing out that the rich are rich no matter what,” says Peter Vincent. “That was certainly true during the war.”

In a modern show, this might be a conspiracy to unravel; in Comrade Dad, it’s a strange detail that is never resolved. The nature of sitcoms is that the characters get stuck in their situation.

Although he has no political agenda, Comrade Dad sometimes, perhaps accidentally, feels deep. When Bob learns the story from Party-approved books, his teacher follows the line, “If it’s not in the book, it’s not part of the story.”

In a fun detail, Reg reads Chairman Hoskins’ Little Red Book – inspirational quotes for party members, such as: “The family that prays together ends up in a mental hospital” – based on the book Quotes from Chairman Mao.

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