Men about the House purported to be a contribution to BBC4's Fatherhood strand and made very little sense indeed. One of those clip-show social histories, it was notionally a survey of how sitcoms had reflected attitudes to fathers over the last few decades. If you thought this might imply the presence of children you were only half right. The first two examples were Albert Steptoe and Alf Garnett, both of them fathers, it's true, but the stars of shows that were less about fatherhood than generational friction. The historian Dominic Sandbrook was allowed to point out that Some Mother's Do 'Ave 'Em was about slapstick not fatherhood, but then they tried to rope it in to the thesis anyway, as they did with Reginald Perrin, a comedy about almost anything but fatherhood.
Perversely, the programme made you wonder why fatherhood had been so marginal a subject in British comedy - one answer to that question being bluntly practical. Most child actors have the comic timing of a talking clock and even the few that don't are hedged in by child-protection legislation, making filming a nightmare. You either have to leave the children out entirely - as Marion & Geoff brilliantly did, or find a different way of working with them, as Outnumbered worked out, though significantly that comedy, one of very few you can think of that directly addresses the aggravations and absurdity of modern fatherhood, wasn't even mentioned here, even though it found room to squeeze in Father Ted. If you have to rewrite history because you can't get the clips clearance, then perhaps it isn't worth writing the history at all.Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent, 1st July 2010
This is a compilation of clips and talking heads examining the role of fathers in British sitcoms. What makes this programme different from a thousand others is the calibre of the contributors, who talk about each comic incarnation with exceptional insight. Fathers are invariably depicted as hapless dolts, beginning with Steptoe and Son and Till Death Us Do Part, and continuing with Reggie Perrin, The Simpsons, The Royle Family and numerous others. The main difference between then and now is that fathers in sitcoms today are allowed to express emotions other than rage and frustration. But the highlight of the programme is an unequivocal endorsement of Marion and Geoff, the great under-appreciated masterpiece of British television comedy.David Chater, The Times, 30th June 2010
Sitcom dads tend, as a contributor in this programme points out, to be portrayed as hapless dolts. So as part of its Fatherhood season BBC4 examines how comedies have mocked and ridiculed father figures from Steptoe and Son onwards. Being BBC4, it's a better class of clip show, with a better class of contributor (academics, psychologists, and so on), although as you soak up their considered analysis, you sometimes wonder if a trashier, Channel 4-style Top 50 Sitcom Dads with comedians and celebs doing the talking might not be more fun. But stifle that thought and enjoy the snatches of The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Butterflies, as well as the sage observation that Larry Lamb's father figure Mick Shipman in Gavin and Stacey is "like the holding midfielder: he gets it and he gives it".David Butcher, Radio Times, 30th June 2010
From Steptoe and Son to Only Fools and Horses and Butterflies to The Royle Family, this hike through the sitcom archive - part of BBC Four's Fatherhood season - tells us all about the lot of beleaguered fathers on the small screen. Larry Lamb (Gavin & Stacey), Warren Mitchell (Till Death Us Do Part) and, a little oddly, Father Ted co-creator Graham Linehan are among those discussing the image of fathers in television comedy in the past 50 years.Simon Horsford, The Telegraph, 30th June 2010
Bumbling. Accident-prone. Racist. Dead. As this documentary shows, dads have usually drawn the short straw in Britcoms from the 1950s on - unlike their sensible wives or drily witty teenage spore. If they're not being the butt of jokes, they're just odious: Geoffrey Palmer in Butterflies, Old Man Steptoe, or Alf Garnett (pleasing symmetry that Warren Mitchell's on-screen son-in-law Tony Booth latterly became a real-life father-in-law-from-Hell for Tony Blair). Features clips from the likes of Only Fools ... , The Royle Family and Gavin & Stacey.Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 30th June 2010