Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once. This year, we said goodbye to two of our greatest comedy writers - and to an era where comedy united generations.
David Croft, who died last month aged 89, and John Sullivan, who died in April aged 64, belonged to the last generation of writers who wrote not only for an audience guaranteed to be in the millions, but for entire families sitting down together to have a shared laugh.
Between them (and Croft's writing partners, Jimmy Perry and Jeremy Lloyd), these prodigious talents gave us nearly 50 years of comedy, and an impressive number of hits: Only Fools and Horses, Just Good Friends, Dear John, Citizen Smith, 'Allo 'Allo, Are You Being Served, Hi-de-Hi, Dad's Army, and It Ain't Half Hot, Mum.
But while our viewing habits in the digital age have changed dramatically, our fondness for these comedies hasn't - just take a look at this BBC poll. What appeals to us isn't just their penchant for seaside bawdiness or their extraordinary gift for a good catchphrase - although where would 'Allo 'Allo have been without the fallen madonna with the big boobies, Mrs Slocombe without her pussy, or Delboy without his lovely jubblies? It was also the fact that the worlds they so elegantly and affectionately created centred around family, real or corporate. It was these endearing characters presenting a united front against the world/the enemy/the customer that brought families together to watch, well, families together.
"We are unanimous in that," Mrs Slocombe would declare without a doubt in her mind that her team were anything but behind her. What is "Rodney, you plonker" if not the highest term of endearment in Delboy's world? And was clucking Captain Mainwaring not protecting his brood from the Germans when his youngest was urged, "Don't tell him, Pike"?
They were also peculiarly British, focusing on class and/or evoking a nostalgia for a lost Britain: a chalet girl desperately trying to join the toffs, or an urban guerrilla trying to overthrow them on the streets of Tooting; a bookie falling in love and foul of his snobby mother-in-law, or an ever-optimistic market trader dreaming of becoming nouveau riche. We had wartime buffoonery in Walmington-on-Sea, France and Burma; life upstairs and downstairs in a 1920s household; behind the scenes of a 1950s holiday camp.
With many of their programmes finding a new audience decades after they were first aired, the genius of Croft and Sullivan in creating accessible, exquisitely crafted, timeless comedy is more apparent than ever. So I'll leave it to Sullivan's greatest creation to sum up their enduring legacy: it's not really goodbye, it's bonjour.
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