Citizen Smith

1977 | United Kingdom

John Sullivan's television scriptwriting debut concerned the exploits of would-be Marxist, Wolfie Smith, and the activities of his four-man revolutionary party, the Tooting Popular Front. 

Robert Lindsay was cast as the Afghan-coat wearing Che Guevara of London, SW17, after coming to the attention of Sullivan in the National Service sitcom, Get Some In (1975-78), in which he played cockney wide-boy, Jakey Smith. Wolfie was based in part on the Jakey character (even to the extent of having the same surname) and partly on a loud-mouthed drunk that the writer had encountered in a London pub (The Nelson Arms), many years before. Making up Wolfie's band of merry revolutionaries was his Buddhist sidekick, the weedy vegetarian pacifist, Ken, the nervous father of nine, Tucker, and the team's hard man, Speed. Although totally committed to his cause, Wolfie was bogged down by the everyday tedium's of life; lack of money, his own reluctance to work, the misfortunes of his favourite football team (Fulham), a girlfriend Shirley (played by Lindsay's then real-life wife, Cheryl Hall), and her conservative parents Mr and Mrs Johnson (the latter of whom constantly referred to him as Foxie), who eventually became his landlords. 

The urban guerrilla and his less-than-committed comrades also had to contend with local Mr Big, Harry Fleming, who was the owner of Wolfie's favourite watering hole, The Vigilante. Welsh gangster Ronnie Lynch, one of several changes that the cast went through during the series run, replaced Fenning in the last series. Peter Vaughan vacated his role of Charlie Johnson to be replaced by Tony Steadman (a third actor, Artro Morris had played the character in the pilot) and Cheryl Hall's character did not appear at all in the fourth series. But by that time it had become abundantly clear to Wolfie that his ideals of world liberation would never come to fruition, and his dream of lining his enemies up against a wall for "one last fag, then bop, bop, bop" would never be realised. 

Published on December 4th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.