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The Blood Donor

"The Blood Donor" is an episode from the final series of the BBC television comedy series Hancock (formerly Hancock's Half Hour). First transmitted by BBC TV in 1961, it has become one of the most famous situation comedy half-hour programmes ever broadcast in the UK.

The show starred Tony Hancock, was written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson, and was produced by Duncan Wood. Supporting Hancock were Patrick Cargill, Hugh Lloyd, Frank Thornton and June Whitfield. It is certainly the best known of Hancock's many half-hours, but not completely on its artistic merits.

Shortly before recording, Hancock was involved in a car accident, and it was decided to place teleprompters around the set in order to save the comedian the problems of learning his lines after a delay in rehearsals. While it is not true Hancock never learned a line from a script again, he increasingly relied on the device mostly thereafter in his TV career. Many Hancock devotees reckon this is one of his poorest TV performances, and it is indeed quite noticeable to see Hancock's eye movements towards the teleprompters when addressing the other performers. Others, though, see no real difference between this and other classic Hancock performances, and lines from the episode have become a part of British comic folklore ("A pint? That's very nearly an armful!" "Rhesus? They're monkeys aren't they?"), giving it now legendary status.

After The Blood Donor, Hancock made one last half-hour for the BBC (The Succession-Son and Heir), before leaving the corporation somewhat acrimoniously, but more importantly dumping his writers, Galton and Simpson. His career never recovered from these decisions.

Some months after the TV recording Pye Records produced an audio remake of The Blood Donor starring most of the original cast, together with a remake of The Radio Ham from the same series. These were produced in the style of radio shows, complete with a studio audience, and released as an LP. These recordings have been available more or less continuously ever since, and are also found on several British comedy compilation sets.

The original episode survives in the BBC Archive as a 16mm telerecording with magnetic sound, and has been released on VHS and DVD compilations of Hancock episodes. The original soundtrack from the episode was also subsequently released on CD and cassette.

Story

Anthony Aloysius St. John Hancock arrives at his local hospital to give blood. "It was either that or join the Young Conservatives", he tells the nurse, before getting into an argument with her about whether British blood is superior to other types. After managing to offend some of the other waiting donors he amuses himself by reading the waiting room's wall posters out loud, finally singing "Coughs and sneezes spread diseases" to the tune of the German National Anthem before being shown in to see the doctor.

Hancock learns that the doctor's name is McTaggart, so he greets him with a string of cod Scotticisms: "It's a braw bricht moonlit nicht the nicht this morning. There's a bonnie wee lassie oot there, hoots mon, the noo." The doctor says suavely in a refined English accent, "Would you mind sitting down there please Mr Hancock?" and Hancock begins to apologise for his greeting: "Beg your pardon for lapsing into the vernacular, but the young lady did say you were a Scottish gentleman." The doctor replies drily, "Well, we're not all Rob Roys."

After the doctor has taken a blood sample Hancock blithely assumes that that is all that is needed and prepares to depart. When the doctor tells him it was only a smear Hancock replies, "It may be only a smear to you but it's life and death to some poor wretch." When he learns that he must donate a pint of blood, he protests, "I don't mind giving a reasonable amount, but a pint! That's very nearly an armful!" The doctor finally persuades Hancock to donate the full pint by telling him he has a rare blood type, which appeals to his snobbery. Recuperating afterward Hancock has a chat about blood with a fellow patient, but since neither of them knows very much about blood the conversation is not very informative. As he prepares to leave Hancock is horrified to discover that the other patient has stolen his wine gums. ("If you can't trust a blood donor, who can you trust?")

Returning home, Hancock promptly cuts himself on a bread knife and is rushed back to the same hospital, where he receives a transfusion of his own blood — the only pint the hospital has of his rare blood type.

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