I've just watched 'The Return of Frank James' on Film 4. Partly out of curiosity because of the description 'some offensive language' applied to the on screen info box. I was surprised as it is a Henry Fonda film made in 1940... 'offensive language' in 1940...?
Well I've just watched it and the 'offensive language' appears to be two references to Pinky, a Negro acquaintance of Frank James as 'the darkie'.
References like that are undoubtedly offensive to some people, and were then, except nobody cared in 1940. The fact that they are in a film made decades ago is irrelevant - it's being screened now, which is surely what counts?.
I think the difference with programs like Rising Damp and Till Death Us Do Part is that the joke was on the main character - they came across as out of touch and daft - so no offence was caused (although I'm sure it offended some). I think it comes across the same today.
The whole point about "the resident black stooge"- as you call him - in Rising damp (which was commercially the most successful sitcom ITV ever made, by the way) was that he was intellectually superior to Rigsby, and tolerated his racist jokes with mild amusement. He had the upper hand - Miss Jones fancied him, and that infuriated Rigsby. It wasn't at all the same thing as the situation some thirty years earlier in 'The return of Frank James'.
To be honest this isn't something we need to debate together - I see your point very clearly, and understand what you're getting at. I'm just playing Devil's advocate.
I see the resident black stooge is now selling coffee beans and I have seen him play a few roles on TV. Wish I had an accent like he had in Rising Damp. Instead I am now stuck with the same one Rigsby had. I used to enjoy that program and can see why it was so successful.
Don Warrington is 'Mr kenco'... I've been thinking for months where I knew that character from!
"How dare you call Rising Damp naff!" Well, humour is very personal... I rated it at the time only marginally better than On The Buses, and that was the epitome of naffness, but also hugely successful with a big screen tripe-ology!