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That’s My Boy!

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TITLE: That’s My Boy

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: United Kingdom

GENRE: Sit-com

CHANNEL: ITV

YEARS: 1981

NUMBER OF SERIES: 5 including Christmas specials

WRITTEN AND CREATED BY: Pam Valentine and Michael Ashton

  • Molly Sugden- Ida Willis
  • Christopher Blake – Dr Robert Price
  • Jennifer Lonsdale – Angie Price
  • Clare Richards – Mrs Price
  • Harold Goodwin- Wilfred Willis
  • Deddie Davis – Miss Parfitt
  • Thelma Whiteley – Mrs Cross

PLOT: No-nonsense housekeeper goes to work for a young doctor and his wife. The doctor and housekeeper have an instant dislike towards each other – until the housekeeper discovers that the doctor is the baby she gave up for adoption almost twenty eight years ago…

There are some comedies that stand the test of time and are repeated over and over again to be enjoyed by new generations of viewers. Then there are comedies that fade into obscurity and are never mentioned again. Eighties sit-com That’s My Boy is an example of a comedy show that fits into the latter category. But if anyone thinks that’s a sign that it wasn’t very good or watchable – think again!

Over the years, I was vaguely able to recall a comedy show from my childhood that featured a young married couple with an older lady, who I guessed was some kind of live-in housekeeper. However, I could never remember the name of the show, and moreover,  I’d never seen it on TV since it was first shown, and I don’t remember anyone even mentioning it. I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined it (like so many things from my childhood!)

A few of the things that I could recall were the appearance of the married couple’s flat; that the older lady looked like  Mollie Sugden;  the husband was very handsome, and whenever I thought of this comedy, I always associated it with the colour blue! I later realised that the older lady was indeed Molly Sugden, and that the blue association was because the opening and closing credits of series one to three featured a sketch of the apartment building where the trio lived with a sky blue background and also because Mollie Sugden’s character, Ida, often wore blue.

Despite there having been five series of That’s My Boy, my memories of this sit-com were a little on the hazy side but I did think about the sit-com over the years and was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down and spend some very pleasant evenings (and weekend mornings!) watching this show all over again. I was amazed to learn that I was actually able to recall certain scenes and episodes, although I didn’t remember Wilfred or Mrs. Price, and neither did I remember the move to Yorkshire. I was also surprised to hear that it was shown on Friday nights, as for some reason, I remember That’s My Boy being shown on Sunday afternoons (?)

THE STORY SO FAR…

When Yorkshire-born Ida Willis turns up at the Muswell Hill flat belonging to Dr Robert Price and his wife Angie, a model, to work as their new housekeeper, she and Angie instantly become friends. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for Ida and Robert who appear to loathe each other on sight. However all that changes one afternoon when Ida confides in Angie about the baby boy she gave up for adoption called Shane. After showing each other baby photos of Shane and Robert, Angie and Ida are dumbstruck by the realisation that the baby is one and the same – meaning that Robert is Ida’s long-lost son, Shane!

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Had this been a soap opera, this storyline would have been drawn out for several months (or years) with plenty of tears, tantrums, sobbing into bottles of wine, with shrieks of ‘you ain’t my muvva!’ once the secret was revealed but comedy handles such a heavy topic in an altogether light-hearted manner with much hilarity that doesn’t see Robert scarred of life or going on a killing spree! The realisation that they are mother and son doesn’t make them become best friends overnight. Ida tries hard to be a mother to Robert, but she still grates on him, especially when she insists on calling him by his birth-name Shane. And Ida isn’t afraid to give Robert/Shane a piece of her mind when she thinks it’s called for.

Much of the humour is provided by Ida’s wayward brother Wilfred and the power struggle between Ida and Robert’s ‘other mummy’ – his adoptive mother, Mrs Price, an upmarket widow who is as far removed from Ida as you can get. The two naturally don’t get on as they battle to become the number one  ‘mummy’ in Robert’s life, but there are times when the two have to form an alliance, especially when it’s in the best interests of their son.

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But Robert and Ida do indeed bond and it is delightful to watch their relationship develop. Robert becomes very protective of Ida and when attending the wedding of Ida’s niece, it’s really heart warming to see Robert affectionately declare Ida as his mother. What was probably slightly unusual was the relationship between Ida and her daughter-in-law, Angie. A typical situation would have seen glamorous model and actress Angie, snobby and aloof who seriously clashes with her newfound mother-in-law. But then Angie doesn’t get on with her other mother-in-law Mrs. Price so I think it was clever of the writers to create a different scenario where instead of being the archetypal interfering mother-in-law, Ida is a friend and an ally to Angie.

And later on in the fourth series, when the family leave Muswell Hill and move to Little Birchmarch in Yorkshire after Robert secures the post of village doctor, we meet the dithering Miss Parfitt, Robert’s mousy receptionist.

WHY I LOVE IT:

One thing that’s dawned on me after watching That’s My Boy! is that I seem to be a fan of sit-coms that are not considered ‘classics’ or that most people might have forgotten. Fawlty Towers, Only Fools And Horses, Open All Hours etc. are firm favourites with me and my family and are undeniably terrific, but I really do think that there’s something good and a lot of fun to be had in watching the lesser repeated comedies.

That’s My Boy is  a wonderfully pleasant comedy and one of the reasons why I think it works is because of Mollie Sugden’s immensely likable and highly amusing performance. Mollie is in good form and relies on her genius for visual expression and excellent timing. She is a wonderful actress with great screen presence and her portrayal of Ida is no exception. For most people, Sugden will always be best remembered for her role in  Are You Being Served? but it’s very easy to forget the other great roles she played with Ida being a good example with her witty one-lines and hilarious put-downs – this is a lady who has an answer for everything!

Another reason why I think That’s My Boy is fantastic is because of the rapport that Mollie Sugden has with the supporting cast and the likeable characters they play. All the characters work brilliantly together, with the supporting cast acting as a backdrop for Ida to bounce off.

I enjoyed the  warm yet amusing storylines that kept the audience laughing throughout.. I found each episode to be hilarious and enjoyable to watch.  watch them you won’t get them any more today. The theme tune may consist solely of the lyrics “that’s my boy, that’s my boy. Lalalalalalala…” the upbeat tune somehow suits the show well, and after hearing it just a couple of times, the tune will never leave your head. That could either be a great thing or an annoyance – for me it was a great thing.

I found That’s My Boy to be a very pleasant comedy but wondered how it would be received today. Certain quotes and the play on stereotypes would not be acceptable today as it would be considered racist or homophobic. And I did wonder if That’s My Boy could be considered light-hearted family entertainment with all of Robert and Angie’s saucy antics – but then again, I think today’s kids are exposed to a great deal more!

I do think it’s quite a shame that That’s My Boy never reached the great heights I feel it should have and has more or less disappeared. I also can’t understand why it was hardly ever repeated after it was first shown on TV. But I’m so glad that I discovered this little nugget of TV gold – definitely what I call comfort food television and I will most definitely be watching it again.

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Ten British TV Comedy Theme Songs We Sang Along To

The first post of 2015! yay! I hope everyone’s new year has got off to an amazing start.

One of the best things about growing up in Britain is the multitude of comedy shows that this country has produced over the years, many of which have gone on to become classics and are well known all over the world. As much as I enjoy sitcoms, comedy shows, and stand-up from any country – just as long as it’s funny – nothing beats the British sense of humour, which explains why I love so many of our sitcoms. Only Fools And Horses, Fawlty Towers, One Foot In The Grave, Keeping Up Appearances – all fantastic!

However with many shows, it’s not just the show, the characters and the actors that are memorable, but most come complete with intros, opening and closing credits and theme tunes that stick in your mind. They’ll having you singing along with the beginning and end of each show, and it’ll probably have you singing the theme song for days. I still can’t get some of these theme songs out of my head years later!

So I’ve compiled a list of ten of the most memorable theme songs from British comedy series. There are a few comedies here that have been locked away in the ‘long lost’ vault but they’ve thankfully been found and I’m sure they’ll have you going, “Oh yeah! I remember that!” And for those of you who noticed that some of your favourite theme tunes were not mentioned in Ten TV Show Theme Tunes We Loved Singing Along To, just remember there’ll be plenty more lists cropping up in the future!

1. Dear John

TITLE: Dear John

COMPOSED BY: John Sullivan (show’s writer) and Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Joan Baxter

YEAR: 1986

No, not the film with the delicious Channing Tatum, but the seriously underrated BBC sitcom of the 1980’s starring the late Ralph Bates as a divorcé who joins a club for the divorced and separated in the hope of making friends and finding love. Much of the humour comes from the bunch of oddballs he befriends. The Americans did a remake of this series which lasted four series but I much prefer the British version. Sorry!

Dear John is a comedy which is very dear to my heart and brings back lots of memories, not just of the show but of my childhood and the eighties in general. I recently came across some comments which stated that the theme song for Dear John was probably the most depressing and dreary of all the theme songs out there. Well now that they mention it, I suppose it is. But then when you think that the show is about a divorced man who has lost everything to his ex-wife after she ran off with his best friend and now has to live in a tiny bedsit, well we couldn’t have a theme tune that got us up and dancing now, could we? The song fits in with the ethos of the show. Because it has a 1920s feel to it, I assumed that it was a really old song but it was actually written by the show’s creator John ‘Only Fools’ Sullivan.

Fantastic song!

2. The Vicar Of Dibley

TITLE: The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

COMPOSED BY: Howard Goodall

SUNG BY: Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford

YEAR: 1994

How I love this comedy! Beginning in 1994, Dawn French is amazing as the female vicar who takes over a parish church in the heart of a rural community – and finds that many of her new parishioners have more than a few eccentricities between them. I watched the trailer for the show and thought it looked quite funny – I wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t disappointed!

When you think about The Vicar of Dibley, you think about three things: the stunning countryside; the barmy characters, and that distinctive theme tune, The Lord is my Shepherd by Howard Goodall, who has also worked on the themes for Blackadder, The Borrowers, Red Dwarf, and Mr Bean among many others. The theme song was based around Psalm 23 and was performed by the choir of Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral. Originally Goodall had composed this song as a serious piece of church choral music – it hadn’t initially been intended for use as the theme of a hit comedy show. But more than twenty years later, viewers can see that the enchanting theme song fits in beautifully with the series.

Oh, just remembered a fourth thing: the joke between Alice and Geraldine at the end of every episode!

3. Butterflies

TITLE: Love Is Like A Butterfly

SUNG BY: Clare Torry

LYRICS: Dolly Parton

YEAR: 1974

This show was a bit before my time so I don’t remember it the first time round but I do remember watching Butterflies when it was repeated. It starred Wendy Craig and Geoffrey Palmer who were familiar faces to me, but then I saw a very young Nicholas Lyndhurst who was more than just a little familiar – he was ‘Rodders’ from Only Fools And Horses! Carla Lane’s classic sitcom focuses on a frustrated housewife and her male companion, whose friendship borders on romance, and their will-they-won’t- they antics had viewers gripped.

I had already heard the song Love Is Like A Butterfly before I realised that it was also used as the theme song for Butterflies as it happens to be one of my mother’s favourite songs and she used to sing it all the time. It was a hit in 1974 for American country music legend Dolly Parton, although the version that was used for the opening credits was recorded by British singer Clare Torry, especially for Butterflies. This version was recorded with a band conducted by well-known BBC TV composer Ronnie Hazelhurst.

4. Birds Of A Feather

TITLE: What’ll I Do?

COMPOSED BY: Irving Berlin

SUNG BY:  Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke (from third series onwards)

LYRICS: Irving Berlin

YEAR: 1923

Twenty first century kids will know Birds Of A Feather as an ITV sitcom that’s in its second series. But of course old-timers like myself will remember when the show was first shown on the BBC back in the 1980s and continued until the late nineties. Sisters Sharon and Tracy live in Tracy’s rather luxurious home in Essex while both their husbands are in prison for armed robbery. Tracy’s devastated to be separated from her Darrell, while Sharon couldn’t care less that she’s away from her errant husband Chris. It might sound like all doom and gloom but it is actually hilarious – with the girls’ man-mad neighbour providing much of the entertainment. I never missed an episode of this sitcom when I was growing up.

The show used Irving Berlin’s wonderfully moving What’ll I Do as the theme tune for the first two series. From the third series onwards, a version sung by Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson, who play Sharon and Tracy, was used.

5. Bread

TITLE: Bread Theme Song

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: The Bread Cast

LYRICS: David Mackay

Carla Lane had another hit on her hands with this classic sitcom from the 1980s. This used to be on Sunday evenings but I’m pretty certain that some series may also have been broadcast during weekday nights.

The sit-com focuses on the trials and tribulations of the Boswell family and their efforts to muddle through life with very little money – which often resulted in underhand tactics. I thought Grandad was hilarious, and the contempt of the lady from the DSS for the Boswell family was amusing

The theme song was composed by David Mackay and featured the vocals of the cast of Bread.

6. Desmond’s

TITLE: Don’t Scratch My Soca

COMPOSED BY: John Collins

SUNG BY: Norman Beaton

LYRICS: Trix Worrell

This seriously funny comedy was set in a barber shop in Peckham, owned by a Caribbean family, the Ambroses. The shop was a place for many of the local. lively and interesting characters in the show to congregate and share stories. It reminds me of the area of North-West London where I grew up. The local barber shops seemed to be the meeting point for many of the menfolk in our town, and it was very evident that there were more friends and relatives in the  shop than paying customers and it was a place where many of the male members of the community gathered together, and it had something of a social club vibe.

The theme tune was very familiar to us when we were growing up – some of my classmates knew all the words to the song. It had a soca vibe which reflected the Ambrose family’s Trinidadian roots. It was very upbeat and uplifting which reflected the liveliness of the characters and the business of the shop. There was never a dull moment at Desmond’s!

7. Streets Apart

TITLE: Streets Apart

COMPOSED BY: David Mackay

SUNG BY: Neil Lockwood

LYRICS: David Mackay

YEAR: 1988

Sylvie and Bernie were childhood sweethearts who dated and drifted apart, taking different directions in life. They meet almost twenty years later and try to pick up where they left off… but it’s not easy when you’re now different people each with a different set of circumstances.

I love this comedy written by Adrienne Conway. Almost thirty years on, it’s still very watchable – but it makes me yearn for the 1980s! It had been a long time since I first watched the show, but as soon as I heard those opening bars of the theme, it was instantly recognizable and transported me back to my childhood. The lyrics for this tender theme tune are full of longing, wistfulness and second chances. And Neil Lockwood’s amazing vocals do this song justice.

8. Just Good Friends

TITLE: Just Good Friends

COMPOSED BY: Ronnie Hazelhurst

SUNG BY: Paul Nicholas

LYRICS: John Sullivan

YEAR: 1983

Would you seriously consider being friends with your ex? Especially after he jilted you at the alter? Well that’s exactly what Penny Warrender does after her former fiancé Vince Pinner comes back into her life again. The two decide to put the past behind them and become ‘just good friends’ – but the question is, can they ever be just that?

Another one of John Sullivan’s masterpieces, it starred Jan Francis and Paul Nicholas who were huge stars in England back in the 1980s. This sitcom was a firm favourite with my parents so they would regularly tune in, and I do have memories of watching the final ever episode. Nicholas was already an established theatre actor and agreed to do the vocals for the track, written by Sullivan.

9. Watching

TITLE: What Does He see In Me?

COMPOSED BY: Charles Hart

SUNG BY: Emma Wray

LYRICS: Charles Hart

YEAR: 1987

Merseyside couple Brenda and Malcolm are very much chalk and cheese. They come from different backgrounds, have different interests, and completely different personalities. The only thing they have in common is watching: Brenda watches people; Malcolm watches people. It’s no wonder their relationship is more off than on.

I loved watching (scuse the pun!) this sitcom back in the nineties and loved the theme tune which my sister and I used to sing (quite badly!) I think the lyrics are quite fitting for the show. It sums up the fact that Brenda and Malcolm are very different, aren’t exactly consumed with lust and passion, but love each other and belong together.

 

10. Chef

TITLE: Serious Profession

COMPOSED BY: Omar

SUNG BY: Omar

LYRICS: Omar

Now here’s a sitcom I used to watch but totally forgot about! If you think Gordon Ramsay’s got a mouth on him, wait til you meet acclaimed chef, Gareth Blackstock, who struggling to balance his home life with his wife Janice and the demands of running a top restaurant, often gives in to temper tantrums in the kitchen.

The theme tune to Chef! has got to be the coolest theme tune I’ve ever heard to accompany a television show. Funky and upbeat, it’s guaranteed to get you up and dancing, not just singing along. Although of course when it features the smooth vocals of soul superstar Omar, how could it be anything other than cool?

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Comedy Shows, Name That Tune!, TV Shows

 

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Still Open All Hours: Nostalgia At It’s Best!

BBC viewers were treated to a mini trip down memory lane on Boxing Day this year in the form of a special one-off episode of Still Open All Hours based on the popular sit-com of the 70s and 80s Open All Hours. The original series starred the late Ronnie Barker and David Jason as the uncle and nephew team running a grocery store in Doncaster.

Over the years in our household, Open All Hours was hardly ever off the box. Even when the show ended in 1985, we would watch an endless stream of reruns and we even bought Dad the DVD collection one Christmas. It was definitely one of his favourite comedy programs and to this day he still laughs his head off as though he’s watching it for the first time. In fact my siblings used to joke that Dad was an awful lot like Arkwright, Ronnie Barker’s character – but a lot more generous!

Open All Hours was a relatively slow moving sit-com but that just reflected the pace of life in the sleepy Yorkshire suburbs and the fact the most of the customers who frequent the shop are old-fashioned, homely characters of a ‘certain age’. I didn’t always get the jokes due to being so young but I knew the show wasn’t low on humour.

Writer Roy Clarke who penned the original series has now brought the show into the twenty-first century with Granville, played by Jason, stepping into Arkwright’s overalls after having inherited the shop from his late uncle, and he is now assisted by his son, Leroy (James Baxter.)

Although Still Open All Hours is set in 2013, it could well be back in the 70s as nothing seems to have changed at all. Very little is different about the shop which is still called Arkwright’s; I’m sure the overall’s Granville’s wearing could very well be the same ones Arkwright wore; the clapped out old bike along with the cash register which is in danger of guillotining your fingertips are still there. Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, Mavis and Mrs. Featherstone are still regulars, and the put-upon errand boy still exists but it’s now Leroy instead of Granville – with the former finding a novel way to make deliveries thus avoiding the dodgy bike!

 

I’m glad that this new episode didn’t stray too far from the original formula which is what sometimes happens when a show returns after a hiatus of several years. The show’s distinctive theme tune, “Alice, Where Art Thou?” appears to have remained unchanged and not revamped for the twenty-first century (thank goodness!) And not only was it great to see some of the old regulars but I’m thrilled that they were played by the permanent cast members from the original series: Lynda Baron (Nurse Gladys) Stephanie Cole (Mrs. Featherstone and Maggie Ollerenshaw (Mavis.) It would have been lovely, however, to have seen the return of the milk woman, with whom Granville had once had a romantic liaison. Mrs. Blewett’s absence was also noted but Kathy Staff, the actress who played her had sadly passed away back in 2008. It just wouldn’t have been the same to see another actress step into her shoes.

Still Open All Hours saw Granville unsuccessfully trying to shift copious amounts of anchovy paste (“They’re staunch potted meat round here, ” declared Nurse Gladys) and eventually managing to sell a couple of tins by claiming that they had aphrodisiac properties. This echoes Arkwright’s ginger cake situation which many viewers remembered (not me, so I’m going to have to watch Open All Hours Again!) And whereas Granville had to grow up dealing with an absent father, history repeats itself slightly with Leroy having to deal with an absent mother after having been abandoned by her as a child. And of course, shop closing time just before the credits still exists with the voice over that begins “It’s been a funny old day…” Classic!

However, the presence of new characters prevented the old format from becoming tired and stale. Granville now has a grown-up son Leroy, who helps run the grocery store with him. But unlike his father, he has more success with the ladies. There are also ethnic characters – something that was missing from the original series – which reflects the cultural diversity in Yorkshire. ‘Wet’ Eric provided some of the biggest laughs in this episode, and we also met Mrs. Agnew, Granville’s potential new love interest and the tea salesman among a whole host of characters.

Fans of the original show didn’t have time to miss Arkwright because although he sadly wasn’t physically present, writers made sure he was very much there in spirit. His overalls are still in use; there is a photo of him hanging up at the back of the shop which shows him looking almost demonic as he watches over his beloved shop; Granville’s impersonation of his late uncle’s stammer was spot on, and then there are the constant references to Arkwright by Granville, Nurse Gladys and Mrs. Featherstone. In addition to all this, it seems that as well as inheriting Arkwright’s shop and overalls, Granville seems to have morphed into his late uncle. He’s become as penny-pinching and desperate to make a sale as Arkwright. He also harps on about the merits of the old cash register and bike to Leroy in an attempt to get him to use them – but won’t go near them himself! As Nurse Gladys declared, “You’re an old tightwad like your uncle… he trained you well.” The transformation of Granville’s character is understandable on many levels. However, it means that while a great job was done to ensure that we didn’t feel Arkwright’s absence – I did miss Granville; the old Granville who was somewhat bumbling and a bit of a dreamer.

There were a few things that I found strange. Granville says to Nurse Gladys that in time Arkwright would have married her but I’m almost certain that Arkwright did marry Gladys. I remember an absolutely hilarious episode where Arkwright and Gladys got married – while Arkwright wore Gladys’s trousers! Furthermore, the character Cyril who was originally played by Tom Mennard is now played by Kulvinder Ghir!

But there was still so much to like about Still Open All Hours: the array of famous faces including Ghir, Nina Wadia, Sally Lindsay, Brigit Forsyth and Johnny Vegas who played ‘Wet’ Eric; the ‘aah’ factor came in the form of a dog who was sent on a shopping errand and Mrs. Featherstone taking Granvile by surprise with an unexpected snog was hilarious. Admittedly, there wasn’t much of a strong storyline; it was more of an introduction to the characters and a summary of the events that had occurred in Granville’s life but then what more could be done in a thirty minute slot? David Jason is adamant that Still Open All Hours is a one-off – there will not be a series following. However according to Wikipedia “If viewer reaction is favourable, the programme may return for a full series in 2014.”            

We’ll have to wait and see who’s right. Reviews have been fairly mixed but for the most part it seems to have been very well received and many viewers have said that they thoroughly enjoyed it; it was a great piece of nostalgia; and Ronnie Barker would have been proud. I agree with all of the above and feel it was definitely the best thing on TV during the festive season. How would I feel about an entire series? I have mixed feelings about it having seen numerous comebacks and spin-offs being ill-recived but given the success of the one episode, it could work. Roy Clarke apparently wrote the script for Still Open All Hours in two weeks – and it’s been brilliant. He has done a fantastic job – I always did say the old comedies are the best.

 

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Comedy Shows

 

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Streets Apart is Streets Ahead.

Ever recalled something so fleeting from your childhood that years later you wondered if you had imagined it?

Well for a while I did wonder if I had dreamt up Streets Apart before realising that it did in fact exist! This  BBC sitcom, written by Adrienne Conway,  was first shown in 1988, starring the late James Hazeldine and a virtually unrecogniseable Amanda Redman, as childhood sweethearts, Bernie and Sylvia, who reunite twenty years later only to discover that their lives have taken completely different paths: Bernie is now a black cab driver and widowed father of two, while Sylvia, having worked hard to escape her East End roots, works as a successful literary agent and has a plush central London home. So I set about watching all twelve episodes of Streets Apart again – and I’m so glad I did.

Th show's writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

The show’s writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

Only two series of this superb comedy were made and I don’t believe they were ever repeated again on BBC1 (who says the Beeb are famous for a never ending string of repeats?) despite, from what I understand, the show pulling in between ten to twelve million viewers per week. Streets Apart used to be shown on Wednesday nights (I think!) and although my memories of the show were quite hazy, I’m amazed now by how many OMG!-I remember-that moments I encountered while watching the show again. I even had flashbacks to my mum and aunt commenting on Sylvia’s hair and wardrobe virtually every episode. Oh the eighties!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Streets Apart again twenty five years later and laughed out loud at some extremely hilarious moments: Bernie picking up a fare who wanted to go to Torquay but pronounced it ‘Turkey’; Sylvia talking seductively over the phone to her bewildered assistant Tiffany in an attempt to make Bernie jealous; Cliff’s sister making a play for Bernie – who only had eyes for Sylvia. The first time i watched the show, I felt quite  sympathetic towards Bernie’s daughter, Mandy, even thought she came across as quite bratty. Watching for the second time as Mandy conspired to keep Bernie away from a-far-from-maternal and seemingly stuck -up Sylvia, I still sympathised with Mandy as I watched her determination to hang on to family life as she knew it.

Spoilt and snooty some of the characters may have appeared but all the characters are likeable in their own way and there is something quite touching in the close bonds that are formed between Bernie and Sylvia and their respective best friends Cliff and Jenny as the latter two provide the necessary support and encouragement that their friends need in order to resume their relationship.

Watching Streets Apart again and feeling that connection to my childhood and the 1980s struck such a chord with me. I could also relate to Sylvia’s desire to make something of herself and of her love of the literary world. There was so much that was familiar to me that I actually wanted to climb inside my TV set and be transported back to the 1980s. If only it were that simple.

It’s such as shame that only two series of Streets Apart were made before the show was cancelled. There was so much that could have been done in in terms of storyline and character development. Viewers were left hanging after watching the penultimate show; deliberately intended, I’m sure, just in case a third series should be commissioned. However, I’m optimistic enough to think that Bernie and Sylvia did make it work despite their differences. It would have been worth commissioning another series if only to hear that bittersweet theme tune sung beautifully by Neil Lockwood.

Despite being moving, funny and very well written by the very talented Conway, with stars Hazeldine, Redman and Desmond MacNamara all achieving a great level of fame, Streets Apart never reached the same iconic comedy status as Only Fools and Horses or the equally short lived but extremely popular Fawlty Towers and I cannot understand why as more than two decades later it’s still very watchable and nowhere near as dated as you may think. I’d like to think that it’s streets ahead of a lot of the drivel that passes for comedy today. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Conway

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Comedy Shows

 

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Dear John: Unforgettable… But Sadly Forgotten!

If ever there was a prize for the most underrated TV sitcom of all time, never mind gold, Dear John, would win platinum every time! Despite being the brainchild of the legendary John Sullivan, Dear John is something of a forgotten gem. Today, Dear John conjures up images of Channing Tatum’s bare torso but back in 1986 before anyone had even glimpsed such delights, it was compulsive Sunday evening viewing with a catchy, bittersweet theme tune.

 

The show’s title refers to break-up letters sent by girls to their soon-to-.be ex-boyfriends – although for years, I thought ‘Dear John’ letters got their name from the show! Middle aged and recently divorced school teacher, John Lacey, is the show’s reluctant hero forced to start his life over again after his wife runs off with his best friend. With his love rival taking residence in the former marital home with his family, John is forced to find lodgings in a dingy bedsit, where his encounters with his eccentric, elderly landlady, Mrs. Lemenski lead to moments of great hilarity.

However John’s unlikely saviour arrives in the form of a group for the divorced and separated: The 1-2-1 Club. Chaired by the overbearing Louise “Were there ever any sexual problems?” Williams, the club consists of a group of unhappy, lonely misfits: The frosty, thrice married Kate; geeky Ralph with the runaway wife; insecure Eric /Kirk St. Moritz; Sylvia with the irritating laugh and transvestite ex husband and quiet, dowdy Mrs. Arnott.

It’s understandable why viewers warmed to this comedy masterpiece from it’s very first episode. Sullivan incorporated the themes of loss, heartbreak and middle aged loneliness with great sensitivity and humour. There are many touching and poignant moments where we see the characters evolve and bond, being supportive of one another despite their flaws and differences. Ralph Bates was outstanding in his realistic portrayal as the too-damn-nice yet downtrodden John. There was something about his hangdog expression that made viewers feel genuine sympathy for his character’s plight. Viewers lived in hope of John overcoming his adversities and adversaries but sadly it was not to be as the sitcom was cancelled after two series due to Bates’ untimely death – although the American version endured a lot longer.

Watching episodes of the show in my adulthood has brought back a barrage of great memories and has been a real revelation of how great this sitcom is. Fashion aside, there is nothing dated about this show: the jokes are still funny; the characters are believable and the sensitive social issues are still in existence today. This comedy is proof of what great writing can achieve. Such a shame they don’t make sitcoms like this any more.

And yes, I will be splashing out on the DVD collection!

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 7, 2012 in Comedy Shows

 

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