Poor Guy Fuddle. He desperately wants a happy family, but all he has is a mean ol’ Granny who despises him for reasons he doesn’t understand and four sisters who scattered out around the globe long ago and have become strangers to him.
Then suddenly his dream that they will one day be reunited as a happy family seems set to become reality. The ailing Granny mysteriously orders him to find his four sisters and bring them to her bedside as she has something she needs to tell them. Guy obediently goes off to round up his sisters.
So begins the first episode of Happy Families, a sitcom Ben Elton was inspired to write after seeing Alec Guinness play numerous roles in the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets. He then decided to write a series that would give its star, Jennifer Saunders, the ability to play multiple characters a la Guinness.
Indeed, Absolutely Fabulous star Saunders gives a tour-de- force performance as the crotchety Granny Fuddle and her four granddaughters: Cassie, Roxanne, Joyce, and Madeline. After the initial set up during which Guy is sent off, the following four episodes follow him as he rounds up his sisters. His travels take him to L.A., where Cassie is a big television star; and then on to France, where Madeline is living in an artistic commune lorded over by the pretentious poet/porn merchant Dalcroix. After that, he finds his sister Joyce is a novice nun who’s driving the Mother Superior crazy, and last, he finds Roxanne is an inmate as a women’s prison. For various reasons, the girls find the offer to return to the Fuddle home irresistible, and in the last episode they are all together and learn Granny’s “secret.”
UK / BBC One / 6×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 17 October – 21 November 1985 Thursdays 8.25pm
Writer: Ben Elton / Producer: Paul Jackson
JENNIFER SAUNDERS as Granny/Edith/Cassie/Roxanne/Joyce/ Madeleine
ADRIAN EDMONDSON as Guy Fuddle
DAWN FRENCH as Cook
STEPHEN FRY as Dr De Quincy
HELEN LEDERER as Flossie
JIM BROADBENT as Dalcroix