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Classic TV Revisited: Happy Ever After becomes Terry and June



Happy Ever After was your archetypal cosy suburban sitcom, with Terry Scott and June Whitfield as the Fletchers and Beryl Cooke as Aunt Lucy. When Happy finished Terry and June took their marital concept one step further by making the exactly the same sitcom Terry and June. This time out the surname changed to Medford and the couple lived in middle class splendour in Purley, Surrey.

Archetypal middle-class, middle-aged suburban sitcoms where vicars called for tea, and trousers were dropped.

Why was it so good?
Long-running rather than good might be a better description of the two comedies starring Terry Scott and June Whitfield. Although they look dated now they were hugely popular and regularly attracted more than 14m viewers.

How did they begin?
Happy Ever After, the forerunner of Terry And June, was developed from a Comedy Playhouse pilot. It ran from 1974-79 and was swiftly followed by Terry And June from 1979-87. Terry Scott and June Whitfield originally played the characters in a sketch from his series Scott On. The characters endured in the two BBC1 comedies for an incredible 14 series and 106 episodes.

What were they about?
Mostly bland domestic crises which still seem to infiltrate several 21st century sitcoms. In Happy Ever After the couple were Terry and June Fletcher who got into silly scrapes after their grown-up children left home. In Terry And June they had “marital ups and downs” as Purley couple Terry and June Medford.

Happy Ever After becomes Terry and June

Terry and June in Terry and June…

Did they have any exciting plots?
“Hilarious” storylines included a visit from the boss, looking after a pal’s dog and Terry getting into a tizz over his wife’s “infidelity”. Classic episodes included the couple being browbeaten on a ferry by a boy who’d written to Jim’ll Fix It so he could appear on Terry And June. Terry’s domineering boss Sir Dennis (Reginald Marsh) for some reason always came for Christmas dinner.

Were they funny?
In retrospect they had their moments – viewers always wondered whose chair was going to collapse and Terry Scott played the part to overgrown schoolboy perfection.

Any other humorous moments?
Happy Ever After took flight when the couple’s ancient Aunt Lucy (Beryl Cooke) moved in with her mynah bird. There was also a health farm as Colditz episode and Terry’s infamous attempt at cooking a barbecue.

Didn’t other comics mock them?
There were some merciless parodies of Terry And June in the ’80s. An episode of The Young Ones called Boring took much delight in knocking the cosy sitcom genre. The expression “Crikey” was continually used, the vicar came for tea and someone’s trousers fell down. Even so Terry And June usually had the last laugh – it was third in the ratings in 1987 behind EastEnders and Corrie.

Could it be revived?
It’s never really gone away but the middle-class sofa sitcom and its twee, domestic slapstick has certainly had its day.

Distinguishing features?
Chintz curtains and matching sofas. Domestic dramas in suburbia. Smut-free.

Do say:
They don’t make them like that any more.

Don’t say:
Thank God! I preferred Bless This House and Sid James’s dirty laugh.

Not to be confused with:
Terry And Julian, a C4 comedy with Julian Clary in which June Whitfield guested. Also Men Behaving Badly, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, Terry’s All Gold chocolates.



Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess




Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife




McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal




The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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