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Classic TV Revisited: Sorry

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Sorry was a farcical BBC1 sitcom running from 1981-1988 with Ronnie Corbett as a pint-sized, sex-starved, moped-riding librarian who still lived at home at the age of 41. Barbara Lott and William Moore co-starred.

Why was it golden?
Though not a patch on Corbett’s collaborations with Ronnie Barker in The Two Ronnies, the series struck a chord with viewers. Corbett was outstanding as Timothy Lumsden who couldn’t escape his horrendous mum.

How did it begin?
It wasn’t actually the first time that Ronnie Corbett had played someone dominated by his mum.

He made a habit of it then?
He starred in two series of BBC1’s Now Look Here… in 1971 and 1973 as henpecked Ronnie who spent the first run trying to escape his mother.

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Who thought that one up?
Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame and Barry Cryer penned it and by the second series Ronnie was married.

Why was Sorry! so popular?
It was probably a case of there but for the grace of God for millions of men who’d fled overpowering mothers.

Was mum really that bad?
Phyllis, played brilliantly by Barbara Lott, was a true TV monster.

Why?
Her harridan ways were guaranteed to keep son Timothy in his place. She made him toasted soldiers to dip in his boiled egg every morning and basically treated him like a schoolboy.

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Did Timothy ever rebel?
He had plenty of rows with mother Phyllis, especially where women were concerned but she always ruled the roost.

Examples?
In the very first episode in 1981 he took a date to a river boat party but his mother followed him and ruined everything.

Didn’t his dad stick up for him?
Father Sidney (William Moore) was totally henpecked and his catchphrase was “Language, Timothy” during arguments.

Was it popular?
You either loved it or hated it — at its peak it was watched by more than 16m.

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Was it short on jokes?
No more cracks about Ronnie Corbett’s height, please. There were plenty of laughs but those who disliked it wanted to strangle his character Timothy and his Medusa of a mother.

Why didn’t he just leave home?
That’s what millions of viewers shouted at the TV screen every week.

Why did it end?
After seven series writers Ian Davidson and Peter Vincent finally took pity on Timothy Lumsden.

Was it matricide?
No, they couldn’t kill off his harridan of a mother as the comedy was shown before the watershed.

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What happened then?
In the final run in 1988 Timothy’s sexual frustration finally ended when he was allowed to get engaged to Pippa (Bridget Brice) and fly the coop.

Distinguishing features?
Mother love or was it smother love?; the maternal thumb prints on top of Timothy’s head; “Language Timothy!”; “Sorry, Father!”

Do say:
“A warning to all mummy’s boys on the perils of not leaving home before 30.”

Do not say:
“It’s not as funny as Ronnie Barker’s sitcoms Porridge and Open All Hours.”

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Not to be confused with:
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em; Sorry I’ll Read That Again.


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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