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Fine Romance, A (ITV 1981-1984, Judi Dench, Michael Williams)

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Real-life husband and wife duo Judi Dench and Michael Williams starred in charming 1980s sitcom A Fine Romance as a couple of middle-class, middle-aged singletons who embark on an awkward romance after being paired up by friends.

Dench plays translator Laura Dalton, who is sent into a flap when placed in any kind of social situation, while Williams is shy landscape gardener Mike Selway who doesn’t say much. Despite their inability to communicate with each other, Laura and Mike eventually get it together for long enough to show the other their true feelings.

Memorable moments:
The success of the show’s gentle humour was largely down to the calibre of the cast and the writer’s subtle, observational scripts. For example, the simple storyline involving Mike trying to woo Laura over a meal, while she tries to trace her lost contact lens.

Trivia:
Judi Dench sang the theme tune to the show, a version of the 1930s song A Fine Romance, originally penned for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

The series was nominated for nine TV BAFTAs, with Dench’s performance winning her two in 1982 and 1985.

The show was re-made in the US for a one-off TV pilot in 1983, with Dench’s part played by Julie Kavner, who is best known for providing the voice of Marge in The Simpsons.

production details
UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 26×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 1 November 1981 – 17 February 1984 Four seasons

Writer: Bob Larbey / Producers: James Cellan Jones, Don Leaver

cast
JUDI DENCH as Laura
MICHAEL WILLIAMS as Mike
SUSAN PENHALIGON as Helen
RICHARD WARWICK as Phil
GEOFFREY ROSE as Harry (Seasons 1-2)
GEORGE TOVEY as Charlie (Seasons 1-2)

THE EPISODES

SEASON ONE 7 Episodes / Sundays 10.00pm / 1 Nov – 13 Dec 1981

1. ONE
Laura Dalton meets Landscape gardener Mike Selway at a party given by her sister Helen and her husband Phil.

guest cast
ANGELA CURRAN as Jean / POLA CHURCHILL as Girl at Party

 

2. TWO
Mike and Laura meet again at Helen and Phil’s for Sunday Lunch and continue to play along that they are not that interested in each other.

 

3. THREE
Laura, on a trip to Brussels, meets the handsome Ben.

guest cast
MICHAEL CULVER as Ben

 

4. FOUR
Mike gets a shock when he goes to a job at a sexy young woman’s house and discovers that her husband is Laura’s new friend Ben from Brussels.

guest cast
MICHAEL CULVER as Ben / MONICA GREY as Saleslady / GLYNIS BARBER as Linda

 

5. FIVE
Mike’s company is on the verge of bankruptcy and Laura agrees to help him sort things out.

 

6. SIX
Mike decides its high time he and Laura slept together and trys out his best seduction technique on her.

guest cast
LOUISA RIX as Ann / ROBERT SWALES as David

 

7. SEVEN
Laura and Mike have spent the night together but are unsure how to proceed further with their relationship.

 

SEASON TWO 6 Episodes / Sundays 8.15pm / 17 Jan – 21 Feb 1982

(8) 1. ONE
Helen reveals she is pregnant; Mike suggests that he and Laura should move into a flat together but she mistakenly believes he has proposed to her.

guest cast
LEON LISSEK as Waiter / HUGH WALTERS as Mr Bell

 

(9) 2. TWO
Laura is dreading a visit to the Dentist.

guest cast
PAOLA DIONISOTTI as Dental Nurse / CORBET WOODALL as Announcer

 

(10) 3. THREE
The offer of three book translations means Laura won’t be able to work for Mike so she arranges for Helen to take over but Laura’s job falls through after her publisher tries it on with her and she tells him where to go.

guest cast
JULIAN CURRY as Charles Payne / SUZIE CERYS as Miss Morris

 

(11) 4. FOUR
Laura feels life is passing her by and she is missing out on things.

guest cast
KEN WYNNE as Common Keeper

 

(12) 5. FIVE
Mike is determined to get to the bottom of Laura’s missing furniture after they have moved in together.

guest cast
BOB STEWART as Salesman / DEREK DEADMAN as Traffic Warden / HARRY LITTLEWOOD as Porter

 

(13) 6. SIX
Mike faces a traumatic visit to Laura’s parents, meeting them for the first time.

guest cast
LALLY BOWERS as Mrs Dalton / RICHARD PEARSON as Mr Dalton

 

SEASON THREE 6 Episodes / Fridays 8.30pm / 4 Nov – 9 Dec 1983

(14) 1. ONE
Mike accompanies Laura on a weekend course to Worthing and lies about being married.

guest cast
CHARLES PEMBERTON as Hotel Doorman / GEOFFREY LARDER as Waiter / JOHN OWENS as Waiter / DAVID ASHFIELD as David / IAN COLLIER as Chris / OLIVIER PIERRE as Frenchman

 

(15) 2. TWO
Laura decides she and Mike should hold a dinner party. Helen announces she is pregnant.

guest cast
ROY HEATHER as Taxi Driver / WALTER SPARROW as Patient / CHERITH MELLOR as Jill / MICHAEL HOWARD as Frank / JANET PALMER as Nurse

 

(16) 3. THREE
With Charlie his helpmate at the garden centre having to retire because of his failing health Laura tries to persuade Mike to take on some new staff; Helen is feeling the strain over her baby.

guest cast
EVE PEARCE as Jessie Harris

 

(17) 4. FOUR
With Helen pregnant Laura is starting to feel broody and Mike decides its time he expanded the business.

guest cast
KARL HOWMAN as Terry Bullivant / MICHAEL LEES as Mr Robinson

 

(18) 5. FIVE
Mike and Laura are at loggerheads over the subject of children.

 

(19) 6. SIX
Mike is shocked when Laura decides to take a job in Brussels and also Helen gives birth.

 

SEASON FOUR 7 Episodes / Fridays 8.30pm / 6 Jan – 17 Feb 1984

(20) 1. ONE
Mike, coping alone with Laura in Brussels, is pleased that his business is doing well and then Laura unbeknownst to him returns home.

guest cast
JAMES GROUT as Georges / KARL HOWMAN as Terry Bullivant / MICHAEL LEES as Mr Robinson

 

(21) 2. TWO
Mike not knowing that Laura has come home decides its time he went to see her.

guest cast
KARL HOWMAN as Terry Bullivant / SUSAN FIELD as Concierge

 

(22) 3. THREE
Laura is staying with Phil and Helen not yet having got back together with Mike but when she decides to call on Mike she discovers a glamorous and younger woman, Elaine, appears to have moved in with him.

guest cast
MARY MADDOX as Elaine

 

(23) 4. FOUR
Elaine is moving down to London to be with Mike but he realises he still wants Laura.

guest cast
MARY MADDOX as Elaine / LALLY BOWERS as Mrs Dalton / RICHARD PEARSON as Mr Dalton / FRANCESCA BRILL as Waitress

 

(24) 5. FIVE
Mike and Laura are still unsure of their feelings towards each other but problems with Mike’s employees heelps bring them closer together.

guest cast
KARL HOWMAN as Terry Bullivant / MICHAEL LEES as Mr Robinson / MALCOLM ROGERS as Mr Wiggins

 

(25) 6. SIX
Laura has a surprise in store for Helen and Phil when she reveals that Mike has proposed and she has accepted.

 

(26) 7. SEVEN
With their wedding on the horizon Mike and Laura decide to move into separate places….

 

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