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Friends And Neighbours (BBC 1954, Peter Butterworth, Janet Brown)



Early sitcom Friends And Neighbours told stories of two married couples living next door to each other in a converted Victorian house.

Interestingly all four actors had previously appeared in Terry-Thomas series How Do You View? and two of the writers from that series, Carry On stalwarts Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell, also penned this series.

Peter Butterworth and Janet Brown were married in real life too.


Yorkshire Evening Post (Wednesday 27 January 1954): Television keeps Its weather eye on sound radio. It is not surprising, therefore, to find a family feature coming into the visual programmes.

It all started way back in the war. Afterwards came Mrs Dale laugh at the passing years, though with the Archers now edging her out of her place. These two features continue, to magnetise millions of listeners.

What with these and the Huggetts and the Lyons and a few minor families, no wonder television became envious. After much heart searching, comings and goings and conferences, a couple families are being introduced to viewers tonight. They are the Birds and the Honeybees—young married couples.

The series will be known as “Friends and Neighbours.” The emphasis is to be humour. If It catches the eye as well the ear of the viewer it may go on for a long time; on the other hand It may a flop.

The neighbours are not unknown There are Peter Butterworth and his radio and real wife, Janet Brown. To you. Mr. and Mrs. Bird. Peter started his career producing revues for fellow prisoners of war in Germany among whom was David Porter, recently BBC chief In Leeds, but now working on the Manchester staff. Both Mr. and Mrs. Butterworth are well known on children’s television.

The Honeybees are Benny Lee, former Glasgow tailor, member of the Braden and Terry-Thomas teams and more recently “Teleclub,” with Avrll Angers as his partner. Avril, a former Pol de Rol, was also In “Bandbox,” “Navy Mixture” and “Merry-Go-Round.”

Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell, who wrote the Terry-Thomas and Arthur Askey scripts, are responsible for the new series, which is put forward as an answer to the viewers who demand more fun.

Angus Young in The Sunderland Echo, Friday 12 Feb 1954: The second programme in the series ‘Friends and Neighbours’ was a great improvement on the first. The activities of the birds and honeybees were certainly amusing this time and, although I doubt whether I would like such characters as either friends or neighbours, if the standard of Wednesday’s programme is maintained I fancy they will be welcome visitors in many homes. Peter (Mr Bird) Butterworth showed he definitely has the ability to entertain adults as well as the younger viewers in Children’s TV.

Patrick Campbell was not overly impressed, writing in The Yorkshire Observer (Tues 2 Feb 1954): When Peter Butterworth is condemned by the script writers of Friends and Neighbours to trip over a vacuum cleaner and to be involved with a collapsing card table, one is driven to the conclusion that the Keystone Cops are to be the pattern for new television comedy programmes. This is not to decry the Keystone Kops, but rather to point out that slapstick, to be funny, must be well done and must show traces of originality. And while I have no wish to flog a dead horse, I would suggest that Bill Ward, who produces Friends and Neighbours, and Sid Colin and Talbot Rothwell who write it, might gain some benefit from listening in sound radio, to A Life of Bliss.

production details
UK / BBC / 6×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 27 January – 7 April 1954 Wednesdays 8.15pm and shown Fortnightly

Writers: Sid Colin, Talbot Rothwell / Producer: Bill Ward

Peter Butterworth as George Bird
Janet Brown as Constance Bird
Benny Lee as Arthur Honeybee
Avril Angers as Maisie Honeybee