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Man About the House (1973-76)

Courtesy of FreemantleMedia

Main image of Man About the House (1973-76)
Thames Television for ITV, 15/8/1973 - 7/4/1976
39 x 30 min eps in 5 series, plus 1 special, colour
DirectorPeter Frazer-Jones
ProducerPeter Frazer-Jones
WritersJohnnie Mortimer
 Brian Cooke

Cast: Robin Tripp (Richard O'Sullivan); Chrissy Plummer (Paula Wilcox); Jo (Sally Thomsett); Mildred Roper (Yootha Joyce); George Roper (Brian Murphy)

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Would-be lover Robin finds life with attractive flatmates Chrissie and Jo does nothing to calm his frustrations.

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Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke had a proven pedigree for creating popular comedy when Thames commissioned Man About the House in 1973. They had written for radio, latterly contributing to Round The Horne, and had more recently found sitcom success on television with Father, Dear Father (ITV, 1968-73).

The new programme focused on a flat share between two young single women, Jo and Chrissy, and a young single man, trainee chef Robin Tripp. While unafraid to try and 'swing' in true '70s style, the show generated much dramatic tension from the ongoing potential for romance between Robin and Chrissy. Their love, however, remained unconsummated throughout the show's lengthy run. Concurrently, a sexless drama of a more tragic sort played out through their live-in landlords, the Ropers, with ageing, frustrated Mildred making do in her fruitless union with narrow-minded idiot George.

"The situation of Older Generation looking at supposedly Permissive Young Generation," was how TV Times explained the show. But embarrassing misunderstandings, gentle innuendo, thwarted attempts to bed 'birds' and the occasional cheeky glance at someone undressing are about as permissive as Man About the House ever gets. Despite its modern premise, although many of the characters espouse 'daring' liberal values, an unspoken regard for the comforting restrictions of old fashioned British social protocol looms over the series; nobody ever seems to bed anybody, and narratives are repeatedly resolved with a cheerful reaffirmation of the chaste status-quo.

Strong performances, consistent characterisations, and genuinely amusing scripts bolstering sometimes implausible or corny situations are what keep the show afloat; and amid the more standard comedic fare there are sharp lines in the script, reflecting the distinctly different attitudes to relationships separating men and women, that ring both funny and true.

Man About the House features some inspired casting. O'Sullivan is likeable and charming as Robin; his flirtation with strong-willed Chrissy appears plausible and unforced. Murphy and Joyce, as George and Mildred, excel in their depiction of suburban marital despair, sometimes delivering the show's funniest - and bitterest - lines.

After six series and a feature film, the programme ended in 1976 as Chrissy married Robin's brother, Norman. There were two successful spin-offs: George And Mildred (ITV, 1976-79), the better regarded of the two, chronicled the aspirations of the Ropers in a more affluent neighbourhood; Robin's Nest (ITV, 1977-81) was a flatter, less inspired showcase for an older, greyer Robin Tripp as a married restaurateur.

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. Embarrassment (2:16)
2. George and Mildred (1:54)
3. Misunderstanding (6:25)
Complete episode: 'And Then There Were Two' (25:08)
George and Mildred (1976-79)
Lovers, The (1970-71)
O'Sullivan, Richard (1944-)