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Lovers, The (1970-71)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Lovers, The (1970-71)
Granada for ITV, 27/10/1970-25/11/1971
13 x 30 min episodes in 2 series plus 2 specials, colour
DirectorsMichael Apted
 Les Chatfield
CreatorJack Rosenthal
ScriptsJack Rosenthal
 Geoffrey Lancashire

Cast: Paula Wilcox (Beryl); Richard Beckinsale (Geoffrey); Joan Scott (Beryl's mum); Robin Nedwell (Roland)

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Geoffrey is desperate to join the sexual revolution. Girlfriend Beryl, however, has other ideas.

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The 1960s gave British women the pill and, with the strict morality of the 1950s retreating, greater sexual freedoms and greater independence thanks to better employment prospects. The 1970s would see women growing in confidence and aspiring to true parity with men in their sexual and professional lives, rejecting futures dominated by marriage, motherhood and domestic drudgery. At least in theory. For Beryl Battersby, marriage and motherhood remain a cherished dream, and sexual freedom an alarming nightmare. Which is bad news for boyfriend Geoffrey Scrimshaw, who is more than ready for the permissive society and the sexual bounty that seems to come so easily to his colleague Roland.

Created by Jack Rosenthal just before he settled on the single comic drama as his preferred form for his wry, acute observations of life, The Lovers is a fondly remembered, if slight, take on the battle-of-the-sexes theme, given a freshness by its (almost) new-to-television leading duo. 20 year-old Paula Wilcox was the sparkle-eyed, alternately endearing and infuriating Beryl, besotted with her 'Geoffrey Bobbles Bon Bon', but repelled when his mind turns to 'Percy Filth' (while entertaining private fantasies of 'Percy Filth' with idol Paul McCartney). As Geoffrey, a sweet but commitment-phobic bank clerk, still moping over England's recent world cup misfortunes, and desperate to cast off his virginity, the mop-haired Richard Beckinsale debuted the trademark nerviness and vulnerability that would make him one of the decade's biggest stars.

The comedy arose from the pair's mismatched objectives ("Geoffrey, sex isn't the only thing in life", insists Beryl; "It isn't even one of the things in mine", sighs Geoffrey), and from Beryl's persistent attempts to change her beau into perfect husband material (assuring him he'd look 'devilishly' attractive with a pipe and a moustache). More unconventional was the regular appearance of an unnamed young woman, wordlessly played by Alison King, who would materialise just in time to be appalled by an out-of-context fragment of conversation and retreat in horrified embarrassment.

The series made the inevitable leap to celluloid (The Lovers!, d. Herbert Wise, 1972) with more success than most sitcoms, but after two series - by which time Rosenthal had handed over to Geoffrey Lancashire and Geoffrey had finally accepted defeat in his battle against marriage - it gracefully retired. Similar themes were explored by the more enduring Man About the House (ITV, 1973-76), with Wilcox as a more liberated but similarly forbidding object of thwarted desire.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
1. 'N.O. spells no' (3:50)
2. 'Trust me' (4:56)
3. Percy Filth (4:37)
Complete episode: 'Sardine Sandwiches' (25:39)
Kind of Loving, A (1962)
Just Good Friends (1983-86)
Man About the House (1973-76)
Apted, Michael (1941-)
Beckinsale, Richard (1947-1979)
Rosenthal, Jack (1931-2004)