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Grove Family, The (1954-57)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Grove Family, The (1954-57)
220 x 15-20 min episodes, black and white
ProducerJohn Warrington
Created byMichael Pertwee
 Roland Pertwee

Cast: Edward Evans (Bob Grove); Sheila Sweet (Pat Grove); Peter Bryant (Jack Grove); Margaret Downs (Daphne Grove); Christopher Beeny (Lennie Grove); Nancy Roberts (Gran); Ruth Dunning (Gladys Grove)

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The everyday life of an ordinary suburban family.

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Generally regarded as the first British TV soap opera, The Grove Family (BBC, 1954-57), named after the BBC's Lime Grove studios, bears scant resemblance to modern examples of the genre. Its sole focus on a single family, the eponymous Groves, and plots that included public service themes, such as the need to secure your house against burglars, seem woefully pedestrian by contemporary standards. But the series was a much-loved hit in its day and was briefly revived for a one-off episode in 1991 as part of the BBC's Lime Grove celebrations.

The Grove family consisted of Bob the builder (Edward Evans), his wife Gladys (Ruth Dunning), their four children and gran. For 220 episodes of between 15 and 20 minutes the members of this lower middle-class family squabbled and bickered against the backdrop of quite, suburban Hendon, while dad explained padlocks for the benefits of viewers at home.

The first episode saw the Groves celebrating their last mortgage payment - a monthly instalment of £13 8s - and the prospect of Bob Grove starting up his own building business. Within a year the BBC was regularly receiving letters asking Bob to quote for building work and Gladys for slimming tips from an audience that had swollen to 9 million viewers. Among them was the Queen Mother who, on a visit to the BBC, described the family as "So English, so real".

The entire series was written by father-and-son team Roland and Michael Pertwee, who helped develop the initial concept with producer John Warrington. Michael Pertwee, in an interview with TV Mirror in 1954, explained, "We decided that if the family was to have some semblance of reality, not every member should have wings sprouting from their shoulders. Thus, the elder son Jack is bit of a smart alick. The elder daughter Pat has a number of boyfriends whom she does not treat very well and grandma is best described as 'crotchety'."

The show was cancelled, much to the amazement of the cast, crew and audience, when the Pertwees decided to take a short break. After three years of continuous writing the pair felt in need of a holiday, during which time the BBC put The Grove Family into a hiatus from which it would never return. A movie spin-off, It's a Great Day (d. John Warrington), was made in 1955.

Anthony Clark

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Video Clips
1. Opening titles (0:30)
2. A visit from the Inspector (4:26)
3. Dinner time (0:43)
Complete episode: 'Prevention and Cure' (29:39)
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Compact (1962-65)
Owen, Alun (1925-1994)
Soap Opera