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Mixed Blessings (1978-80)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Mixed Blessings (1978-80)
LWT, 3/3/1978-21/6/1980
22x25 min episodes in 3 series
ProducerDerrick Goodwin
Written bySid Green

Cast: Muriel Odunton (Susan Lambert), Christopher Blake (Thomas Simpson), Sylvia Kay (Annie Simpson), Joan Sanderson (Aunt Dorothy), George Waring (Edward Simpson), Gregory Munroe (Winston Lambert)

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Christopher and Muriel are in love. But since he is white and she is black, their marriage raises tensions among their respective families.

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Mixed Blessings (ITV, 1978-80) follows Thomas Simpson (Christopher Blake) and Susan Lambert (Muriel Odunton), recently graduated from university. They're in love and want to live together. He is white, she is Black and, this being late 1970s Britain, this proves an emotive issue, with both sets of parents initially disapproving. Eventually, Thomas's Aunt Dorothy (Joan Sanderson) invites them to set up home in her basement flat.

Mixed Blessings is a mixed bag of a sitcom. While its set-up points to its integrationist intentions, one only has to look at the title to note the writer's own ambiguous feelings - it is hardly the most enthusiastic of supportive statements for a young couple at the outset of their life together. Viewed by a contemporary audience, for whom interracial marriage barely raises an eyebrow, the show seems more than happy to reel off a sucession of racial stereotypes and myths.

One episode sees the nosy Mrs Beesley repeatedly inform Aunt Dorothy whenever a Black visitor is at the door. When Dorothy inquires as to why Mrs Beesley only sees fit to inform her of the black visitors, the response is, "Well, they're Black aren't they?" The notion of 'us' and 'them' is expressed through a succession of characters, including Mrs Beesley and Thomas's mother, whose main purpose seems to be to make endlessly politically incorrect statements and actions. On seeing a Black engineer in one episode, she feels compelled to offer him a banana.

While the show understandably reflects the confused racial attitudes of the time, it's unclear whether it is the prejudices of supporting characters or the very idea that a white man and Black woman can live in matrimonial harmony which is being held up for ridicule. One character, on finding out that the two are man and wife, mutters bemusedly, "Don't often find... you know, like you two... except in the working classes that don't know any better." With the humour of the show too frequently relying on racial ignorance, one is left to wonder whether it is the writer who should have known better.

Ali Jaafar

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Video Clips
Complete episode (part one) (15:26)
Complete episode (part two) (10:09)
Production stills
Davison, Peter (1951-)
Munroe, Carmen (1932-)
London Weekend Television (LWT)
Race and the Sitcom