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No. 73 / 7T3 (1982-88)

Main image of No. 73 / 7T3 (1982-88)
TVS, 2/1-28/8/1982; TVS for ITV, 7/5/1983-27/3/1988
186 episodes in 8 series, colour
Devised byJohn Dale
Producers includeJohn Dale
 Tim Edmunds
Directors includeJ. Nigel Pickard
 Liddy Oldroyd

Regular Cast: Sandi Toksvig (Ethel Davis); Nick Staverson (Harry Stern); Andrea Arnold (Dawn Lodge); Neil Buchanan; Kim Goody; Jeannie Crowther (Hazel Edwards); Richard Addison (Martin Edwards)

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Ethel Davis and her lodgers welcome you through the doors of her house at Number 73 - you never know who might drop in.

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The first run of this innovative TVS series replaced TISWAS (ITV 1974-82), in that area only, making it instantly hated. Yet by 1983 No 73 (ITV, 1982-88) was networked and finding its own cult following.

Like the earlier Mersey Pirate (1979), No 73 mixed a live magazine with scripted character comedy. Ethel Davis ran a guest house with boyfriend Percy and two lodgers, nephew Harry and roller-skating Dawn. Celebrities would drop in and pop bands would play in the front room.

Keeping the fictional fa├žade intact required intensive rehearsals and a large standing set. The cast found it hard to interview guests while staying in character - what would middle-aged neighbour Hazel know about the pop charts?

Sandi Toksvig was central to No 73's success. She wrote many of the spoof 'home movies' - these included a western, a medieval romp and an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The show was at its best when Toksvig was ad-libbing over any cracks, even if this worked against the format. TISWAS had made a virtue of spontaneity, but No 73 stifled it. One wonders why it was made live.

Running plots usually featured eviction threats from nasty landlords, though Series 5 ended with Ethel almost marrying bank manager Frederick (they stood each other up). But Toksvig's departure after Series 6 (viewers were told Ethel had emigrated to Australia) was an obvious turning point for the series.

Longer series meant overly complex storylines and overpopulated casts. Eventually TVS ran out of studio space, so the house was demolished halfway through Series 8. Dawn took over a Wild West theme park - inexplicably named 7T3 - and the series decamped to an outdoor lot. This proved expensive to maintain, and the show was cancelled.

The replacement Motormouth (ITV, 1988-92) featured 73 regulars Neil Buchanan and Andrea Arnold - now as themselves.

Alistair McGown

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Arnold, Andrea (1961-)
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