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Men Behaving Badly (1992-98)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Men Behaving Badly (1992-98)
ITV, tx. 18/2 - 13/10/1992, then BBC, tx. 1/7/1994 - 28/12/1998, 45 x 30 min episodes across 7 series, colour
ProducerBeryl Vertue
Production CompanyHartswood Films
DirectorMartin Dennis
WriterSimon Nye
MusicAlan Lisk

Cast: Martin Clunes (Gary Strang); Leslie Ash (Deborah); Caroline Quentin (Dorothy); Neil Morrissey (Tony Smart); Ian Lindsay (George); Valerie Minifie (Anthea); Harry Enfield (Dermot)

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Gary and his lodger Tony share a flat. Gary has a girlfriend, Dorothy, and Tony admires their upstairs neighbour, Debs. Although in their thirties, the boys live in a state of perpetual adolescence. Finally Dorothy becomes pregnant and moves in with Gary.

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Men Behaving Badly proved both phenomenally successful and somewhat controversial. Like One Foot in the Grave (BBC, 1990-2000) and Absolutely Fabulous (BBC, 1992-2002), the show captured the mid-1990s zeitgeist and audiences responded by watching in their millions.

The series started on ITV before being cancelled after two series, ratings having failed to satisfy advertisers. The first series featured popular comic Harry Enfield as Gary's lodger Dermot, but the second heralded the show as viewers came to know it, as hapless Tony, played by Neil Morrissey, moved in with Gary. The BBC revived the show for a third series in 1994 and popular success quickly followed.

The controversy came from the show's association with the rise of 'lad' culture in the mid-1990s. To some, encouraged by the show's title, the antics of Gary and Tony seemed an endorsement of 'laddism' - largely middle-class young men revelling in regressive, sexist attitudes, irresponsibility and heavy drinking. This was far from the truth; Gary and Tony are mocked for their immaturity, and the sexual politics of the series are complex and subtle.

Men Behaving Badly pushed back the boundaries of sexual frankness in primetime TV comedy, but did so by saying funny and insightful things about men and women. By comparison, emulators such as Game On (BBC, 1995-8) and Coupling (BBC, 2000-) can seem merely crude or glib.

Writer Simon Nye is a superb chronicler of the battle of the sexes, as seen in subsequent sitcoms such as How do you Want Me? (BBC, 1998-99) and Beast (BBC, 2000-01). He illustrates the mutual incomprehension that can develop between men and women, through, for instance, Gary's fear when Dorothy buys a cushion for his flat, or Debs' disbelief that a good-looking man like Tony can be quite so inane. All this is delivered in dialogue that sounds naturalistic, but is packed with jokes that work both in themselves and with our expectations of the characters. Martin Clunes as Gary is particular good in using the subtleties of the script, so that we believe that he is quite witty and intelligent, while also someone who has remained emotionally fourteen years old. His scenes at work, managing an unbearably dull office, add a poignancy to the situation - as do Dorothy and Debs' ultimate acceptance of men they know are really beneath them.

Phil Wickham

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Video Clips
1. Suspicions aroused (3:28)
2. Caring Tony (3:10)
3. It's so unfair! (2:07)
Clunes, Martin (1961-)