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Terry and June (1979-87)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Terry and June (1979-87)
BBC1, 24/10/1979-31/8/1987
65 x 30 min eps in 9 series plus 4 specials, colour
ProducersPeter Whitmore
 John B. Hobbs
 Robin Nash
Writers includeJohn Kane
 Jon Watkins
 Dave & Greg Freeman
 Terry Ravenscroft

Cast: Terry Scott (Terry); June Whitfield (June); Rosemary Frankau (Beattie); Terence Alexander, Tim Barrett, John Quayle (Malcolm); Roger Martin (Alan)

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After their children have flown the nest, Terry and June Medford hope to enjoy a comfortable, middle-class life in suburban Purley. But thanks largely to Terry's restlessness, June's dreams of a calm life are rarely satisfied.

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Between 1974 and 1978, Terry Scott and June Whitfield had played husband and wife in the sitcom Happy Ever After (BBC), until it was ended by its co-creator John Chapman after five series. The BBC wanted to continue with the show, and to avoid legal complications were forced to change any details on which Chapman could claim copyright. Since the characters' shared their first names with the performers, it was decided that the surnames only needed changing, and so the show became simply Terry and June, in which form it was a fixture of the BBC's early-evening schedules for eight years.

The couple's relationship as it developed over nine series is an odd one, with June being as much mother as wife to Terry, who is obsessive and schoolboyish in his reactions and enthusiasms, stubborn, unreasoning and much given to tantrums and flights of hubris. When one of his schemes threatens to end in disaster, it is the vastly more practical June who quietly and calmly puts things right. Though rooted in the trivialities of ordinary middle-class life, the predicaments Terry created for himself, and the plans he devised to extricate himself from their consequences, were often extremely farcical, bordering at times on the absurd.

The series was singled out for particularly fierce condemnation by the new 'alternative' generation of comedians for what they perceived its complacent gentility, outmoded social attitudes and bourgeois sensibilities. Certainly, shows frequently revolved around the intrusions of snooty neighbours, the local vicar, or Terry's fearsome boss (sitcom regular Reginald Marsh), who he treats with extraordinary sycophantic deference.

But audience numbers were consistently high, and the writers' propensities to construct plots around Terry's attempts to master popular fashions and hobbies or adapt to new technologies endowed it with rather more socio-historical relevance than its contemporary detractors realised. Episodes dealt with the couple's attempts to get to grips with disco dancing, Terry's infatuations with snooker and CB radio and the complexities of working a video recorder, among other equally era-defining subjects.

For all the modernisers' efforts to kill the domestic sitcom, audiences remained stubbornly attached to it, and with only superficial modifications, it remains a staple of schedules today. Terry & June itself, however, was largely denied the afterlife of repeats enjoyed by so many of its peers, though the durable Whitfield found new success in one-time alternative comedienne Jennifer Saunders' Absolutely Fabulous (1992-96).

Matthew Coniam

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Getting old (3.46)
2. Before the class (3.59)
3. During the class (2:52)
Complete episode: 'Disco Fever' (28:47)
Absolutely Fabulous (1992-2003)
Bless This House (1971-76)
Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, The (1976-79)
Good Life, The (1975-77)
Scott, Terry (1927-1994)
Whitfield, June (1925-)
The Sitcom Family