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).