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George and Mildred (1976-79)

Courtesy of FremantleThames

Main image of George and Mildred (1976-79)
Thames for ITV, tx. 6/9/1976 - 25/12/1979, 5 series of 38 x 25 min episodes total, colour
DirectorPeter Frazer-Jones
Production CompanyThames Television
ProducerPeter Frazer-Jones
WritersJohnnie Mortimer
 Brian Cooke

Cast: Brian Murphy (George Roper); Yootha Joyce (Mildred Roper); Norman Eshley (Jeffrey Fourmile); Sheila Fearn (Ann Fourmile); Nicholas Bond-Owen (Tristram Fourmile); Roy Kinnear (Jerry)

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Former landlords George and Mildred Roper come into some money and relocate to suburban Hampton Wick. But getting on in 'polite society' has its ups and downs.

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ITV sitcom Man About the House (1973-76) contrasted the superficially 'permissive' lifestyle of would-be Lothario Robin and his two attractive female flatmates with the humdrum, sexless marriage of their landlords George and Mildred Roper. By the end of the series' successful run, writers Brian Cooke and Johnny Mortimer had already signed a new contract with Thames, yielding two spin-offs: Robin's Nest (1977-81), following Robin's new career as a restaurateur, and George and Mildred, which saw the Ropers relocated to suburbia.

George and Mildred was the better received of the two, perhaps because audiences found more to identify with in the Ropers' bittersweet life of domestic tedium than in Robin's marriage to an air hostess and his thriving bistro. Certainly, the writers' sympathies lay with the Ropers. "If Johnny and I hadn't written a series for them, someone else would have. You couldn't waste characters like them," Cooke told the TV Times.

George and Mildred was never as funny as Man About the House, which benefited from the contrast between youthful optimism and aged resignation, but thematically it was always interesting. Reflecting the then relatively novel idea of an increasingly 'classless society' (a theme more acutely explored in the BBC sitcom Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?, 1973-74), the comedy centred on a newly affluent working class - represented by the suddenly solvent Ropers, moving into genteel Hampton Wick - in conflict with the 'proper' middle-class family next door, the Fourmiles. Central to the drama was an added twist - while Mildred longs to climb the social ladder, George is defiantly proud of his working-class status.

Brian Murphy and Yootha Joyce, as before, give effective performances, while the Fourmiles are an unexpectedly entertaining new ingredient. Norman Eshley as Jeffrey Fourmile convinces with his distaste for George's vulgarity; Sheila Fearn is excellent as his quietly amused wife, aware of her husband's pomposity and pretensions; Nicholas Bond-Owen makes a suitably repellent clever-clogs brat.

Five successful series later, following enthusiastically received stage tours of the UK and Australia and with a cinema adaptation awaiting release, the programme ended only with Joyce's sudden death. The secret behind this entertaining but unexceptional show's longevity might perhaps be found in the believable central relationship at its heart, as summarised by Brian Cooke: "The Ropers' marriage is like a lot of people's. But in spite of the niggles and arguments the Ropers still stay together. What else can they do?"

Vic Pratt

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Video Clips
1. The Ropers (1:16)
2. The Fourmiles (1:52)
3. Sex education (1:47)
Complete episode: 'Jumble Pie' (24:22)
Man About the House (1973-76)
Kinnear, Roy (1934-1988)
The Sitcom Family