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Northern English Comedies of the 60s and 70s

Updated on December 19, 2018
MrRoberts profile image

I was a TV writer and subeditor for British newspapers and magazines for more than a decade.

Bill Maynard as Selwyn Froggitt
Bill Maynard as Selwyn Froggitt | Source

Northern Sitcoms - The Seventies

The Likely Lads

The Dustbinmen

The Lovers

The Liver Birds

I Didn't Know You Cared

Oh No, It's Selwyn Froggitt!

Last of the Summer Wine

The Likely Lads

Absolutely classic comedy series set in Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England and written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais,

Broadcast in three series between December 1964 and July 1966, only eight of the episodes have survived.

The series follows the adventures and friendship of two 'likely' lads, Terry Collier (James Bolam) and Bob Ferris (Rodney Bewes) who work together in the same factory. Both in their early twenties, Terry is already a cynical man of the world, while Bob wants to better himself and become middle class.

The Dustbinmen (1969-1970)

This sitcom, set in Manchester, was a spin off from the 90-minute film, There's a Hole in Your Dustbin, Delilah. It ran for 20 episodes on ITV, mainly written by Jack Rosenthal.

Cheese and Egg (Brian Pringle), Heavy Breathing (Trevor Bannister), Winston Platt (Graham Haberfield) and Eric (Tim Wylton) were the main characters. They drove the Corporation Cleansing Department's dustcart 'Thunderbird 3'.

Cheese and Egg: clairvoyant, communist and leader of the gang; Heavy Breathing was the "good-looking one" who spent his time pleasuring housewives (it was the Seventies); Winston Platt was a die-hard Manchester City fan and Welsh Eric spent his time talking about TV.

The boys were constantly at war with their boss, known as "Bloody Delilah!", trying to avoid any work and 'fiddling' the system.

The entire series is available on You Tube.

The Lovers

Another great comedy from Jack Rosenthal, this time starring Richard Beckinsale and Paula Wilcox as terribly mismatched courting couple, Geoffrey and Beryl.

Geoffrey is desperate to get Beryl to bed, while she thinks of sex as 'Percy Filth".

The Liver Birds

Set in Liverpool, North West England, and running from April 1969 to January 1979, this show was created by two Liverpudlian housewives, Carla Lane and Myra Taylor. Carla Lane wrote most of the episodes, with Taylor co-writing the first two series.

The series charted the adventures of two girls sharing a flat, coping with boyfirends, jobs and their parents. Series 1 starred Pauline Collins as Dawn and Polly James as Beryl Hennessey. From Series 2 onward, Welsh actress Nerys Hughes replaced the Pauline Collins with her character Sandra Hutchinson.

I Didn't Know You Cared

Four series of a rather surreal sitcom following the life and family of Carter Brandon (initially played by Stephen Rea, replaced by Keith Drinkel in series 3 and 4) living in a working-class household in South Yorkshire in the 1970s. It's written by Peter Tinniswood.

Carter's family are Uncle Mort (Robin Bailey); his mother Annie (Liz Smith); his father Les (John Comer); and his other uncle, Uncle Staveley (Bert Palmer and, in series 4, Leslie Sarony).

Auntie Lil (Gretchen Franklin), appears in the first two series.

It also features his girlfriend and later wife Pat Partington (Anita Carey and, in series 3 and 4, Liz Goulding);

Oh No! It's Selwyn Froggitt!

A series which ran for four series on the ITV netwrok, starring Bill Maynard as the titular character Selwyn Froggitt.

Froggitt is a council labourer, hapless handyman and all-round nuisance. He has ideas above his station, constantly wanting to get on and improve his life and anyone elses he can meddle in.

Much of the comedy in the series came from slapstick and lots and lots of catchphrases, including Selwyn saying "Magic!" and holding both thumbs up and referring to his brother as "Our Maurice".

The show was initially created by classic northern sitcom Roy Clarke, but the writing was taken over by Alan Plater. By series 5, Plater had left - and the entire series changed out of all recognition with Froggitt becoming entertainment manager of a seaside holiday camp and none of the other regular characters surviving the move.

The Last of the Summer Wine

This is God's number one area for unpleasant women with strong characters"

— Norman Clegg, Series 1, Episode 1

This is the longest running situation comedy in the world. Broadcast from 1973 until 2010, there were 295 episodes over 31 series.

Originally the series followed three friends - Compo (Bill Owen), Clegg (Peter Sallis) and Cyril (Michael Bates) - coming to terms with the loss of their wives, with redundancy and being - not in the Autumn of their lives - but trying to enjoy the last of the summer of their lives.

Compo and Clegg continued to be central cast for 29 series, with the role of the third man being filled at various times by Walter "Foggy" Dewhurst (Brian Wilde), eccentric inventor Seymour Utterthwaite (Michael Aldridge), and former police officer Herbert "Truly of The Yard" Truelove (Frank Thornton).

Over the years, supporting roles became more and more central to the plot. Subplots began to proliferate. By the 30th - and final - series, the cast had begun to look like an elephant's graveyard for British character actors.

© 2018 Neil B Roberts

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