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British Comedies with Judi Dench

Updated on August 16, 2016

A Fine Romance: Classics in Literature and Film

The Quadroon Chef - Alexander Dumas concocting his own bouillabaisse of romance.
The Quadroon Chef - Alexander Dumas concocting his own bouillabaisse of romance. | Source

Romantic Comedy and Real Romance

Judi Dench, now Dame Judith Dench, has been the star of two BBC television series about romance; A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By, both titled with the names of popular songs of the 1930s.

Both series were well received and taody, play constantly in reruns on Public Television networks in some parts of America. Like the popular British comedy series Are You Being Served, fans of the two romantic comedies watch the same episodes time and again and still enjoy them.

One particularly attractive feature of A Fine Romance is that Ms. Dench was able to star oppostie her real-life husband, Michael Williams. From their expressions in the show, they mush have had a riotous time in playing those parts. Sadly, Mr. Williams died from cancer in 2001, ending that particularly fine romance of 30 full years.

A Fine Romance

First Episode

Cast of Characters

Laura Dalton (Judi Dench) - A woman that is a 40-something translator is socially awkward. Romance passes her by. Her sister and brother-in-law try to fix her up with men to no avail. She hides in closets.

Helen (Susan Penhaligon) - Laura's well-meaning sister.

Phil (Richard Warwick) - Helen's husband.

Mike Selway (Michael Williams) - A hardworking but shy landscape gardener that owns his own rather rundown business with an ancient male aissitant. The place is in such upheaval, one wonders how it stays afloat. For a time, Laura helps Mike organize the paperwork and businesses recruiting with pretty good results.

In the first episode of the series, year one, Helen and Phil throw a party at which they push together Laura and Mike for what they feel will be a sure romance. Each of these targets escape the party to get away from the other, but go to the same hiding spot, making for a comic ending. The four years of the series highlights further comedic situations, splits and reconcilations, and the couple's squabbles as they try, of and on, to grow a romance.

Later that evening...

For anyone that has been socially awkward, especially with potential romantic partners, the series A Fine Romance might be therapy as well as great fun, no matter what one's age and circumstance in life.

Laughter can surely be the beginning of a romance, and if a couple watches these series together, who knows what might be inspired?


A Fine Romance, Complte Collection

A Fine Romance: Complete Collection
A Fine Romance: Complete Collection

I have watched all of these several times and would do so again.


As Time Goes By


As Time Goes By (1992 - 2005)

Wondering What Happened after 38 Years

As Time Goes By encompasses the current lives in the 1990s - 2000s of two people that met and loved briefly in England at the start of the Korean War. She was a nurse and he was a young lieutenant in the armed services. Soon after he left for his service in Korea, they wrote letters that neither received and each always wondered what had happened.

The army officer, Lionel Hardcastle, went to Africa after the war to grow coffee. There he had a lukewarm marrige to "the only girl in the area." Meanwhile, Jean Pergetter married and had a child who, grown up, works with Jean in her secretarial staffing agency. Thirty-eight years later, who appears at the agency looking for clerical help in preparing his manuscript for his memoir My Life in Kenya? .....

Tempers flare and an undercurrent of hurt and anger seeth below the surface in both the young nurse and lieutenant, in their older forms. The events and disasters of the next 13 odd series years and a reunion film are hilarious as well as heartwarming. It is little wonder that in Central Ohio, fans watch this series daily and when it comes to the end, fans begin again with the first episode to do it all over. It certainly provides some escape and reminder of pleasanter times during an era of crises in America. 

OUTTAKES: As Time Goes By

Cast of As Time Goes By

Many of the actors in comedies on British TV have been successful in the British Shakespeare Company before or afterward, proving that comedy is no easy task when done well.

  • Jean Pargetter Hardcastle (Dame Judith Dench) - The nurse and the lieutenant finally get married after several episodes, after Lionel's aged but rock-and-rollin' father remarries, to his twilight years' sweetheart Madge.
  • Lionel Hardcastle (Sir Geoffrey Palmer) - Dry humor at its best.
  • Judith Hanson Deacon (Moira Booker) - Judy, Jean's daughter.
  • Alistair Deacon (Philip Bretherton) - This is a particularly hilarious character a book publisher whose dad is a friend of Lionel's Dad. Lionel would often prefer to stuff him in a dust bin.
  • Sandy (Jenny Funnell) - Employed at the staffing agency and Judy's friend.
  • Richard 'Rocky' Hardcastle (Frank Middlemass) - "Rock on!"
  • Madge Hardcastle (Joan Sims)
  • Penny Johnson (Moyra Fraser) - "Penn", Jean's former sister-in-law, rather controlling.
  • Stephen Johnson (Paul Chapman) - Penny's husband, a rather bumbling dentist.
  • Mrs. Bale (Janet Henrey) - One of the best characters in the series, the wry Mrs. Bale is the precise, tall, black-clad housekeeper at Rocky's estate in the country. ("Lunch will be served at 2:24 PM").

Dench and Palmer do a first rate job of portraying two people whose hearts were broken in the Korean War as they meet unexpectedly in the 1990s. Their first chance meeting in the 1990s is truly bristling. The phenomenon overall is one of amazing acting as the gradually softening characters gather comedic events to themselves like a foolish-magnet.

BEHIND THE BRITCOMS: Moira Brooker and Philip Bretherton

As Time Goes By: Casablanca

The World Will Always Welcome Lovers...

Although As Time Goes By was used as the theme song for this romantic comedy, the lyrics are sentimental and truly romantic, as is the relationship between Jean and Lionel.

This song is included in the Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman film Casablanca.

Traditions of Classic Romantic Comedy

Many television shows and films have been built around romantic comedy, although the neighter the romance nor the comedy shown through in all of them. Some of these attempts are simply gauche or crude, or thrown together slapdash without substance in order to get a film out.

Some others films will likely remain classics for their romance and emotional value as well as good story lines, including: The Lake House, Casablanca, Leap Year (2010), Sabrina - the original and the remake with Harrison Ford, Sleepless in Seattle, It Happened One Night, The Proposal, and others.

Comments and Additions

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      camlo - Thanks for posting! We had only a few episodes here, but luckily the library had the whole show on DVD. Evey episode was a hit, I thought. How fun that you saw one filming!

    • camlo profile image

      Camlo De Ville 7 years ago from Cologne, Germany

      Hi Patty!

      Just to let you know, I really did enjoy this Hub. Judi Dench is one of my favourite actresses, and 'A Fine Romance' was one of my favourite TV series; I never missed a single episode, and even watched one being recorded as part of the studio audience.

      Thanks for this Hub!

      All the best, Camlo

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      A most happy circumstance to bring it all together for you, greensnob. A great coincidence; thanks for commenting and glad you had a good itme.

    • greensnob profile image

      greensnob 8 years ago

      Great subject for a hub. I got completely off task reading and watching the clips of Judi and then lo and behold my favorite movie of all time, Now Voyager, was in the last clip. Now Voyager is one one those timeless movies of Bette Davis and probably the most powerful. Good time at this hub.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I have not seen Henry V, but will look for it, Uninvited Writer. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 8 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      I loved watching A Fine Romance and As Time Goes By. She is such a wonderful actress who can play any part you can name. I loved her in Kenneth Branagh's Henry V.

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 8 years ago from Philippines

      A fine hub that shows fine touch. Arranged for readers to go up to finish. Great hub.

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Judi Dench is one of my favorite actresses. I'll have to get this movie from Netflix. Thanks.

    • profile image

      kims3003 8 years ago

      very impressive

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 8 years ago from London, UK

      She is just great and I love watching here.

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 8 years ago from Great Britain

      Unusual and great hub. Thanks

    • dusanotes profile image

      dusanotes 8 years ago from Windermere, FL

      Dench is really something, isn't she. Your blog resonates with love. Don White

    • Tammy Lochmann profile image

      Tammy Lochmann 8 years ago

      I have been a big fan of Judy Dench forever.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I used to watch Faulty Towers the last round of reruns, along with Dr. Who. Hope they come back to PBS.

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 8 years ago from Northern Arizona

      I loved Judi as Queen Elizabeth in " Shakespeare in Love "...She also plays a very convincing " M " in the James Bond series...

      Her allure was such that a young man actually killed himself after being spurned by her in the 60's....a very interesting and talented woman, or rather Lady...Thank you for this memory...Larry

      As English comedy goes, I am a devoted " Faulty Towers " aficionado.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Another good one is "Keeping Up Appearances", about a social climber and her retired husband, and her three sisters in various stages of income across the whole range.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I used to be a big fan of English comedies in the days of Alex Guinness. I have not kept up, so this is interesting.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I surprised to learn that she starred in London in 1968 as Sally Bowles in Caberet. Quite a range of acting ability, I think. Thanks for commenting, Veronica.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 8 years ago from Georgia

      I love Judi Dench in As Time Goes By, I actually still watch the reruns faithfully every Saturday night. I could never get into A Fine Romance, but I will say, she is a fine actress, one of the best in my opinion.