GEORGE AND MILDRED. (1976-1979) A SITCOM CREATED BY JOHNNY MORTIMER AND BRIAN COOKE.
STARRING BRIAN MURPHY, YOOTHA JOYCE, NORMAN ESHLEY, SHEILA FEARN AND NICHOLAS BOND-OWEN.
I’ve absolutely loved this sitcom right from the first episode, though I’ve never seen MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE, the sitcom from which it derived. George and Mildred Roper are a total hit as a couple.
George is a ‘working class layabout’ who loves to sit around watching telly and smoking and only getting up to change the channel on the box when he can’t find the remote control…
Mildred is a social butterfly who wants nothing more than to move to a nice posh area and make a few nice posh friends with whom to share coffee mornings, book clubs and charity fund-raising drives.
Mildred has an adorable little wuff-wuff called Truffles. She’s (Mildred, that is, not the dog!) always togged out in her favourite skirt-and-blouse ensembles in the fluorescent colours she loves, with the make-up on and the wonderful but garish costume jewellery in place.
After a ‘bit of trouble’ with their old council house, the Ropers move to 46, Peacock Crescent in Hampton Wick, a posh area with ‘decent schools,’ where Mildred is so determined to social climb that you wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’d brought along her climbing boots, helmet and crampons to help her do the job.
George, not unsurprisingly, hates the house and the area, saying it’s a place for upper class, toffee-nosed twits and Conservative tossers. And he’s not entirely wrong, either. Next-door-neighbour, Geoffrey Fourmile, is a snobby real estate agent who thinks the Ropers are povvos lowering the tone of the neighbourhood.
His biggest dread is having George Roper’s working-class ideas inculcated into the brain of his own cute blond son, Tristram, who, at aged six or eight or whatever it is, is as absorbent as a sponge.
Geoffrey tolerates his wife Anne’s friendship with the brash and good-taste-less Mildred, but he has a special place of loathing in his heart for the perpetually unemployed George. The one time George gets a job, it’s as a traffic warden and he has the nerve to give Geoffrey a ticket!
Anne Fourmile is a rare gem, even in the days when women traditionally stayed home to look after husbands and children. She cooks, cleans and sews like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
She’s ash-blonde, sweet and pretty in a soft, feminine way (a sort of really soft, pink cashmere sweater kind of way), but she can be feisty and funny too, and she’s definitely sexy, with the Fourmiles still enjoying a healthy sex life even after several years of marriage. A second son-with-a-silly-posh-twit’s-name, Tarquin, is born about halfway through the show’s duration.
Geoffrey is traditionally tall, dark and handsome, but he’s no friend to the unemployed, whom he’d see as scroungers and layabouts who should all be made to pave the roads or something to get them off the dole.
His spats with George are hilarious, but stuffed shirt, stiff-upper-lipped Geoffrey isn’t entirely without feeling, as when he replaces George’s old dad’s dead ferret (dead because he, Geoffrey, backed the car over it!) with a live one to say sorry.
George and Mildred don’t seem to have had sex for years. Mildred makes the most cutting remarks about George’s impotency or lack of libido, whichever it is. George seems absolutely petrified at the thought of having sex with his own wife, and all Mildred’s attempts at penetrating the fortress that is George’s side of the bed usually end in failure. Not surprisingly, Mildred buys her Yorkshire Terrier, Truffles, to counter-act the loneliness of having no offspring of her own to love.
Mildred’s old mum is played by EASTENDERS actress Gretchen Franklin, who for years portrayed Ethel Skinner, Dot Cotton’s best pal, in the long-running soap. I can’t believe she was old even in the ‘Seventies!
In GEORGE AND MILDRED, her finest hour is probably when she hosts the Christmas knees-up to end all knees-ups while George and her daughter sit alone and friendless in their house. The joke being, of course, that even an octogenarian has more pals than George and Mildred…
Poor childless Mildred, for all her bling and brashness, has a sad life, really. Her husband never compliments her or even really ever notices her. He never even tries to touch her, never mind throwing her down on a bed and making her feel like a real woman with the strength and depth of his passion.
Her only friend is Anne Fourmile, who’s got her own family to worry about at the end of the day. Her mother can never remember which daughter Mildred is, and Mildred’s sister Ethel (more below) just uses her as someone to show off to and flaunt her wealth in front of. Poor Mildred.
Avril Elgar and Reginald Marsh play Ethel and Humphrey Pumphrey (love it!), Mildred’s sister and brother-in-law. Ethel married rich, and shows off her wealth and good fortune to poor Mildred in a way that would put Hyacinth Bucket (that’s Boo-kay, if you please, not Bucket!) of KEEPING UP APPEARANCES to shame. Mind you, we know that Humphrey is a bit of a womanising, sleeping-with-his-secretary type, so all is not completely perfect chez Humphrey.
My favourite recurring character is Roy Kinnear’s Jerry, the ‘cowboy’ builder, who’s so crooked he even freely admits it himself. He’s like O’Reilly in FAWLTY TOWERS, the cowboy builder Basil employs to work on the hotel because he’s cheap and cuts corners. But when George engages his mate Jerry to build ‘Mildew’s’ (that’s what Jerry calls her) dream shower, it’s not the Ropers but the Fourmiles who, erm, get the benefit…
Fun fact: George’s 1933 motorcycle-with-sidecar combination is now on permanent display at the London Motorcycle Museum. It also appeared in the BBC military sitcom, DAD’S ARMY.
Sad fact: Poor dear Yootha Joyce died prematurely of portal cirrhosis of the liver in 1980, thereby preventing further episodes of the show from being made. This just makes the ones we have all the more precious. It’s a terrific show. Watch it if you can.