Press clippings

How the sitcom wife evolved in 10 classic characters

Here we chart their evolution via 10 of sitcom's most memorable wives, from both the UK and USA...

Rachel Aroesti, The Guardian, 21st August 2021

New book to shine a light on creation of 1970s sitcoms

Raising Laughter, a new book due to be published in September, will take a look at the creation of 1970s sitcoms. Writer Robert Sellers has interviewed a number of those involved in the shows.

British Comedy Guide, 17th June 2021

New Year Honours for Wendy Craig and Rudolph Walker

Sitcom stars Wendy Craig and Rudolph Walker have been appointed CBEs in the New Year Honours.

Chortle, 28th December 2019

Can British remakes of American shows work?

Hang Ups, the new Stephen Mangan comedy based on Lisa Kudrow's original, is a rare example of the UK successfully taking on a US hit.

David Stubbs, The Guardian, 8th August 2018

Wendy Craig remembers Carla Lane

"Her greatest gift was that she understood women and wrote the truth about them." Wendy Craig is recalling her long-time friend Carla Lane and their collaboration on one of TV's best-remembered series, Butterflies.

Peter Stanford, The Telegraph, 1st June 2016

If Me and Mrs Jones, this crummy yummy mummy sitcom doesn't in itself herald the end of the universe, it does make you question what 14bn years of cosmic existence has achieved.

After the desperate opener, the humane hope was that, contrary to the second law of thermodynamics, things could only get better. But the second episode proved that hope to be vainer than Simon Cowell.

Character may not always be destiny in real life, but it is in real comedy. And like far too many British comedies, Me and Mrs Jones, a school gate farce, has no characters. Instead it has "types": the hapless single mother, the neighbourhood busybody, the humourless Nordic sex bomb.

To watch Sarah Alexander as Mrs Jones work herself into a mirthless fluster is to long to see Wendy Craig in a rerun of Carla Lane's 70s sitcom Butterflies, a yearning I have never previously felt in danger of experiencing. Yet say what you will about Craig's Ria, she was drawn from an active imagination rather than an exhausted comic trope.

The stock ciphers in Me and Mrs Jones possess no animating truth and therefore inspire no sympathy - the paradox of comedy being that you have to feel for people before you can laugh at them. Whatever pity was mustered went on the actors, whose lines were so limp that it seemed like a cruel and unusual punishment to leave them dangling without the protection of a laughter track.

In historical terms, the demise of the laughter track must be hailed as a positive development in British sitcom. For is there not something creepily controlling about being prompted to laugh? Apart from anything else, it denies us the basic human right of spontaneity.

But with the sort of sitcoms that British television churns out with mystifying regularity, the laughter track performs a vital practical role. It provides the only sign that these shows are comedies. Take that away and you're left with an extreme version of Brechtian alienation, only without the intellectual kudos.

When, for example, Inca the Nordic sex bomb said: "I am Swedish", you could detect immediately afterwards a ghostly appeal to a notional sense of humour - the empty beat where the laughter was supposed to go. Call it the silence of comic entropy, this was the haunted sound of a joke that had not just died but decomposed into absolute nothingness.

Andrew Anthony, The Observer, 21st October 2012

The sitcom and the sexual revolution is the subject of a documentary that wonders at everything from sexual frustration to the British love of innuendo and the changing role of women. Leslie Phillips, Leslie Joseph and Wendy Craig together with sitcom writers David Nobbs and Simon Nye are among those discussing such old favourites as Up Pompeii!, Hancock's Half Hour and Him & Her. In browsing the decades, the film asks why Butterflies caused a stir in the Eighties and if Men Behaving Badly really did capture the sexual politics of the Nineties. Also, how do American sitcoms differ in their approach? And does the modern British sitcom recognise any taboos at all?

Simon Horsford, The Telegraph, 28th March 2011

This week, Reggie (Martin Clunes) is having trouble with small talk. Of course, Reggie is struggling with bigger and worse things, but it's the small talk where it breaks out. Whether chatting by the water-cooler or having a glass of wine with his mother, he can't hit the right note, and those vivid fantasy moments he has don't help. He also continues to pine for Jasmine (Lucy Liemann), the gorgeous woman at work. Liemann has practically nothing to do, but does it well. Likewise, Fay Ripley seems wasted as Reggie's wife and tonight Geoffrey Whitehead and Wendy Craig add to the roster of comic talent worthy of more and better material. Better is the occupational health "wellness woman" whose response to any ailment is a perky "Oh that's horrid! Oh you sad sausage!" But it's a brave move for the script to mock poor-quality TV - luckily it's in one of the better lines, as Reggie notes, "Quite tiring the telly, isn't it? At one point I seemed to be watching CSI: Bournemouth."

David Butcher, Radio Times, 1st May 2009

Reactions to this remake have been pretty mixed and if things don't pick up in week two, the BBC could find that it's the viewers who are doing a disappearing act.

Tonight finds Martin Clunes's Reggie having trouble with office small talk and a visit to his company's sympathetic Wellness Person is called for. There are also unwanted visits from his mother and father-in-law to contend with - and Geoffrey Whitehead and Wendy Craig, in particular, have both been pulled from the BBC's bottomless pit of stupidly posh-voiced thesps.

Like the show's ill-judged laughter track (the weaker the gag, the bigger the laugh), these cardboard cut-out characters are harder to believe in than Reggie's flights of fantasy - although Clunes continues to do a heroic job conveying Reggie's disconnection with the rest of the human race.

Jane Simon, The Mirror, 1st May 2009

Don't do it. Seriously, you'll want to sue the Beeb for the 30 minutes you've just lost. Dreadful stuff that even Martin Clunes can't save. Things are lifted a fraction by the presence of Wendy Craig as Reggie's mother. But, sad to say, even her saintly presence doesn't make this worth watching.

Mark Wright, The Stage, 1st May 2009

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