‘It was boredom at first sight/You could hardly call him bright/He’s no one’s Mr Right/So what do I see in him?…’
From 1987 to 1993, the pen of Jim Hitchmough created one of ITV’s longest running situation comedies. Despite having good viewing figures, it is largely forgotten. Making its screen début on the 05 July 1987, Watching centred around three main characters. The main one, Brenda Wilson (Emma Wray), throughout the series dated birdwatching and motorcycle nerd Malcolm Stoneway (Paul Bown). She often met up with Pamela Wilson (Liza Tarbuck) whose main activity was people watching – always beside the Space Invaders machine at The Grapes.
The series was set along the banks of the River Mersey, with Brenda on the down to earth Liverpudlian side, and Malcolm on the Wirral Peninsula with a domineering mother (Patsy Byrne). Though separated by a mile or so of estuary, they were in two different worlds, with Malcolm being on the affluent side of the peninsula, around Meols and Hoylake way. He would take Brenda on his birdwatching trips, sat in the sidecar of his Norton motorbike.
Brenda’s offbeat remarks, Malcolm’s mother and exchanges with the landlord at The Grapes (Al T. Kossy) made for most comic effect. Its mixture of pathos and observational comedy made for good television. I too was an avid viewer in my adolescence and loved Charles Hart’s theme tune.
- Brenda Wilson: Emma Wray;
- Malcolm Stoneway: Paul Bown;
- Pamela Wilson: Liza Tarbuck;
- Marjorie Stoneway (Malcolm’s mother): Patsy Byrne;
- Harold (landlord at The Grapes): Al T. Kossy.
Watching ran for 56 episodes on Fridays at 8.00pm (though the first series’ episodes were shown at 10.00pm on Sundays, with the final series at 7.00pm the same day), including four Christmas specials in 1987, 1988, 1991 and 1993. The 1987 episode included a cameo appearance from Richard Madeley, where he was a DJ at a Christmas party (Erasure’s O La Amour played in the background). Each episode (apart from three) were single word titles ending with ‘ing’. The first one was entitled ‘Meeting’, with the final episode ‘Knotting’. The latter being the episode where Malcolm and Brenda finally tied the knot.
All 56 episodes were directed by Les Chatfield, with the first two series produced by David Liddiment (Les Chatfield would take over thereafter).
The programme’s distinctive signature tune was sung by Emma Wray herself and is entitled ‘What Does He See in Me’. It was written by Charles Hart, whose other credits a rewrite of lyrics to The Phantom of the Opera.
Watching spun off from a rejected sketch which Mr Hitchmough sent to Messrs Marshall and Renwick (yes, the protagonists of End of Part One, mentioned elsewhere on EotM60) for Not the Nine O’Clock News. It was written during a drama workshop at the Everyman Theatre.
DVD and VHS releases:
All seven series of Watching have been released by Network DVD from 2006 to 2009. The first two episodes were released on VHS in August 1993 on CastleVision.
Who Else Remembers Watching?
If you have fond memories of the programme, feel free to comment away. Did you have a mother like Malcolm’s? Were you based around the area whilst it was being filmed?
S.V., 15 September 2012.