What Richard O’Sullivan did after Robin’s Nest
Pretty much a part of any Friday evening on ITV in the 1980s was a gentle situation comedy of some sort. Nothing too heavy going after a shift in the office yet suitable enough for family viewing.
Me and My Girl, not to be confused with the popular musical bearing the same name, saw the comedic return of Richard O’Sullivan. Taking a break from Bananaman was Tim Brooke-Taylor. In her first major role was Joanne Ridley. Joan Sanderson, whom you may well know as Doris Ewell in Please Sir!, landed her first major comedy role since Mixed Blessings (1978).
It was created by Keith Leonard and John Kane, and its first episode entitled ‘I Love You, Samantha’ was aired at 8.00pm on Friday 31 August 1984. John Kane was hitherto involved in the BBC’s somewhat popular Terry and June and its predecessor Happy Ever After.
The series begins with Simon Harrap being a single parent to daughter Samantha. This came about after the death of her mother. By day, he runs the Eyecatchers advertising agency in Central London with business partner (and uncle to Samantha) Derek Yates. They are ably supported by matriarchal secretary Nell Cresset, also the main shareholder.
Much of its comedy came from friction between business partners, creative differences and Samantha, who would sometimes upstage her father and his professional partner Mr Yates.
- Simon Harrap: Richard O’Sullivan;
- Samantha Harrap: Joanne Ridley;
- Derek Yates: Tim Brooke-Taylor;
- Nell Cresset: Joan Sanderson;
- Liz: Joanne Campbell.
Producers: John Reardon, Malcolm Taylor, Humphrey Barclay.
Directed by: John Reardon, Nic Phillips, Malcolm Taylor.
Duration: 52 x 28 minute episodes, from 1984 to 1988.
Made by: ITV/London Weekend Television.
Me and My Girl ran for 52 episodes from the 31 August 1984 till the 04 November 1988, being ITV’s autumn and winter seasonal fixture. Most of its early episodes were written by its co-creators, with further episodes penned by Colin Bostock-Smith. Its first Christmas episode, entitled ‘Faraway Places’ was broadcast on the 27 December 1985. In this episode, a Greek holiday becomes a Greek tragedy as the tour operator went bust.
After that episode, Me and My Girl had a sabbatical, possibly to allow for Ms. Ridley’s ‘O’ Levels. It returned to our screens on the 10 January 1987 with the episode ‘Love’s Young Dream’. This time, its usual slot would be on Saturdays at 7.15pm – after Cannon and Ball. On today version of ITV, placing a gentle sitcom on this slot would be unthinkable, given the chokehold Messrs Cowell, McPartlin and Donnelly has on that slot most Saturdays.
By late 1988, the climate was changing, and our fellows at ITV decided to revamp the Saturday night schedules. Out went gentle sitcoms like Me and My Girl and populist quiz shows like 3-2-1. In went Trick Or Treat (co-presented by Julian Clary and Mike Smith), more episodes of You Bet! and – in later years though excellent – Stars In Their Eyes. Competition was everything, and this was consistent with the ‘dog eat cat’ competitive nature of Thatcherism (leading us, ultimately to The X Factor and its friends).
Its signature tune was penned by Peter Skellern, famous for his 1972 hit single You’re A Lady. By 1984 he was involved in the original Oasis. Not the group led by two affable brothers from Burnage, but a supergroup whose other members included Mary Hopkin and Julian Lloyd-Webber.
Joanne Ridley is the older sister to actress Emma Ridley. Her sibling’s credits include Return to Oz (1985) and The World Is Full of Married Men (1979). Joanne moved to California in the 1990s and changed her name to Iona Simms. She works as a midwife.
DVD and VHS releases
All 52 episodes have been made available on DVD, though only on export. Availability, pretty hard to say the least.
Who Else Remembers Me and My Girl?
If you have fond memories of the programme, comment away as per usual. Any comments in relation to The Lambeth Walk will be heading the same way as my box set of The Squirrels (which I don’t have, nor intend to add to my collection).
S.V., 18 June 2014.