1978's 'Born & Bred' was made by Thames and was a sparkling comedy drama about two warring London families, the Tonsleys ( working class and proud of it ), headed by the grumpy Tommy ( Max Wall ), and the middle-class Benges, led by the ultra-snobbish Frank ( James Grout ).
The starting point was a two-part episode ( the only one not to be written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall ) of L.W.T.'s 'Budgie' starring the late Adam Faith, entitled 'Fiddler On The Hoof'. Small-time crook Budgie Bird goes home to his family, and a right bunch of old miseries they are too, the prototype for the 'Tonsley' clan.
Douglas Livingstone thought that there was a series there, hence 'Born & Bred' was born. When the naive Stephen Benge ( Richard O'Callaghan more or less reprising his 'Carry On Loving' role ) becomes engaged to Tommy's nymphomaniac daughter Iris ( Susan Tracy ), the families meet and it is hate at first sight. Luckily for all concerned, Stephen and Iris have doubts ( she starts to find him boring, he worries that she will be unfaithful to him ) and abandon the planned wedding.
'Born & Bred' was a bit like Yorkshire's earlier 'Beryl's Lot' in that it had the look and feel of a soap, yet was frequently hilarious. In one episode, Stephen went to Venice to try and get over Iris, and had a passionate fling with Cynthia ( Joanna Dunham ), the secretary of the man-who-nearly-became-his-brother-in-law Dennis Tonsley ( Trevor Peacock ). Dennis had been hoping to get her into bed himself, only to be confined to his hotel room with food poisoning. In another, pub landlady Molly Peglar ( Joan Sims ) suspected one of her employees of stealing from the till, and coated all banknotes with a chemical designed to turn the thief's fingers green! Her husband Arthur ( Ivor Roberts ) had to go round wearing gloves to try and conceal his guilt.
One critic favourably compared the show to 'Till Death Us Do Part', and not just because the opening credits also featured an aerial shot of Big Ben. Credit for must go not only to Livingstone, but also the magnificent cast. Ron Grainer composed the theme tune.
Iris disappeared after the first series, replaced in the second by Tommy's illegitimate daughter Nina Farthing ( Sally Grace ), who gave her occupation as 'personal services' ( make of that what you will ). Stephen was supposed to have married her too, but again bottled out.
Wonderful stuff. It would indeed be a shame if this does not get a D.V.D. release because of possible fear of confusion with the 2002 B.B.C. series of the same name.
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