|Index||7 reviews in total|
A sitcom about a widow, her mother and her daughter living in three
flats under one roof would never get made today - some producer with an
eye on the under 25 market would probably insist on it being three
young girls flatsharing. But back in the 80s, After Henry was the sort
of gentle yet clever sitcom that thrived on British screens. The
relationships between Sarah, Eleanor and Claire were so realistic you
could imagine they really were related, with Prunella Scales
successfully shaking off memories of Sybil Fawlty. Joan Sanderson as
Eleanor is the real star here though. Sanderson may have ended up
typecast as the slightly snooty, abrupt old woman, but like many
typecast actresses, she ended up that way because she played that part
The show seemed to be running slightly short on ideas in its final run, but was still well worth watching. Sadly, Joan Sanderson died just before the 1992 run was transmitted, so the decision over whether to commission a further series was made for ITV. In a way, this may have saved the show from an undignified end, as suburban sitcoms suddenly became very unfashionable in the recession struck early 90s. A shame really, as all ITV's attempts at 'modern' urban sitcoms were appalling.
I discovered this show by chance on a trip to Ireland and was exhilarated by its comic freshness and unexpected poignancy. The three lead actresses and one lead actor had terrific chemistry, and the writing could make you belly laugh and sob almost simultaneously. It is a mystery to me that "After Henry" has not made its way to these shores, where I'm confident it would join the top ranks of most beloved Britcoms. Are the programmers at PBS all dead in their offices at this point? They would do well to retire their endless reruns of jukebox "specials" and seek out savvy, unfamiliar programs like "After Henry." (If I hear "Amazing Grace" warbled just one more time, there will be havoc in Mudville.)
I enjoyed this show very much and only wish it would be running again. Very humorous with a good mix of characters. The lives of a grandmother, mother and daughter all living in a 3 storey flat. One of the Britian's BEST comedies ever made.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After Henry is a show I loved as a youngster, and have enjoyed
rewatching over the years. As a sitcom it isn't one you could say is
loaded with belly laughs, it contains no slapstick, but what it does
have is a very strong sense of realism. The humour is very dry, very
witty, a brand of humour that seems to have vanished off our screens.
For me the enjoyment of the show comes from the often moving moments
when Henry is remembered.
Prunella Scales and Joan Sanderson are both superb, both have great timing, superb actresses, they make the show. Janine Wood is good also, but the character of Clare is just a little less interesting then her more mature family members. The best laughs come from Eleanor, and her caustic comments, her delivery was always perfect.
Series one is very good, but in this case I feel that it gets into its stride in the second and third series. The forth is a little pale in comparison. Sad that Joan Sanderson died before it's transmission in 1992.
At times it feels a bit middle class only, but the eighties were a different time altogether. The awful fashion and hideous decor prove that. A lot of quality comedy also came from that era.
After Henry goes to show that when a radio show is made into TV, it can work. 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Simon Brett's 'After Henry' was one of three BBC Radio 4 sitcoms that
made a successful transfer to visual media ( the other two being the
patchy 'Up The Garden Path' and the dreadful 'Second Thoughts' ),
albeit on ITV. Despite its massive success on radio, the BBC felt it
had limited visual potential and so passed on the idea. Far from giving
up, Brett then took it to ITV, where it was picked up and made by
It was all about middle aged widow Sarah France. Her husband Henry has recently died and she tries her best to cope without him, a task not helped by the burdening presence of her interfering mother Eleanor Prescott ( who lives in the flat below Sarah in their large three storey house ) and her insecure daughter Claire ( who lives in the flat above Sarah ). Sarah works in a second hand bookstore named Bygone Books where her employer is Russell ( who is openly and unashamedly gay ), the only person in Sarah's life whom she feels she can truly open up to.
As if the interference from her mother is'nt bad enough, her ( Eleanor's, that is ) friends, whom Sarah calls 'the geriatric mafia', particularly the nosy Vera Polling, are not backwards in coming forwards in regards to poking their noses into Sarah's affairs.
Prunella Scales, who played Sarah, signed up for the role as she did not wish to be typecast as tyrannical Sybil Fawlty from 'Fawlty Towers'. I don't think it would be inaccurate nor unjust to say Scales will always be remembered as Sybil ( even her appearances on the Tesco commercials are better remembered than this ). That said, 'After Henry' was a ratings success and proved popular enough to run on ITV for four series. Whilst I enjoyed it on the whole, it is nowhere near to the standard of 'Fawlty Towers' but then I think you are all already aware of that. Many of Pru's best scenes were with the priceless Joan Sanderson as Eleanor ( one likes to wonder whether Sanderson got the part after appearing with Pru in the classic 'Fawlty' episode 'Communication Problems' ). Jonathan Newth was impressive as Russell whilst the gorgeous Janine Wood made the heart beat as the sexy Claire.
Joan Sanderson died in 1992, whilst the fourth ( and as it turned out, final ) series was being screened. To replace her would have been impossible, as well as disrespectful so it was brought to an end after that. The show was repeated on UK Gold in the early '90's but for some time remained forgotten until it was released on DVD in 2008. It is not brilliant comedy, far from it, but it is inoffensive and easy to watch and is superior by miles to Scales' dreadful 'Mapp & Lucia'.
Television chiefs in Britain, desperate for new comedy ideas, seize on any
successful radio series. When it first appeared, the idea of three
generations of women under the same roof, and the sympathetic depiction of
gay man not in the first flush of youth were quite fresh. "After Henry"
something in the transfer to TV, possibly because on TV it made fewer
demands on the imagination. The cast, principally Joan Sanderson (qv) as
Prunella Scales's mother and Benjamin Whitrow (qv) as the bookshop owner,
were fresher, too.
The Bottom Line - 2.5 out of 5
"After Henry" is a mid-grade Britcom. Britcom fans such as myself will enjoy seeing Prunella Scales (Mrs Fawlty from "Fawlty Towers"), as she is a fine actress and does admirably here. However, the show isn't memorably funny, the premise of multi-generational households is a well-tilled one and there's little new here, and the remaining cast is mediocre. The general impression left on the viewer after several episodes is that it's a rather run-of-the-mill program.
As an American who loves Britcoms, I try to watch and rent all that I can find on telly and in vid shops. I don't have the luxury of comparing "After Henry" to the regular programming that British viewers see each night. My comments on the show are in relation to the shows I have seen. The best shows would include "One Foot in the Grave", "Blackadder", "Fawlty Towers" and "Red Dwarf". "After Henry" is clearly not in that lofty class, but is passable. You could certainly find yourself watching worse... and better.
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