'Rich Tea & Sympathy' was David Nobbs' first series for Yorkshire Television since his hit 'A Bit Of A Do'. Predictably, it was unfavourably compared, although just as good. 'Sympathy' is essentially a love story between two ill-matched characters - pompous biscuit factory owner George Rudge ( the late Denis Quilley ) and feminist Julia Merrygrove ( Patricia Hodge ). They first meet in a restaurant, when she complains about his smoking. They bump into one another later at a garage when they go to get petrol from the same pump. He gives her a lift to work, and finds she works in his factory as personnel manager. When she goes canvassing for election to the local council, he offers support, only to find she is standing as a Labour candidate ( he is a staunch Tory ).
Julia is divorced from policeman Steve ( Ray Lonnen of 'The Sandbaggers' ) who is now dating a younger woman - Nikki ( Tracie Bennett, who played Rita Fairclough's adopted daughter 'Sharon Gaskell' in 'Coronation Street' ). Steve, alas, is a close friend of Charles, and has a habit of bumping into him in restaurants whenever wining and dining Julia.
As George and Julia's relationship develops, they brace themselves for a stormy encounter between their respective families - the former has three grown-up children in the shape of rugby-loving Warren ( Chris Garner ), tomboy Karen ( Lorraine Ashbourne ), and unlucky-in-love Tracey ( Sara Griffiths ), while the latter has two in the form of girl-chasing John ( Jason Flemyng of 'Primeval' ) and religious Samantha ( Claudia Bryan ). In a possible nod to Nobbs' previous 'Keep It In The Family', each has an appalling elderly relative. George's father ( the late and much-missed Lionel Jeffries ) is sex-mad, while Julia's mother ( Jean Alexander, for many years the curler-headed gossip 'Hilda Ogden' in 'Coronation Street' ) is obsessed by snooker and keeps asking Julia "Do I irritate you?". George and Julia's courtship is further complicated by the fact that his secretary Sally ( Anne Reid, another ex-'Street' regular. She was 'Valerie Barlow' for many years ) has the hots for him, as does Colin Pink ( James Warrior a.k.a. 'Mr.Babbacombe' from 'The Fall & Rise Of Reginald Perrin' ) for Julia.
Nobbs again delivered beautifully written comedy of the highest order, acted by a first-rate cast. But some critics turned up their noses. 'Poor Tea & Apathy' was the verdict of Hilary Kingsley of 'The Daily Mirror'. She wondered how Jean Alexander could have thought this worth leaving Weatherfield for, and grumbled about the Ray Russell-composed theme tune - a romantic duet performed by Quilley and Hodge.
In his autobiography 'I Didn't Get Where I Am Today', Nobbs admitted his depiction of young people was not altogether credible. Nevertheless, the show did well enough for a second season to be planned, and the only reason it did not get made was due to the impossibility of reuniting the cast at the same time. There was a D.V.D. release a little while back fortunately. It is the ideal programme to unwind to at the end of a long day, and a cup of tea and a few biscuits make the perfect accompaniment.
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