'Sitting Pretty' is probably John Sullivan's least remembered sitcom, although like 'Dear John' before it, ran to two seasons. Mindful of criticisms that he was not good at writing for women ( made mainly by Cheryl Hall, with whom he'd worked with on 'Citizen Smith' ), the author decided to create a show with a female lead. Stage actress Diane Bull ( who had appeared in episodes of Eric Chappell's 'Only When I Laugh' and 'Duty Free' ) played Annie 'Annabel' Briggs. Back in the Swinging Sixties, she was the original 'good time had by all'. Since then she has lived with one sugar daddy after another. When we first see her, she is now 40 ( the 'Jackie Onassis of Bethnal Green' ) and has been married for a year to millionaire Boris, whom she calls 'Daddy Boo-Boo'. Her opulent lifestyle ends when he dies of a heart attack at a health farm. Discovering he was up to his neck in debt ( and having an affair to boot ), she has to sell everything off - including their home - to pay off creditors. Penniless, she eventually moves in with her parents at their rundown chicken farm in Kent. Tension develops between Annie and her dowdy hippie sister Sylvie ( Heather Tobias ). The latter is annoyed at the way her parents have welcomed Annie back into the family home whereas she never left. You can see echoes of the Trotter brothers in these women. Both have illegitimate children - Sylvie's son Andrew ( originally called 'Lone Star' ) was the result of a one-night stand at the Isle Of Wight Rock Festival in 1969 with a man claiming to be Bob Marley ( he wasn't ). Annie's daughter, weight-conscious nurse Tiffany ( Alison Lomas ), came about as the result of a fling with photographer Justin Osbourne ( George Irving ).
The show was like 'To The Manor Born' without the snob element. Luckily she has her Shirley Bassey records to help her through hard times. In 'The Sunshine Of Your Smile', Tiffany developed a crush on a butcher, and Annie helped out by fixing her hairstyle and make-up. Unfortunately, her good intentions backfired. Chopping meat with a cleaver, the butcher was so distracted by Tiffany's startling new appearance, he accidentally cut off his own thumb! 'Rumours' had Annie reunited with the Home Secretary ( the late Peter Blythe ), a 'lovely man' she'd once had a torrid affair with eight years before.
Bull gave a spirited performance as 'Annie' ( she sang the theme song and those are her family snaps in the opening titles ). Sullivan said that after their first meeting he knew she was right for the role. "It was exactly like the time I first heard David Jason read for 'Del Boy'.". Bull said of her screen persona: "In many ways we're like chalk and cheese. We're both gregarious, but she's much more positive than I am, eternally optimistic and tough. She can be very tough on other people too. I hope I'm not as rude as she is.". In the final episode, Annie discovers she was once married to an Italian gangster. The rest of the cast were good too, particularly John Cater as her hypochondriac father George ( "I knew I shouldn't have had that biscuit!" ) and Vilma Holingbery as 'Kitty', her mother.
'Pretty' was full of good lines and amusing situations. But it strangely failed to catch on, and the second season in 1993 was the last. I have no explanation for this. Perhaps the B.B.C. did not do enough to push it. Hilary Kingsley of 'The Daily Mirror' unfavourably compared it to 'Only Fools' ( as they later did with 'The Green Green Grass' ). On its own merits it was very good indeed. There have been no repeats nor D.V.D. releases.
On 23rd December 1998, Bull succumbed to cancer. She was 46. This lovely, talented actress deserved greater success. She was, to borrow Annie's catchphrase, 'phenomenal'.
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