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Laura San Giacomo,
On her husband's demise, attractive Bridget suddenly finds she can't meet the financial demand of her Sussex country house in Brighton without his income. Her solution: take in lodgers. Two other "belles" soon take up her offer. One is Annie, a rather thick-skulled but likeable and friendly farmer's daughter from a small English village who is also a widow who had to sell her house for money. The other is Frances, a sardonic and sarcastic ex-headmistress who has divorced a pig named Michael who took the house when they seperated. Also, Bridget shows her seductive side and she searches for a new mate. Later on, Frances' tactless and over-protective mother, Josephine, moves in as well to hover over and generally annoy her daughter. Written by
In the early '90's, the Tory Government was livid after a Thames Television programme questioned its version of events leading up to the shootings of I.R.A. suspects in Gibraltar. In an act of unparallelled spite, it dealt commercial television a blow from which it has yet to recover, making the various I.T.V. regions compete to keep its franchises. I.T.V. was so worried it put out special trailers trumpeting its greatest achievements, backed by the Billy Joel song: 'We Love You Just The Way You Are'. It was right to be concerned. The consequences of this hastily though out 'auction' were nothing sort of disastrous - even Margaret Thatcher had to apologise ( the only time she ever did so ) to Bruce Gyngell after T.V.A.M. lost its franchise. Thames lost out too, to inexperienced newcomers Carlton, and amongst the first shows it commissioned was this - an adaptation of Susan Harris' hit U.S. sitcom 'The Golden Girls'.
'Brighton Belles' started out as a one-off pilot shown on 9/3/93, as part of 'Comedy Playhouse'. Not only was the idea the same in principle, but so were the scripts. Four talented actresses took on the main roles: Wendy Craig as light-headed 'Annie' ( 'Rose' ), Sheila Hancock as sardonic 'Frances' ( 'Dorothy' ), Sheila Gish as voluptuous 'Bridget' ( 'Blanche' ), and Jean Boht as outspoken 'Josephine' ( 'Sophia' ). With James Cellan Jones as director and Humphrey Barclay as producer, it seemed like a sure-fire hit.
Six episodes into the 11-part series, I.T.V. pulled it off the air following poor ratings. The remaining shows went out a year later in a graveyard slot. It was not a good start for Carlton.
Was it so terrible? Not really. The problem was that affection for the original was too strong. When the U.S. sitcom 'Good Times' was adapted as 'The Fosters' in the mid-70's, the former was unknown to British viewers. 'The Golden Girls' was massively popular thanks to Channel 4. Perhaps if new scripts had been written, it would have stood more of a chance. As it was, 'Brighton Belles' felt like a repeat even on the first run.
The title song included the lyrics: "When others' friendships will be forgot, ours will still be hot!". Sadly, the public's friendship with 'Brighton Belles' was not even tepid.
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