"I've got hair on my chest and Susan's got boobs!"
'The Fosters' was the first British sitcom to star an all-black cast. A year after it ended, London Weekend Television gave us 'Mixed Blessings', written by Sid Green, a former gag man for Morecambe and Wise.
The premise is this: university graduates Thomas Simpson ( the late Christopher Blake ) and Susan Lambert ( Muriel Odunton ) are in love and have secretly married. After the honeymoon, they face the unenviable task of informing their parents. Though both English, Thomas is white and Susan is black. Predictably, their respective new in-laws are not happy with the situation. Thomas' mother, the dimwitted Annie ( Sylvia Kay ), has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. On meeting Matilda ( Carmen Monro ) and William Lambert ( Stefan Kalipha ), she asks: "Were you ever slaves?". Another time, she innocently quips in their presence: "I believe in calling a spade a spade!". At which point, Thomas rolls his eyes in despair.
Thomas and Susan initially live with his liberally minded Aunt Dorothy ( the priceless Joan Sanderson ), before acquiring their own flat, where they are scrutinised by the local busybody, Mrs.Beasley ( the late Pauline Delany ). Susan's job as a social worker provides their major source of income, until Thomas finally gets work. After three seasons, this popular series bowed out on a high note with Susan giving birth.
Compared to 'Love Thy Neighbour' and 'Till Death Us Do Part', this was very gentle stuff indeed. Though Thomas and Susan's families disliked one another, we saw little of the hatred which defined Eddie Booth's relationship with Bill Reynolds. They were affable old fogeys rather than ranting bigots. Racist language was conspicuously absent. After the initial episodes, the characters got used to one another, and the show settled into a cosy, domestic sitcom. The opening credits symbolised the format by featuring a wedding cake half white and half black.
There were complaints, but by and large 'Mixed Blessings' was regarded positively. I.T.V. even sold it to the West Indies. Which makes it all the more strange why it is rarely ( if ever ) mentioned on retro programmes. I can only assume that it is because it does not tally with the myth that the '70's was the golden age of the casually racist sitcom.
The catchy theme song was sung by Christopher Blake, and written by Peter Davison, his co-star in the I.T.V. drama 'Love For Lydia'.
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