Ridiculous as it may sound now, but two '70's sitcoms shared the same title - 'How's Your Father?' - and both went out on I.T.V.! Not at the same time, fortunately. The second starred the late Harry Worth and was from Yorkshire Television in 1979, running to two seasons. The earlier one began in 1974, was a Granada-produced vehicle for the late Michael Robbins - fresh from 'On The Buses' - and also ran to two seasons. The latter was by John Stevenson, a staff writer on 'Coronation Street' and who had written for 'Nearest & Dearest'.
Robbins was cast as 'Edward Cropper', a harassed family man at loggerheads with his mischievous father Ted ( Arthur English ) and would-be teenage rebel son Eddie ( Nicholas Hoye ). A long-standing family tradition means the eldest son is always called 'Edward', as Cropper explains in the first episode. Also under Cropper's feet are his Women Libber wife Doreen ( first Barbara Young, and then Rosemary Martin ), and man-mad daughter Christine ( Georgina Moon, who was 'Erotica' in 'Up Pompeii!' ). It was basically a generation gap comedy. Hardly original, as anyone who saw 'Bless This House' will testify. Poor Cropper's problems don't end at the workplace; he is an insurance agent and his boss is the fearsome Mr.Winterbottom ( Reginald Marsh, who was 'Sir' in 'The Good Life' and 'Sir Dennis' in 'Terry & June' ). Stealing the show was Sheila Steafel as 'Ivy Watkins', Cropper's spinster secretary. Her distinctive way of saying "Morning, Mr.Cropper!" ( she could make the syllables go up and down the vocal scale ) was much copied at the time in school playgrounds.
The opening titles featured Cropper, briefcase in hand, leaving his house at Laburnum Avenue, and waving goodbye to his wife, only to fall into a hole in the road left by workmen. As he clambers out, he lurches after the bus looking as though he has suffered an attack of incontinence.
In one episode, Cropper panics as he realises he has forgotten to renew the television licence. A minor burglary provides the answer - Ted tells the investigating policeman the burglar took it. Not very believable, and the show was never in danger of eclipsing 'On The Buses' in terms of popularity, but I recall it as being better than Reg Varney's 'Down The Gate'. All the episodes have survived, making a D.V.D. release viable.
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