Watching (ITV, 1987-1993) A long-running “will they or won’t they” sitcom about a mismatched couple which was set in Liverpool. Sisters Brenda (Emma Wray) and Pamela Wilson (Liza “Jimmy’s daughter” Tarbuck) are in the pub one day and have had enough of the usual regulars including the short-sighted barman Harold and the resident drunk Cedric when someone they haven’t seen before walks in. He is Malcolm Stoneway (Paul Bown), and although it seems at first that they don’t have much in common at first him and Brenda decide to go on a date.
Malcolm is a rather ordinary guy and his hobbies include birdwatching and motorbikes, and he tries to get the more outgoing Brenda interested in these things. Indeed, Brenda even asks in the show’s theme “What Does He See In Me?”. Malcolm’s mother (Patsy Byrne) doesn’t think much of Brenda. Malcolm also works in a clothes shop and often asks his mate Terry (Perry “Billy in EastEnders” Fenwick) how he should deal with various situations.
As the episodes progressed the lives of the characters changed almost in a soap style. After a while Pamela gets married to David and they have two children, Sarah and Zelda. Malcolm and Brenda’s on-off relationship goes through constant changes, and in the fifth series Malcolm meets and eventually marries Lucinda, someone who is much more his type and who his mother definitely thinks is the right woman for him.
Also in the later series we see some more of Brenda’s family including her mother and her younger brother Gerald. Malcolm begins to think that he has made a mistake in marrying Lucinda, and in the final episode in 1993 he finally gets married to Brenda which was much to the delight of the many viewers who had watched throughout the years.
Watching was one of the most successful ITV sitcoms of its era, running for 56 episodes over seven series including several Christmas specials, and it also won an award. Every episode of Watching was written Jim Hitchmough and when he died I’m fairly sure an unscheduled episode of Watching was shown on ITV as a tribute.
Watching became popular with viewers because they wanted to see how the situation between Malcolm and Brenda would play out, and it always did very well in the ratings. Among the reasons that I liked to watch Watching was because it was a show with lots of amusing and realistic dialogue, and there was also some terrifically late-80s fashion senses on show, usually from Brenda.
After Watching ended, Emma Wray went on to appear in the ITV sitcom My Wonderful Life (which STILL hasn’t come out on DVD), and in the 2000s the show was repeated on Granada Plus, before Network went on to release all seven series on DVD, and it really was great to be able to watch all the episodes and go through the whole story again.