Home To Roost (ITV, 1985-1990)
Having had a look back at various sitcoms that were shown on ITV in the 90s, I thought that I would now review another one from the 80s. As it seems that sitcoms are all but extinct on the present-day ITV, I thought that it would be good to have a look back at the days when there were plenty of them. I must admit that although I was aware of this show I thought that it was just another of those run-of-the-mill domestic sitcoms, but there is actually more much to it than that and there are plenty of interesting things worth pointing out.
Home To Roost is a sitcom that was created and written by Eric Chappell, who was also behind other successful ITV comedies including Rising Damp, and it was set in London (even though it was a Yorkshire production for ITV). Henry Willows (John Thaw, who is best remembered for appearing in various drama series including Inspector Morse, having a rare go at doing comedy) is a businessman who lives on his own after a divorce, his three children live with their mother, and he is rather satisfied with the arrangement.
One day his oldest son, 18-year-old Matthew (Reece Dinsdale, who would go on to appear in various shows including Coronation Street) decides that after being thrown out by his mother, he is going to move back in with his dad. Well you can imagine that Henry is not happy about suddenly having his quiet life disturbed, and they spend a lot of time bickering with one another, they clearly don’t get on.
The other main character is Henry’s cleaner Enid (Elizabeth Bennett) who notices that things can sometimes be rather awkward between him and his son (she was replaced by Fiona for the third series). Henry often spent most of the time having a scotch and throwing his coat around because he became so angry about Matthew’s antics such as listening to loud music when he should’ve been studying. In later episodes we meet more of Henry’s family including his daughter Julie and youngest son Frank, and his ex-wife Sue makes an appearance in one episode (Sheila Hancock, Thaw’s real-life wife at the time).
Most of the episodes were based around being flustered by one another’s new girlfriend. There was a series 1 episode where Matthew was going out with a girl called Christine who had something of a punk look (well it was 1985). Christine was played by Jenna Russell, and I wanted to find out a little more about her career. I was surprised to discover that she has gone to achieve a lot more than I ever realised, including winning an Olivier award for her theatre work, appearing in EastEnders for a couple of years, and I presume that lots of other people already know this but it was news to me, she also sang the closing theme to science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarf.
There were also plenty of episodes where Matthew liked to throw parties without Henry’s knowledge, and all the trendy people would always turn up, I’m sure everyone looked like this in 1986. Also appearing in episodes were Lysette Anthony, Leslie Ash, John Bird, Tyler Butterworth, Sara Crowe, Sherrie Hewson, and Ray Winstone. Home To Roost eventually ran for four series, plus an hour-long Christmas special in 1987. All 29 episodes have been released on DVD by Network, although there aren’t many extras.
About a decade after it launched on ITV, Home To Roost was repeated on Channel 4 in the mid-90s, and around this time a few other ITV sitcoms including Only When I Laugh and Rising Damp were also given a second lease of life on Channel 4, with Home To Roost also being repeated on ITV3 about a decade ago. Almost three decades after it ended it is a sitcom that is still fondly remembered by many.
There was also an American version of Home To Roost that launched on NBC in 1986 called You Again?, which starred Jack Klugman (of Quincy fame) as Henry Willows and John Stamos as Matthew. Enid was played by Elizabeth Bennett in what is thought to be a unique instance of the same person playing the same character in both the British and American versions of a sitcom. Some of the Home To Roost scripts were also recycled, and the first episode was the Matthew/Christine story being played out again. You Again? ended in 1987 and was shown in the UK on Channel 5 in the late-90s.