Sitting Pretty (BBC1, 1992-1993)
This is an example of a 90s sitcom that is now little-remembered that was on BBC1, not ITV like the ones that I usually feature here, but you’ll soon see why I found its story rather interesting. By the early-90s, John Sullivan had become one of Britain’s most successful comedy writers, being behind such shows as Citizen Smith, Just Good Friends, and of course Only Fools And Horses.
So there was much anticipation when it was announced that Sullivan was going to do another new sitcom, which would launch on BBC1 in 1992. It did have something of a “how could it possibly fail” element to it, and there was little doubt that these characters would soon become as well-known to viewers as Del Boy and Rodney, but would that really happen?
Sitting Pretty starred Diane Bull (who also sang the theme song) as Annie Briggs, who had been a model in the 60s, and was now married to a rich businessman and lived in a mock-Tudor house (in a link to Only Fools And Horses, he was played by John “Boycie” Challis, although we only hear him on the phone in the first episode). I remember that when I planned to review this show, I asked someone on Twitter if they knew about it, and then they contacted Boycie himself to ask if he remembered it, and not only did he, he also quoted the show’s catchphrase, which I thought was rather good.
After her husband dies suddenly, Annie has to go back and live with her parents on their small farm in Kent, along with her twin sister Sylvie, and her daughter Tiffany. This is a rather big change in her life, and she has to adjust to this much-less glamorous lifestyle. Annie’s catchphrase (which would soon become very popular, honest) was “phenomenal”, which was said just 2½ minutes into the first episode, and then about every five minutes after that.
But what really stood out to me about the show was that Annie thought of herself as “the Jackie Onassis of Bethnal Green”. Now wait a moment, because this is where I live in London, and often hearing it referenced in a prime-time comedy show was rather odd, but I was so proud of course. Because of this, around the time the show was on TV, maybe in 1992 or 1993, something rather great happened.
Someone had the rather clever idea to have Diane Bull turn on the Christmas lights in Bethnal Green for that year. This means that because I was there for that occasion I have seen the woman herself, making her one of the few TV personalities that I have seen for real, because as you should know by now I’ve never had much of a desire to meet my heroes because I would be so overawed.
There were two series of Sitting Pretty, but they weren’t really that big a success, and by Sullivan’s high standards, it was something of a surprise flop. Diane Bull didn’t appear on TV much after this, and she died in 1998, age 46. I’m fairly sure the show hasn’t been released on DVD either (well I definitely don’t own it), and it didn’t enter the cycle of repeat channels such as what was UK Gold. A shame as it was proper cushty.