The Smiths (ITV, 1995)
This is another very short-lived ITV sitcom that I noticed was on YouTube recently (credit goes to the uploader “Appropriated Subdiffusion”). In 1993, ITV launched a series called Comedy Playhouse, where eight sitcom pilot episodes were tried out (The 10%ers and Brighton Belles went to a full series that weren’t hugely acclaimed, but Once In A Lifetime, one of the highlights for me, went no further).
Then two years later in 1995, ITV launched a similar series called Comedy Firsts, featuring six more pilot episodes, five being sitcoms, and one a sketch show (Barbara went to a full series and ran for almost eight years, being fairly successful, although Sometime, Never ran for only one series). But this one got no further than its pilot.
This is a sitcom that featured some of that Merseyside humour. The Smiths (nothing to do with the 80s band of course) featured a family consisting of parents Clive and Carol, and their teenage children Wayne and Debbie. The episode began with them in their car and their rather tuneless performance of “Swords Of A Thousand Men” by Tenpole Tudor.
Along with the main cast members, who were played by Kevin McNally and Rebecca Lacey, there were a few other familiar names in the cast. One was Geoffrey Hughes, who appeared in lots of other shows including Coronation Street, Keeping Up Appearances, and The Royle Family. I also remember being told about an odd moment from when he was a on a celebrity special of Telly Addicts.
When he was asked something like “what is the name of this children’s TV character?”, he said “scraggy doll”, even though no such thing seemingly exists, what was he thinking. Also appearing was Sonia Evans, who was a chart-topping pop star in the 80s, and was now an actress, going on to appear in BBC1’s The Lily Savage Show, and she describes her personality as “Liverpool” (oh no, that was a parody sketch in French And Saunders).
Oh, and Rowland Rivron was in this too. As for the actual plot, Clive and Carol like to have their intimate moments in their car, but after being repaired, it is bought by a passer-by, so now they have to use their garden shed instead. Would The Smiths become the latest zany family TV comedy stars? No, not really, there was only one episode, and they were never seen again.
This style of humour had already been well explored in sitcoms including The Liver Birds, Bread, and Watching. And this also had one of the harshest reviews in the Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy book. Although this could apply to other shows, we were informed that this unusually was produced “without an audience (either this or there was one but they found nothing to laugh at)”. And people wonder why ITV were falling so far behind the BBC at making decent sitcoms.