Bread (BBC1, 1986-1991)
This is another long-running sitcom that was created and written by Carla Lane, meaning that although this was one of the most popular comedy shows of its era, there was sometimes a darker edge to episodes. Bread was set in Liverpool and focused on the lives of the Boswell family. Sometimes things can be rather difficult for them though.
They were a rather large family, and they had to stick together and help each other out. Imagine if you had to be in the same room as your brother, your sister, your mother, and your granddad all day, but that’s what they had to put up with. I wonder if that can be an explanation for the rather pained performances by the cast of the memorable opening theme.
They will do anything that they can to earn some money and make things a little easier. But the reason that they manage to stop short of despair, is because, as they often say in EastEnders, and indeed Brookside, they are “family”. They might’ve argued regularly, they might’ve not been on the straight and narrow very often, and Granddad never knew what was for dinner, but as long as they remembered they were a Boswell, that’s what mattered.
There definitely was a soap-like feel to Bread (especially with the constant cast changes), and rather remarkably, after a few series, this was achieving ratings that soaps would be proud of. This meant that there were seven series squeezed into five years, and they were about twice the length of a usual sitcom run. And there were even a few specials on Christmas Day, one of them being an epic 70 minutes long.
There was also a short stage version in the early-90s. This is arguably the most-popular of Carla Lane’s sitcoms. All of the episodes have been released on DVD, and it’s no surprise that this went on to be repeated on various channels, even being shown on BBC1 long after you would’ve thought this had been moved off to UK Gold and the like.
One thought on “The Comedy Vault – Bread.”
It became fashionable to disparage Bread but it had an unusual feel, the broad up alongside the melancholic, the political, and the gently surreal. Of course, some Liverpudlians didn’t like it as they apparently missed that a) the Boswells didn’t represent all scousers any more than the Trotters represented all cockneys and b) they weren’t bad people. Not to mention c) it was a sitcom!
Certainly the later series without Peter Howitt or the adorable much-missed Gilly Coman were increasingly variable in quality with various characters becoming to obviously stand-ins for Carla’s beliefs even if they violated those characters’ personalities but neither the series nor Carla Lane get the credit for blending melancholy philosophical drama and comedy.