Faith In The Future (ITV, 1995-1998)
This is yet another entry in my “were there any decent 90s ITV sitcoms?” series. Now this one has a little more potential than most because it is a spin-off sequel to a sitcom that definitely was something of a success for ITV during this decade, being one of the few to run for more than a couple of series, and also receiving some critical acclaim.
Second Thoughts was a sitcom that starred Lynda Bellingham and James Bolam as two middle-aged divorcees called Faith and Bill who try and start a new life together, although her two teenage children and his ex-wife constantly get in the way. This ran for five series, and the sequel Faith In The Future (which didn’t feature Bolam) launched on ITV in 1995, a year after Second Thoughts ended.
Faith has finally left Bill and moved house, the children have gone, and she has even managed to offload the dog to her mother. She is now a teacher of art at a college, and is enjoying life on her own for the first time in years. In the first episode, her daughter Hannah (Julia Sawalha) returns from a trip round the world and decides to move in (and her son Joe also appears in one episode).
Faith also begins to have feelings for her work colleague Paul (Jeff Rawle), they have an on-off relationship that leads to Faith bickering with Paul almost as much as she did with Bill, and it soon becomes clear that they are better off as just friends. Indeed, their situation seemed better suited to a soap than a sitcom. Hannah is having trouble finding work and takes on some embarrassing short-term jobs. Hannah is also being pursued by the rather dozy and accident-prone Jools, who when he isn’t falling over is in a band.
The second series was a little different as Hannah now had a new dreadlock hairstyle, and Jools was played by Simon Pegg in some of his earliest TV appearances, three years before sitcom Spaced, and even before sketch shows Big Train and We Know Where You Live. There is also an inevitable twist when Hannah starts to fall for the older Paul and they kiss just as Faith walks in. How awkward.
By the third series (I’m not sure if they were beginning to run out of ideas by this point, but this was now about 70 episodes in if you include also Second Thoughts) Faith suddenly tells Hannah (who has started to train as a counsellor) that many years ago she had a fling with another man and has another daughter called Zoe who is two years older than Hannah.
She is somewhat surprised to discover that she has had a half-sister all along, and then Zoe tracks Faith down for a reunion. Zoe is rather dull by comparison to Hannah (who isn’t badly behaved as such, but can be mouthy and rebellious), and Faith is pleased to finally have the perfect daughter that she wanted all along, causing Hannah to leave for good.
Just like Second Thoughts, every episode of Faith In The Future was written by Jan Etherington and Gavin Petrie, and all three series have been released on DVD by Network (although the only extra is a photo gallery). It experimented with a filmised look before most other shows and also had theme music called “The World Is What You Make It”, giving it all something of an Americanised feel.
Compared to Second Thoughts, Faith In The Future had something on an average response from critics, although it did go on to win an award an appear on the cover of TV Times. I also remember watching the show during a repeat run on digital channel Granada Plus in the early-2000s and enjoying it, especially Pegg’s performance. I’ll review Second Thoughts soon too.