“George and Mildred” (1976-1979)
Created by Brian Cooke and Johnnie Mortimer
Featuring: Yootha Joyce, Brian Murphy, Norman Eshley, Sheila Fearn and Nicholas Bond-Owen
George: “That’s a lovely statue, Mildred.”
Mildred: “Oh, thank you. It’s symbolic, of course.”
George: “You can see that, it hasn’t got any what’s-names.”
Released recently on DVD is the UK comedy “George and Mildred” (1976-1979) which itself was a spin off of the hit “Man About the House” (1973-1976) which featured George and Mildred as the landlords of a flat that housed one man and two women. At the time of production “Man About the House” was seen as progressive and antiestablishment with the Ropers as a representatives of the old ways of doing things always coming up against their younger counterparts. When that show ended it was spun off into “Robin’s Nest”and this show both of which ran for a number of years and were successful in their own rights. It is interesting that “George and Mildred” was adapted in the United States as “The Ropers”, a spin-off from “Three’s Company” (itself the US adaptation of “Man About the House”).
Whilst the stories that were contained with the show were actually pretty standard especially looking back now forty years later it was the two main actors Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy who were the main attraction. Yootha Joyce as Mildred the always looking forward and strong part of their relationship was a gifted actress and knew just how to play not only her part but against Brian Murphy as George the always seemingly nebbish husband always planning something. Murphy would have a long career playing this familiar character who never really left this series behind but was always reliable and extremely funny in this and other shows he was in.
The show was obviously entered around George and Mildred Roper who have left their old house after receiving a compulsory purchase order from the council, and move to 46 Peacock Crescent in upmarket Hampton Wick. While Mildred enjoys the chance to better herself in her new surroundings, she is always being thwarted—usually by the lazy, inept and generally unemployed George, who has no interest in climbing the social ladder, and also continues to show a lack of interest in sexual relations with Mildred.
There is no getting away from the fact that this series is over forty years old, so there are definitely elements that date it, the most obvious are the racial stereotypes as well as the gender issues that do crop up. The storylines are typical of the time, but the real secret to the series are the actors, the characters and the heart that was instilled into the writing from the outset.
I actually recommend this series completely, it is a breath of fresh air and is a precursor to all the English comedies we see now, remember most sit-coms, the successful ones start with a premise, a kernel and grow, much like this one did.
Moving On: When their house is subject to a compulsory purchase order the Ropers must move. Mildred sees her dream house in suburbia, next door to yuppie couple Ann and Jeffrey Fourmile and their seven-year-old son Tristram. Jeffrey is appalled by George and pretends the house is already sold to prevent him and Mildred moving in but Tristram explains that his dad is lying and the Ropers get the house.
The Bad Penny: George and Mildred get to move in and Ann, who is not a snob like Jeffrey, invites them round for a cup of tea. Unfortunately when they go home George and Mildred find they have locked themselves out and left the bathwater running.
… And Women Must Weep: Mildred gets a job as a secretary in Jeffrey’s estate agency. George is thus the house husband but he is a disastrous cook and home-maker. Mildred is relieved when he finally gets a job – less so when she discovers it involves being away all night.
Baby Talk: Having baby-sat for Anne and Jeffrey Mildred is broody and wants a child of her own. George is less keen but is persuaded to apply for adoption. His crassness and the Ropers’ age means that the adoption agency turns them down but he is thoughtful enough to buy Mildred a dog to compensate.
Your Money or Your Life: Following a family funeral Mildred notices that the pay-out on George’s endowment policy is very small and persuades him to take a medical to get a better pay-out. The medical is a success but George starts to worry that Mildred wants to kill him to get the money and cancels the payments. Ann wonders how to break the news of Tristram’s poor school report to Jeffrey.
Where My Caravan Has Rested: George sells his car and buys a caravan, which he parks in front of the house. When Mildred’s sister Ethel and her husband – whom George can’t stand – come to stay and sleep in the Ropers’ bedroom George moves into the caravan but unfortunately it gets towed away.
The Little Dog Laughed: Whilst out walking Mildred’s dog Truffles George happens to lose him and, rather than face Mildred with the news, he buys an identical one from a pet shop. Unfortunately for him – though fortunately for the dog – the plan is rumbled when the police find the real Truffles and return him to the Ropers.
Best Foot Forward: George borrows Jeffrey’s ladder to fix the television aerial but when Jeffrey takes it away George falls off the roof and ends up in hospital in the next bed to the knowledgeable Mr. Jolly who tells him he should sue his neighbour. Out and about in his wheelchair, George – or Ironside, as Mildred calls him, decides to do just that but has to settle for compromise.
My Husband Next Door: When the Fourmiles go on holiday Mildred has a key to their house so she can water their plants but George abuses this by going in to watch the couple’s superior colour television. Mildred has asked George to decorate their lounge but George calls in professionals – who follow him into the Fourmiles’ house,wrongly assuming that this is where the re-decoration is needed. George and Mildred have to put the resultant unwanted make-over back to normal.
Family Planning: Ethel and Humphrey come round to discuss the future of Ethel’s and Mildred’s elderly mother, who they think should be put into a home as she cannot cope on her own and they need their spare room. Curiously it’s George who suggests that mother moves in with them. Jeffrey has Tristram learn boxing after he gets beaten up by a girl.
Jumble Pie: George is not happy. Not only has Oscar the budgie died but Mildred has donated all his gardening magazines to the vicar for the local church jumble sale,on the basis that George never does any gardening. What she has failed to realise is that only the top few are about gardening, the rest are girlie mags, so George has to retrieve them before the vicar finds out.
All Around the Clock: The Ropers ‘celebrate’ their twenty-fourth wedding anniversary with an exchange of gifts. George gives Mildred a carriage clock, which is very nice and only cost him ten quid. However, when the Fourmiles return from holiday to discover that they have been burgled and the police arrive it looks as if the clock was among the stolen items.
The Travelling Man: Initially opposed to George’s idea of taking in a lodger to make more money,Mildred changes her mind when the charming salesman Edward Rogers turns up to rent their back bedroom. Edward is everything George is not, charming, cultured and dead keen to help Mildred with all those little jobs George can’t be bothered with. George gets jealous – though ultimately his worries are proved to be unfounded.
The Unkindest Cut of All: Despite the final notice George has forgotten to pay the electricity bill and a man is sent round to the Ropers to cut off their supply. This would be bad enough at the best of times but the visit coincides with Mildred’s efforts to impress Ethel and Humphrey with a gourmet dinner party.
The Right Way to Travel: Mildred wants a holiday in Majorca but George, who can’t speak Majorcan, feels they should stick to familiar Blackpool. If the Ropers travel with the Conservative Association to Majorca they can get discount and so they apply to join the local Tories. However the trip turns out to be already fully booked so they go to Blackpool, only to find everywhere full due to a Labour party Conference.
The Dorothy Letters: Mildred decides to have a spring clean and turf out some of Geoege’s clutter,including his gas mask. She discovers several letters he has written to a woman named Dorothy and fears that he has been unfaithful – though it turns out that they are unsent fan letters to a film actress. Jeffrey decides that the world is over-populated and goes for a vasectomy.
No Business Like Show Business: Jeffrey is directing the neighbourhood’s Christmas pantomime – ‘Cinderella’ – and Mildred is only too happy to be playing one of the Ugly Sisters. Unfortunately on the opening night she loses her voice and is unable to go on stage so,inevitably, George is called upon to replace her.
Opportunity Knocks: Jerry the ice-cream man persuades the gullible George to invest in his pigeon-farming idea but the only way George can raise the cash is by selling the house behind Mildred’s back. Jeffrey is delighted, Mildred anything but when she catches George showing prospective buyers around and soon puts a stop to his plan. Ann is pregnant and convinced the baby is a girl.
And So to Bed: After twenty-five years the Ropers’ bed finally collapses and it’s time to buy a new one. The trouble is that George is on a hire purchase black-list and can only get a new bed if he can put down the readies. Fortunately he has a winning system for horse racing and is confident it can get him the money.
I Believe in Yesterday: Mildred is thrilled to get a letter from Lee Kennedy,an ex-American airman with whom she has a wartime fling who is visiting England and wants to see her again. A jealous George rings up his old flame Gloria and arranges to meet up for a drink with her- though neither reunion turns out to be as the Ropers had hoped.
The Four Letter Word: Brother-in-law Humphrey offers George a job at his meat factory but when George finds out that he is enjoying weekends away with his young secretary he uses the fact to persuade Humphrey not to employ him. After George has inadvertently exposed Humphrey’s philandering to Ethel,he finally lands a job with Jeffrey Fourmile which literally carries a lot of weight on its shoulders.
The Delivery Man: Mildred is not happy about George mending his motor-bike in the house but when Ann goes into labour with Jeffrey away in Birmingham and no chance of a mini-cab it comes in handy for rushing her to the hospital in time. Inevitably George is mistaken for the father but a grateful Ann shocks her husband by suggesting they call their new baby son George.
Life with Father: George takes his father to live in a retirement home but he gets thrown out after only one day and billets himself on the Ropers, leading Mildred to discover just where exactly her husband got his loser’s streak from. She finds she has not one but two unwelcome guests before order is restored.
Just the Job: The ever work-shy George is apprehensive when called for a job interview but the resultant, successful post suits him down to the ground. He is now a traffic warden and inevitably loves the power that this gives him. Others are less enamoured so that when he turns up in his uniform,with Mildred,for Tristram’s school prize-giving, someone has tipped a bag of cement all over him.
Days of Beer and Rosie: George is surprised and then delighted when young Bill Albright, son of the recently deceased Rosie, approaches him with evidence that he is George’s long-lost son, conceived on V.E. Night 1945. There is even a ready-made daughter-in-law and grand-daughter into the bargain. However on further investigation the real father turns out to be George’s old friend Ernie.
You Must Have Showers: Mildred wants a new bathroom shower but the professionals’ quotes are too pricey for penny-pinching George,so he gets his dodgy friend Jerry the ice-cream man to do the installation. Unfortunately Jerry connects the shower to the Fourmiles’ plumbing system so that the Ropers end up stealing their neighbours’ water.
All Work and No Pay: Due to complaints about his over-zealous attitude George rows with his superior, Arnold Higson, and resigns his job as a traffic warden. He is scared to tell Mildred, who finds out from Mr. Higson with whom she flirts to get George his job back. Jeffrey has a new sports car and Mildred says he can use the Ropers’ garage, unaware that George’s useless friend Jerry is storing bags of cement in it.
Nappy Days: When the Fourmiles have to attend a funeral Mildred is happy to mind their new baby, Tarquin, for the day. But their car breaks down on the way home, making them late, and Mildred has her clay-modelling class to go to. George is left holding the baby and when the last minute call comes from the British Legion to say that they need him for the darts team he has no option but to take Tarquin with him. Will he get him home before Mildred finds out? Will he even get him home for that matter?
The Mating Game: With Truffles,Mildred’s dog,in season, the Ropers mate her with Ethel’s dog in order to produce pedigree puppies that they can sell but find that another dog has been with Truffles already who is decidedly non-pedigree. George gets a surprise when he buys a little friend for his goldfish, Moby, and Jeffrey suffers when he gives up smoking.
On the Second Day of Christmas: Having had an extremely boring and non-eventful Christmas Day, George and Mildred spend next day with the Fourmiles where George and Jeffrey become addicted to Tristram’s present, a video game, which sees George losing money. Ethel and Humphrey arrive for an exchange of presents but George and Mildred don’t have any presents for them.
Finders Keepers?: George buys Mildred a fur coat from the Oxfam shop but when she hears that he found a credit card in the pub she assumes he used it in the shop and returns the coat – only to find, too late, that she was mistaken. Jeffrey is disapproving when he learns that Tristram is playing with a new friend from the council estate and finds that he is not the only one who is a snob.
In Sickness and in Health: Mildred goes into hospital with suspected appendicitis so kindly Ann, to Jeffrey’s annoyance, has George round for dinner. When he gets home he finds Jerry, who has been evicted, wanting to stay,along with his ‘niece.’ But the appendicitis is actually indigestion, and Mildred comes home early. She is not happy to find two unwelcome guests and throws them out. Lucky for them Tristram has a tent pitched in the Fourmiles’ garden.
The Last Straw: The Ropers feel shunned by their middle class neighbours so George suggests they move back to the street in which he grew up, only to find it has been replaced by a tower block and that the area is ruled by gangs of teen-aged vandals. They consider emigrating to Australia but are told they are too old. Finally Mildred finds her niche – on Jeffrey’s committee to save a Victorian lamp-post – though George manages to accidentally scupper this too.
A Driving Ambition: Mildred is taking driving lessons from an elderly neighbour but wants to keep it secret from George so she says she is going to Keep Fit class. When Ann accidentally lets slip that the Keep Fit class has finished George suspects Mildred of having an affair and, taking advice from Jeffrey, attempts to be more romantic with her. A misunderstanding arises when the supposed lover comes to the Ropers’ house but all is resolved as Mildred passes her test. Jeffrey has to stand in for a poorly Tristram on his paper round.
A Military Pickle: Charlie Roper, George’s long-lost brother, comes to visit. He is a charmer who once dated Mildred and he gives George a thirty-year-old letter which seems to state that George is still liable to be called up for military service, as he ignored the letter at the time. George wants to hide in the attic and sends away a man who has come to sell Mildred a car thinking he is a policeman before the mistake is rectified.
Fishy Business: George lets his goldfish,Moby, swim in the sink and Mildred accidentally pulls the plug out,losing Moby, so, by way of compensation, George buys two supposed homing pigeons and builds a loft in the backyard to, calculatedly, annoy Jeffrey. Once released the pigeons never return and Mildred, feeling sorry for George, buys him another goldfish,though it comes at a price.
I Gotta Horse: Browsing through ‘Country Life’ Ethel sees a photo of a Ming dynasty china horse worth ten thousand pounds. Her mother tells her Mildred owns the only other one in the world and Mildred agrees to sell it to her,having first established that it is one of many worthless copies made in 1927 and not the real thing. For once the Ropers come out on top as Mildred pockets Ethel’s cheque for 1,500 pounds and Tristram’s pet mouse has the last word.
The Twenty Six Year Itch: Jeffrey gets an invite to the Young Conservatives’ Dinner Dance but Ann will be away so she persuades him to take Mildred instead. A jealous George chats up widowed barmaid Beryl, telling her he is single and arranging to meet with her on the night of the dance whilst he is alone in the house. However Mildred feels out of her depth and returns home early,forcing George to tell Beryl the truth. The Ropers go to bed and,whilst Mildred declares that she loves George for all his faults, his response is less assured – he calls her Beryl.