DVD review: “…And Mother Makes Three” (1971-1973)

“…And Mother Makes Three” (1971-1973)

Television/Comedy

Twenty-six episodes

Created by: Richard Waring

Featuring: Wendy Craig, Robin Davies, David Parfitt, Valerie Lush, George Selway, Richard Coleman, Julie Dawn Cole, Miriam Mann and Richard Thorp

Sally: “And I’m coming to the end… of my tether! That television set is on day and night. No homework ever gets done. You come home from school, you plonk yourselves down in front of it, and on Saturdays it’s on from twenty to Thunderbirds to quarter past The Epilogue.”

Released recently on DVD is the family comedy series from the early 1970s, “…And Mother Makes Three” (1971-1973), which featured at its heart once of the biggest English television actors of that time in Wendy Craig who played mothers in many different series and after viewing any number of her performances you can see why, not because she was a woman although that helps but because she had in all her performances many layers, she could be funny, serious, consoling, self aware, smart and sexy. I know I used to get great comfort from her, probably best known from the excellent series “Butterflies” (1978-1983) in which she played a mother and wife who longed for more and found it, this series “…And Mother Makes Three” predated that but introduced many to her and would pave the way for her entire career.

The series revolves around newly widowed mother Sally Harrison who is trying to hold down a job as an assistant to Mr Campbell, a veterinarian. Her children are Simon and Peter, and her aunt Flo lives with them and tries to help. In Series 3 Mr Campbell moves to Scotland and the vet premises is taken over by divorcee David Redway, an antique bookseller who has a daughter, Jane. David and Sally fall in love. The series moved through their experiences over four series initially and then changed to “And Mother Makes Five” (1974-1976).

The series is from our point of view a rather routine and rather clumsy, it obviously does not take into account how families and society in general has altered, make no mistake this is not a show that should be looked upon fondly, it is very white, very straight and is actually very make, or it attempts to be. Of course with series like this in particular based around a woman it is relatively groundbreaking offering a point of view that would be seen in later years although not common until the 1980s.

“…And Mother Makes Three” is, as I have said, anchored by Wendy Craig but the supporting cast is very good as well with Valerie Lush as Auntie, she plays her as the seen-it-all wise woman with a nice line in silk blouses, wry smiles and an always-there shoulder to cry on. Of the children Robin Davies had already appeared in a television series in “Catweazle” (1970-1971) so was experienced and had a likeable screen presence. The younger boy David Parfitt was much more inexperienced and it shows.

Interestingly “…And Mother Makes Three” actually changed through its initial run unlike many television shows of its time and later when every week characters would not really alter no matter the story they went through, they were essentially in a bubble that never changed. With this show there was major change especially from the first two series to the later ones where the main character was married and the entire dynamic changed, which it had to so audiences had to change as well. This is the main reason to enjoy the entire series and I did for that reason, I actually recommend this to people who want to see what it was like in the early 1970s and how women coped.

Episodes

Series One

Simon’s Holiday: Sally packs Simon’s bag for a camping trip to stop him making more lists, a test run in the garden leads to a sleepless night filled with fussing, and the children from next door pop round when he ends up catching a chill.

Birthday Bike: Simon reveals that he’s been trying to save enough money to buy a bike, Sally takes on some extra hours so she can surprise him on his birthday, and hiding it proves to be as difficult as getting it home in the first place.

A Bird in the Hand: Sally offers to look after a mynah bird for a lady who needs an operation, finding his cage empty leaves her desperately looking for a replacement, and a pet shop owner is confused by a list of very peculiar requirements.

Get Mobile: Peter turns to Pythagoras when the family try their best to Spot the Ball, Sally asks Mr. Campbell to lend her a car so she can have driving lessons, and Auntie’s unimpressed when she picks up an old banger from a vicar.

School for Love: Sally falls for Simon’s teacher when she confronts him about his report, being invited to an art happening allows her to show her natural talent, and a date at a cocktail bar sees her get far too familiar with Tom Collins.

Pound of Flesh: Sally’s utterly horrified when Peter tells her that she’s got a wobbly bum, the boys bet her that she won’t be able to lose as much weight as Auntie, and things quickly get tough when hunger starts to get the better of her.

Mr. Mum: Sally panics when she wakes to the sound of strange voices in the house, Simon and Peter are told to find hobbies when television is banned, and Auntie gets a nasty shock when she tries to spy on a very secret project.

Series Two

A Hard Day Out: Sally struggles with exhaustion during the long school summer holidays, Auntie’s not happy about being tied up and put in the broom cupboard, and Mr. Campbell’s suggestion to wear them out leads to fun at the fair.

The Matchmakers: Simon and Peter come up with the idea of finding their mum a husband, Sally’s not too happy when a randy admirer manages to track her down, and Mr. Campbell agrees to help her by playing the part of a rival suitor.

Growing Pains: Sally protests when Simon talks about leaving school and getting a job, a note suggests that he’s run away from home to start a life as a soldier, and a recruitment officer points her in the direction of the intake camp.

But How Can I Tell Them?: The family accept an invitation to stay at Mr. Campbell’s sister’s cottage, Sally has problems when she tries to find what she needs to iron a skirt, and her attempts to put everything right only make the situation worse.

Once a Year Day: Sally tells Auntie that the boys don’t need reminding about her birthday, a promise from Simon leaves her looking forward to an Italian meal, and talk about going to the cinema leads to a number of rather blatant hints.

All Play and No Work: Mr. Campbell is forced to sack Sally because of the standard of her work, Auntie helps by pointing her in the direction of a job at the boys’ school, and a disagreement about staff dinners sees her try her luck elsewhere.

Series Three

Gather Ye Mushrooms While Ye May: Sally complains to her new neighbour about rocks landing in her garden, news that Mr. Campbell is moving away sees her go into agriculture, and applying for a job with a book expert means competing with dolly birds.

Father Figure: Sally denies that her great mood is because of her handsome new boss, a dinner invitation reveals the truth about a shapely female friend, and Simon and Peter decide to show him that their mum’s a bit of a swinger.

Girl Talk: Sally worries when she finds dirty magazines hidden in Peter’s bedroom, Auntie suggests being open about the issue after reading an article, and David asks about introducing the boys to his daughter during half-term.

Thank Heaven for Little Girls?: Sally worries that the boys will be horrible to David’s peculiar daughter, Simon hits it off with her when she turns out to have a filthy mind, and Auntie can see no harm in spending a night at a hotel with a bit of a lad.

A Family Affair: Questions are asked when Sally’s parents decide to visit out of the blue, news that David’s mother has a title comes as something of a shock, and Auntie insists that a meeting of the two families needn’t be humiliating.

Two Hearts That Beat as Two: Sally’s not happy when her mother tries to take over her wedding plans, a jewellers turns into a war zone when a young couple start arguing, and David’s reluctance to get married in church leads to very serious doubts.

Series Four

Wedding Talk: Auntie worries Sally when she talks about how her engagement ended, finding an available Saturday for the wedding proves to be difficult, and David causes panic when he says that he needs to talk about something.

Homes, Sweet Homes: Sally discovers that marriage might mean giving up her beloved house, David’s not too pleased when he finds an estate agent in his home, and the boys shock their mother by favouring a move over the garden fence.

A Home and a Job: Simon tries to find Auntie a man so that she won’t have to live by herself, David’s not keen on the idea of there being three adults in his marriage, and Sally’s horrified when she finds that she’s been replaced at the shop.

The Eve of the Day: The boys borrow a wedding present when they can’t afford to buy one, David insists that his friends won’t turn his stag night into an orgy, and Sally causes amusement when she pretends to have a party of her own.

And Father Makes Five: Sally’s mother asks whether she’s certain that she wants to get married, David finds that the food and drink have been taken to the wrong house, and things get worse when the chauffeur manages to get the bride lost.

Starting Trouble: David and Sally realise that they’ve set off for the airport much too early, an eventual late arrival forces them to take separate planes to Paris, and a mechanical failure threatens to keep them apart on their honeymoon.

The Honeymoon’s Over: Sally’s first ever Redway family breakfast quickly turns into an argument, trying to get rid of a rather large cobweb puts paid to a relaxing day, and doing a piece for the local newspaper leads to a double dose of jealousy.

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