Doctor In The House

Doctor In The House

1969 - United Kingdom

Top-notch comedy series whose memory was devalued by later spin-offs including an ill-advised revival (Doctor at the Top) in 1991. Mind you, with an original scriptwriting team that included John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden and Jonathan Lynn, (Chapman and Garden were both qualified doctors themselves) you would expect nothing less. 

This sitcom was based on Richard Gordon's series of books and had previously been adapted for the cinema starting with a 1954 production starring Dirk Bogarde as medical student Simon Sparrow. Frank Muir, then head of comedy at the newly formed ITV franchise LWT commissioned the series, which starred Barry Evans (later to appear in Mind Your Language but now sadly deceased) as the lead character, now named Michael Upton. 

To accompany him were an assortment of unlikely students including Geoffrey Davies as the posh and sometimes snooty -but always work-shy, Dick Stuart-Clark, Robin Nedwell as Duncan Waring (the character took centre stage after Evans left the series in 1972) and George Layton as Paul Collier. Opposition came in the form of Richard O'Sullivan as the whimpish and slimy Laurence Bingham who was always buttering up to his superiors, not least of all Professor Geoffrey Loftus (Ernest Clark) who was the TV equivalent to James Robinson-Justice's Sir Lancelot Spratt in the cinema. The action took place within the fictitious walls and wards of St Swithin's whilst exterior scenes were shot outside true-life Wanstead Hospital (long since converted into residential apartments). 

Doctor In The House

Guest stars in the series included David Jason, James Beck and Susan George, whilst Martin Shaw appeared as a regular character in season one and Jonathan Lynn (who went on to co-write the superb Yes, Minister) did the same in season two. However, and perhaps more significantly, in series three (re-titled Doctor at Large), John Cleese included in one of his scripts a rather rude hotel keeper. One of the writers on that series, Bernard McKenna remembers: "I was at a dress rehearsals at LWT sitting with H.Barclay and J. Cleese for (the) episode about a bonkers hotel manager that Upton (Barry Evans) was having problems with when the producer Humphrey Barclay said to John 'There's a series in that hotel owner'...I remember John being sceptical! The rest is history..."

Published on December 7th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.

Read Next...

An Actor's Life for Me

Robert Neilson (John Gordon-Sinclair) is an actor who dreams of being a star - alas, the best he has achieved so far is the face of Doberman Aftershave in a TV commercial...

Also tagged Britcom

Billy Liar

Adapted from the highly successful novel/play/film by successful writing team Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, this version of Billy Liar was updated by them to make it more relevant to the early 1970s.

Also tagged Britcom

Robin's Nest

Young chef opens up a bistro with his girlfriend with comic consequences.

Also tagged Richard Osullivan

Health and Efficiency

1990s sitcom in which the doctors in Surgical B try to provide the best service for patients while they are in a constant battle with the stringent management who cut back in order to save money; often without thinking about the welfare of the patients.

Also tagged Medical Comedy

Department S

"Whilst the cases which made up the bulk of the show's episodes were often fun, ingenious riffs on the standard spy/caper craze of that particular decade, where the series really scored was in the interplay between the three central characters involved."

Also released in 1969

The Brady Bunch

Architect Mike Brady marries beautiful young Carol, who has three girls to care for. Likewise, Mike's previous wife's death has left him to raise his three boys all alone. In no time this amalgam becomes the ideal average American middle class family.

Also released in 1969

Curry and Chips

Poorly received sitcom by Johnny Speight who attempted (and many would say failed) to highlight the stupidity of racism.

Also released in 1969

Big Breadwinner Hog

Peter Egan stars as Hogarth, a ruthlessly ambitious, flash and violent small-time criminal who has visions of being king of London's criminal underworld.

Also released in 1969

Butterflies TV series

Gently thoughtful, amusing and well observed eighties situation comedy series for the BBC about a seemingly ordinary, contented, middle class suburban housewife who suddenly find herself plunged into the middle of a disorienting, emotionally tumultuous, mid-life crisis.

Also tagged Britcom