Gary Sparrow is a TV repair man who is going through a sticky patch with his wife, Yvonne, an ambitious career minded go-getter who is determined to finish her Open University degree in psychology and live life at a fast pace. While Gary is prepared to face the world more slowly and far simpler, a discovery in Ducketts Passage in London's East End will make his life far more complicated and racy than he could ever have imagined. Finding himself lost on the way to a repair job, Gary wanders into The Royal Oak pub in Stepney where he decides to rest his weary feet and enjoy a beer. When he is charged tuppence-farthing for his half-pint he assumes he is in some sort of 'theme-pub', but the sound of air-raid sirens soon brings about a realisation of an incredible truth. Gary has discovered a time portal that has taken him back to 1940 where Britain is at war with Germany.
Goodnight Sweetheart was a British sitcom that was shown on BBC1 running for a total of 6 series from 1993 until 1999. Created by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (The New Statesman and Birds of a Feather), the show starred former Only Foools and Horses 'dipstick' Nicholas Lyndhurst who went on to win the award for the Most Popular Comedy Performer at the NTAs for two successive years in 1998 and again in 1999.
Back in 1940 Gary meets and begins to fall in love with the pub landlord's daughter Phoebe (originally Dervla Kirwan and from seies 4 - 6 Elizabeth Carling). He also meets Reg Deadman, a kind hearted but slightly dim policeman. When Phoebe's father is killed in an air- raid she inherits the pub and Gary's trips back and forward between the time zones become more frequent. His obsession with all things connected to the Second World War lead Gary to open up a retro store called Blitz and Pieces, the perfect cover for his time travelling. And whilst Yvonne often makes fun of Gary and this obsession, little does she know what his secret is. One person does, though. Gary's friend Ron, a printer by trade who is on hand to run off a steady supply of counterfeit wartime five pound notes, ID cards and anything else that Gary needs.
The main theme of the show is the juxtaposition between the two lives that Gary leads - the hectic and somewhat unhappy life in the present day and the almost idyllic life back in World War 2 and the inevitable lies he has to tell to keep his wife and girlfriend happy. Gary tells Phoebe that he is a secret agent and has to stay away for periods of time, when he is really back in the present day. As time goes by Gary tells Phoebe and Reg all manner of things that help them to believe that he really is a British spy - they are totally unaware he knows these things thanks to history books. He also sings modern day songs which leads them to believe he is also a talented singer / songwriter.
In time Gary and Phoebe do well for themselves, have a son and get a flat in Mayfair where they are friends with stars of the time such as Noel Coward. In the present day Yvonne becomes a millionaire thanks to her company which makes holistic cosmetics and beauty products. This leads her to industry awards and a peerage. The last episode of the show is set on VE day where Gary goes back in time and finds that he can't return - he leaves a note beneath the wallpaper of his West End flat explaining all to Ron and Yvonne knowing they will discover it during decorating work in 1999.
Goodnight Sweetheart had as its theme tune the song of the same name sung by Al Bowlly, and the singers death, which happened during the Second World War is mentioned in the show. Many of the episodes of Goodnight Sweetheart were named after popular songs from this era such as In the Mood and this helps to keep the feeling of the show running through them. This is a show that really does leave you with a warm glow and even though you might not agree with what Gary is doing, it's a lot of fun watching him time travel and get into all sorts of scrapes along the way.
Published on December 19th, 2018. Written by Joanne MacRae and Laurence Marcus (2014) for Television Heaven.