Joan and Leslie

Joan and Leslie

1955 - United Kingdom

Debuting on only ITV's second Sunday of transmission (October 2nd 1955) as Leslie Randall Entertains - Joan and Leslie featured real-life husband and wife team Joan Reynolds and Leslie Randall in commercial television's first home-grown sitcom. 

Leslie was a lonely-hearts columnist who went under the pen-name of Dorothy Goodheart, whilst his wife played the true-to-life role of an actress. Interviewed before the start of the series Leslie Randall said, "I am a great admirer of 'Burns and Allen' but we do not intend to imitate them in any way." Nevertheless this didn't stop the scripts (for which both stars made contributions) from depicting his wife in the traditional (for that time) role of the guileless female. However the series proved popular enough with the public for the original 15-minute episodes to be expanded to 30 minutes and the fortnightly transmissions to be increased to weekly at the behest of ATV supremo Lew Grade, who also gave the stars a raise to a reported 7,000 pounds a year. 

Some of the episodes were transmitted from London's Hackney Empire and as all the episodes went out live which restricted most of the action to the couples flat which was above their friend Mike's garage. Apart from the husband and wife team, Harry Towb appeared as Mike and Noele Dyson played a housemaid by the name of Mrs Henshaw (something of a type-casting comedic role for Dyson, who later became cook and cleaner to Patrick Cargill's family in Father Dear Father). 

Joan and Leslie Cast
Joan, Noele Dyson, Hugh Rennie, Harry Towb and Leslie during a rehearsal

For the first time in the UK four writers were employed permanently engaged in preparing one weekly script. Dick Sharples, Gerald Kelsey, John Law and Bill Craig were the collaborators and the series was produced by Hugh Rennie. Although the series finished in 1958, the Randall's were seen on British screens almost entirely throughout the 1960's, firstly in the follow-on comedy entitled The Randall Touchbut more famously in a series of TV advertisements for Fairy Snow, which ran for almost ten years. Furthermore, in 1969 they made a brand new series for the Seven Network in Australia* (also called Joan and Leslie), although it was never aired in the UK. This was a continuation of the earlier UK effort: Randall again was writing a lonely-hearts column as Dorothy Goodheart, which is mentioned in several of the episodes, and Joan mentions in the first episode that she's an actress...

*Chris Keating, presenter / Production Manager at Inner FM Community Radio, presenter / producer at Plenty Valley Community Radio and long-time researcher of Australian television says: "I've also a sneaking suspicion that some of the earlier scripts may have been used: scripts are credited to Randall, Sharples, Kelsey, Craig as well as Tony Scott, and Rosalie Stephenson."

Published on December 28th, 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

Dixon of Dock Green

George Dixon was a policeman of the old school. A dependable officer who would help old ladies cross the street and whose idea of treating juvenile delinquents was with a 'clip' round the ear. George Dixon was a 'Community Copper' before the term had even been invented.

Also released in 1955


US & British co-production about a black stallion that no-one has yet been able to tame.

Also released in 1955

Highway Patrol

1950s TV police series made on a shoestring budget

Also released in 1955

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Richard Greene starred as the legendary 12th century outlaw who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. ITV's first adventure series managed to maintain a high standard of writing, employing blacklisted Hollywood writers who wrote under various aliases.

Also released in 1955

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

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

The Bulldog Breed

A single series of seven comedies about Tom, the perennial optimist, as he wanders through life leaving chaos in his wake totally oblivious to the problems he causes for everyone.

Also tagged Britcom