With Only Fools and Horses beginning to climb the ratings, writer John Sullivan turned his hand to an entirely new comedy. One inspiration for this was his desire to feature a female central character, and another was a problem letter that his wife had read to him from a woman's magazine.
Just Good Friends starred Jan Francis as sweet sophisticated Penny Warrender, who was out on a date at a pub when she bumped into Vince Pinner (Paul Nicholas), the man who had left her at the altar five years beforehand. Vince, a typically lovable wide-boy of the type that Sullivan was so adept at creating, was obviously still struck on his jilted ex-fiance, and in spite of her protestations to the contrary, she was obviously still in love with him. In Penny, both Sullivan and Francis created a witty, intelligent and believable character that broke the mould for female sitcom typecasting.
The two main characters in the series could not have come from more different backgrounds; she, an office worker in an advertising agency, came from a middle class background with a snooty mother (Sylvia Kay) and hen-pecked father (John Ringham). He was a turf accountant, whose rough and ready father (Shaun Curry) dealt in scrap metal and drove around in a flashy car playing his wife's (Ann Lynn) favourite rock n' roll sounds. But in spite of, or maybe because of their differences, the two leads sparkled with witty banter and delightful comedic situations expertly crafted by the writer as he drew them into an on-off / love-hate relationship that ended in a 1984 Christmas special, with Penny jetting off to a new job in Paris, with a half-hearted pact to meet Vince three years later at the top of the Eiffel Tower. And there it may have rested had the public not demanded a happy ending. And so, two years later the couple were re-united. Penny was by now a successful businesswoman, no longer the incurable romantic, self doubts behind her and finally over her man -so naturally the series finished with the two of them marrying each other!
Published on December 28th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.