Man About The House

1973 | United Kingdom

Sitcom where the situation in question could have led the comedy down the corny nudge-nudge sexual innuendo road. Thanks to the skilful writing of series creators Johnnie Mortimer and Brian Cooke this was (mostly) avoided and Man About The House became one of Thames TV's most successful comedy series of the 1970's.

The series began with Chrissy and Jo throwing a farewell party for their flatmate and desperately in need of a replacement to help share the bills. The morning after the night before they discover a young catering student by the name of Robin Tripp, who, having fallen foul of the girls home made punch, wakes up in the bathtub with the mother of all hangovers. Once the girls discover that Robin is looking for somewhere to live and above all else -that he can cook, they offer him the vacant bedroom whilst at the same time warning him to keep out of theirs. But first there's the problem of the landlords, Mr and Mrs Roper.

George Roper is petty minded, middle-aged and unemployed and would not tolerate any 'funny goings-on' under his roof (not even between his own wife and himself). So the girls concoct a story that Robin is gay and suitably mollified George agrees that Robin can stay, much to the delight of his frustrated wife, Mildred, who enjoys nothing more than a good flirt. The relationship between George (Brian Murphy) and Mildred (Yootha Joyce) became one of the highlights of the series and spawned a well-deserved and hugely successful George and Mildred spin-off series.

In the so-called permissive society there was very little permissiveness going on at 6 Myddleton Terrace, Earls Court and most of the comedic situations centred on other peoples misunderstandings of the girls and Robin's relationship, especially potential boyfriends, girlfriends or neighbours...although not Chrissy's mum who was assured of the girls safety now that they had "...a man about the house." 

Man About The House

The flat-sharing mates were well served by Mortimer and Cooke's snappy scripts and although it was obvious from the start that Robin (played by former Doctor In The House star Richard O'Sullivan) had a soft spot for Chrissy (Paula Wilcox who had previously starred alongside Richard Beckinsale in The Lovers) their relationship never went beyond that of a platonic kind. And Jo (Sally Thomsett who had co-starred in Lionel Jeffries 1970 movie 'The Railway Children'), seemed content in her own private world where logic took on a totally different meaning. Ultimately Robin lost out on Chrissy's affections to his own brother, Norman, in the last series of 'Man About the House' but by this time the series creators were busily scripting two spin-offs. 

George and Mildred

The Roper's moved to a more up-market area (although George purposefully refused to leave behind his working class roots) in the aforementioned George and Mildred series and Robin opened up his own Bistro with new girlfriend Victoria (Tessa Wyatt) in the equally successful Robin's Nest. The format of all three shows was transferred across the Atlantic with equal aplomb in US series Three's Company, The Ropers and Three's Company. There was also a 1974 feature film Man About the House directed by John Robins with cameos from a host of British TV personalities including Arthur Lowe and Spike Milligan. 

Director Peter Frazer-Jones remembered the most bizarre thing that hapened whilst filming 'Man About The House', not in rehearsal but during the actual audience recording: "The episode required continual rainfall outside the flat, and so we had plumbers in to lay special pipes and drains in order to get rid of the water from the special effects.

"But the drains blocked, and the show was put on with everyone wading around in three inches of water!" The cameramen made sure that Richard O'Sulivan and co. were only shown from waist high throughout the whole programme! (Source Look-In Annual 1974). 

Published on January 2nd, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.