A gentle comedy/drama from the prolific (Lord) Ted Willis, Mrs Thursday became the surprise hit of 1966, even managing to knock Coronation Street off the top of the ratings, and making a late star of Katherine Harrison.
Cockney charlady Alice Thursday worked for retired business tycoon George Dunrich until the day he died. But rather than find herself unemployed and having to look for a new job following her bosses demise, Alice discovered that she was the main beneficiary to his estate which included his money, his multi-national business empire, his Rolls Royce and his Mayfair mansion. All this to the disgust of his four money-grasping ex-wives and, more surprisingly, to Alice's own small circle of friends. It took a while before Alice distinguished her true friends from her true enemies, but fortunately she was supported along the way by her genial business advisor and right hand man Richard Byron Hunter.
Determined to flesh out the character of Alice Thursday so she would seem believable to the viewing public, Ted Willis created an entire history for her on paper, so that everyone concerned with making the series would come to know the fictitious cleaner as if she were the woman next door.
Willis wrote: "Alice May Lee was born the daughter of a general labourer in Kensington and left school at 14 to work in a paper mill. At 16 she went into service with a vicar's family at Basingstoke -her first experience of life away from home. She met Bert Thursday at Hampstead Heath fair and married him the following year. They had four children. When Bert died in 1958 he left no means of support for Alice, so she went to work -determined to be independent of her children.
"She turned to 'charring' and got a job as a cleaner at the Dunrich Group of Companies at Dunrich House in the City. There she met George Dunrich, the self-made founder of the group. When George retired Alice went to work for him at his Mayfair home.
"Alice likes television, light music -especially operatic arias -bingo and music hall. She takes a week's holiday in Southend every year and enjoys it. Her upbringing has been tough, and she has known real poverty and hardship. Although she is warm-hearted and impulsively generous, she has learned to read a phoney on sight. Her greatest assets are her common sense and fundamental optimism which carry her through the most difficult situations."
The part of Alice Thursday was allegedly written specifically for Kathleen Harrison who had become familiar to British cinemagoers as Mrs Huggett, cockney wife of Jack Warner in a film (and later radio) series, which was very popular a few years before. Hugh Manning, who played Mrs Thursday's well-meaning financial advisor, was a popular television actor who had previously starred in The Sullavan Brothers and would later become a regular on the popular soap Emmerdale.
The series ran for two seasons until the writers (who included Jack Rosenthal among their number) had explored all the "what would you do if you inherited a fortune" situations to their fullest, and 'Mrs Thursday' slipped quietly away to enjoy her (good) fortunes.
Published on January 9th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus (5 August 2003) for Television Heaven.