Review for My Wife Next Door - The Complete Series
I was living in the USA as a kid when ‘My Wife Next Door’ aired in 1972. Had I known how good it was I might have felt grumpy about the fact that it has never been released before now (with the exception of a three episode VHS tape in the 1980’s). After all, the episodes are all known to exist despite so many series being wiped from so far back in TV history. So for those who do remember the show fondly, this will be a most welcome release.
John Alderton (who looks positively Paul McCartney-like in this release) was already a household name in the UK having starred in the school comedy ‘Please Sir!’ for three seasons up until 1971. Having jumped ship from LWT, the BBC were only too please to welcome him with open arms and ‘My Wife Next Door’ seemed the perfect vehicle.
George (Alderton) and Suzy Bassett (played by the delightful Hannah Gordon) have separated and divorced, despite both secretly harbouring feelings for each other still. In an effort to forget each other they independently decide to move out of town ito the countryside to get away. So they both hire a cottage. But here’s the sit-com twist (as if the title didn’t give it away) – by coincidence the cottages are next to each other. Neither will leave so they have to learn to live as neighbours, despite their constant bickering.
Although it seems a fairly contrite conceit, it’s enough to propel it across 13 episodes with ease – a rich seam of humour to pursue whilst consistently developing the two principals (who we secretly hope will re-unite).
It’s a classic sit-com in every regard; set in small spaces with a limited but recognisable supporting cast. Tim Barett is there as George’s best pal Henry; Diana King as Suzy’s mother and perhaps the sit-com crowning glory of having Mollie Sugden as George’s mother.
The series was devised by Brian Clemens (you read that right – Mr. Avengers among other classics) and Richard Waring who also penned it (along with many classic sit-coms like ‘Not in Front of the Children’ and the not dissimilar ‘Marriage Lines’).
The series topped the ratings in 1972 and ended on a positive note that had the whole nation talking but which may have partially been responsible for stopping after just one season. If it had continued, there is no doubt that it would be considered a classic.
The rich narrative vein doesn’t just stop with the tensions between the two – it sees them both attempting to properly break off from the other which means parties and dates, all of which are generally disastrous. They also harbour a competitive edge in attempts to show the other how independent they really are whilst we, the audience, know their true feelings for one another.
Both the principals are on top form throughout and whilst I still enjoy Alderton’s ‘Please Sir!’ I can’t help feeling he really peaked in this role – bring a natural ease to the role and with near perfect comic timing. Really top notch stuff. Indeed, one of the episodes won a British Academy Television Award for Best Situation Comedy in 1973.
By way of reinforcing its timelessness, when it was repeated in 1979 it gained even more viewers than its original airing.
Disappointingly, some episodes have suffered fairly substantial tape damage and drop out (particularly episode 1) and I suspect budget hasn’t allowed much in the way of frame clean-up. I’d like to say that it won’t spoil your enjoyment but it’s certainly very noticeable.
Despite this it’s really great to have an opportunity to see a classic series like this which has remained unreleased to date. Great fun!