TV Cream

TV: S is for...


ULTIMATE ABOUT-NOTHING British sitcom bedecked with fantastic whistle-along theme (courtesy of RON “DR WHO” GRAINER) and on-screen titles which looked like someone was writing them on the screen as you watched. An appropriately low-key overture to what followed: louche suburban sarcastic degree-wielding dole-wallowing Thatcher-baiting life-hating put-upon-pedant James Shelley, aka HYWEL “PERCY” BENNETT, sitting around and mouthing off. Early years found our hero alternately running from and running amok with girlfriend Fran (BELINDA SINCLAIR) and dodging the machinations of landlady Mrs Hawkins (JOSEPHINE TEWSON). Had a baby, hotfooted it to America for a bit, then came back to lodge with, sequentially, a pair of Yuppie caricatures and DAVID RYALL. Always worth watching, for the casual swearing alone. Ultimately sank along with Thames TV itself, which seemed somehow fitting.



  1. Billy Tweddell

    October 24, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks to the heoric Forces TV, I’m currently making my way through every episode. Top stuff as well, particuarly the later series penned by pre-Drop The Donkey Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin.

    There’s some great guest stars – Max Wall, Fulton Mackay (as a tramp), early Alan Rickman, Garfield Morgan, Warren Clarke, Peter ‘Grouty’ Vaughan (as a copper), Sylvia Kay, Kenneth Cope, John ‘CJ’ Barron, John Savident and James Grout – later the Professor in Hamilton’s ‘Old Harry’s Game’ on Radio 4.

    As noted, it had a brilliant theme tune and wasn’t Shelley’s name been written on the screen during the opening titles meant to signify him signing-on?

  2. Richardpd

    October 17, 2021 at 10:19 pm

    This was a rare ITV sitcom that didn’t get the usual cheap & cheerful treatment. Supposedly it was going to move to Channel 4 sometimes in the 1980s.

  3. Andrew Barton

    October 18, 2021 at 7:06 am

    The revived series didn’t feature Belinda Sinclair, Josephine Tewson and Warren Clarke.

    Both Warren and Josephine had moved on to other projects by then.

    Belinda Sinclair joined the cast of a revamped Family Affairs from 1999, staying with the series until 2003.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    October 18, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    A lot of ITV regions didn’t know what to do with Shelley as it was a bit daring, educated layabout mouthing off about the system and leading an unconventional life, and the early series were often shown after News At Ten, so being of school age, I never got to see it. I did get to see the late eighties reboot, which was quite amusing, as Shelley is completely out of touch with his yuppie friends and in episode decides to hang out with a retired rock star on a houseboat.

  5. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 18, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    I am staggered this was still on in the 90s, as I have no recollection of ever watching a single episode, and this is from someone who must have seen every episode of The Two of Us, and Fresh Fields.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    August 2, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    I could have been Shelley Mark 2, kicked out of one university for flunking my second year and mocking the wooden lecturers, a year on the dole and in dead end jobs, got a final chance, and graduated with a Desmond Tutu in 1991. More signing on and philosophising like Shelley, a few more dead end jobs, a spell at being a socialist, before waking up and realising I was 26 and needed to do something about my future.

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