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Goodnight Sweetheart selected from
Cult Times #53
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The Premise: Gary Sparrow – a down on his luck TV repair man from the 1990s – walks down an East End alley, and finds himself transported back to the 1940s.

Phoebe and Gary, 1940's styleHe becomes romantically involved with barmaid Phoebe, but has to keep his secret from his bossy 1990s wife, Yvonne. Unable to leave either of his two loves, Gary has to devise more and more elaborate ways to keep them from finding out the truth.

Background: Goodnight Sweetheart was the brainchild of Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who had found earlier success with Birds of a Feather. Inspired by the book Tom’s Midnight Garden, the series regularly attracted 12 million viewers on primetime BBC1. The show appealed to mainstream audiences by not focusing too heavily on the Time travel aspect, but more on being a romantic comedy. The series is also notable for having every episode named after a song.

First Run: 18th November 1993

Number of Episodes: Fifty-eight in six seasons.

From the 1990s: Gary Sparrow (Nicholas Lyndhurst), of course, and his best friend, Ron Wheatcroft, played by Bread’s Victor McGuire. Yvonne was played by Michelle Holmes for the first three seasons, before being replaced by Emma Amos. Ron’s overbearing wife, Stella (Nimmy March) appeared occasionally.

From the 1940s: Phoebe, who later became the ‘first’ Mrs Sparrow, was initially played by Dervla Kirwan. Finding the role unchallenging, Kirwan left after three seasons, and was replaced by Elizabeth Carling. Gormless policeman Reginald Horatio Deadman was portrayed by Christopher Ettridge, while the first series also featured Phoebe’s father, Eric (David Ryall), but he was blown to pieces between seasons.

And Isn’t That... Rolf Harris once guest-starred as himself, while there have been many ‘cameos’ of 1940s icons, notably George Formby, Noel Coward, and George VI. Two members of the Home Guard named Mainwaring and Fraser also turned up, while Ian Lavender (Dad’s Army’s Pike) played the grown-up version of Gary’s 1940s-born son, Michael.

Overdone Clichés : Yvonne and Phoebe both doing the same things in their respective eras (eg getting pregnant). Gary playing modern songs on the piano at the Royal Oak.

Fashion Statements: Long trenchcoats for Gary; tights for Phoebe many years before she should have them; and Ron’s Manchester United shirt. And beard.

The Yanks are Coming
A powerful examination of racism during the second World War, even between those on the same side.

The Leaving of Liverpool
When Gary inadvertently alters history, he finds that the present, à la Back to the Future Part II, is horribly changed.

My Heart Belongs to Daddy
Gary meets his adult son as a down-and-out in 1998, and resolves to go back and change history for the better.

Accentuate the Positive
The series finale, which sees the end of the war (to the sound of local pubs singing Queen’s We Are The Champions), and Gary’s Time-travelling days brought to a sudden end.

... And Goodnight

Mine’s a Double is an unfunny rip-off of Star Trek’s The Enemy Within, while There’s Something About a Soldier completely re-writes the character of Phoebe’s husband, Donald, who we are expected to believe was gay all along.

Goodnight Sweetheart
Feb 2000 UK Transmission details:
BBC1 Sundays, 11.00
UK Gold Weekdays 20.20
See magazine for more details

Tom Spilsbury

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2000.
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