Season One
Getting a Job

Tx: 15/2/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 27/1/73.

Ratings: 7.9 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Jane Hylton (Mrs Fisher), George Baker (Mr Lewis), Joe Dunlop (Mr Conway), John Ringham (Rigby), Linda Hayden (Linda), James Wardroper (Jackson), Sue Berkshire, Beryl Nesbitt, Candice Brandl, Donald Stratford (in office building).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), Dave Brinnicombe (Film Sound), John Teather (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Bryan Ellis (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank is newly married and is living with his mother-in-law who is frustrated by him constantly breaking things. His latest attempt to "help" involves somehow losing the door to the coal shed.

Frank's wife, Betty, buys him a new briefcase ready for an interview for the position of a salesman with a wholesale ironmongers (or, as Frank puts it, "wholeiron salemongers"). However, before he even enters the building he causes chaos by giving a frightening bug-eyed grin to an assistant setting up a window display, causing the assistant to fall over and destroy his work. Frank then gets stuck in the lift for several hours. Once released, the interview with the manager of the company proceeds with Frank breaking an expensive thermometer while demonstrating his proposed door-knocking technique. He also then causes a heavy metal cupboard to collapse with him under it. His patience worn thin, the manager gets short-tempered and shouts at his staff – they resign in protest. Frank leaves, confident of the outcome of the interview, only to get stuck in the lift again.

A competent but unremarkable first episode, the first half of which is given over mainly to scenes introducing the various characters, most notably Frank himself whose toolbox contains just one tool for all the jobs he is tackling around the house – a hammer. The second half of the episode, dealing with the interview, is the first of many two-handed set pieces throughout the 22 segments of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em in which Frank drives somebody to near mental breakdown in the space of a few minutes.

Mr Lewis' secretary is played by Linda Hayden, familiar to seventies film buffs from many sex comedies and horror flicks of the time. A little-known fact is that Hayden had also auditioned for the role of Betty which ultimately went, of course, to Michele Dotrice.

It's stated in this episode that the Spencers are shortly moving into "a flat". However, the flat is never mentioned again in the series – the next time we see them at home, they are living in a house.

This episode is referred to on the DVD releases as The Job Interview and is also known as The Salesman's Job.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank and Betty think about the future.

George's House

Tx: 22/2/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 6/2/73.

Ratings: 11.3 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Barry Linehan (Mr Fletcher), Michael Golden (Jack Downer), Peter Green (George), Carolyn Hudson (Katherine).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), Dave Brinnicombe (Film Sound), John Teather (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Peter Smee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Ian Rawnsley (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank and Betty are staying with Betty's brother, George, a futuristic designer who has filled his house with remote-controlled gadgetry. George is expecting an important visit from Mr Fletcher, the head of a large building firm, who is interested in a demonstration of the mechanical devices in the house, so Frank is on his best behaviour.

While trying to use the mechanical toilet, Frank accidentally breaks the flushing mechanism. His attempts to repair this soon lead to the toilet brush, a ballcock and his slippers becoming wedged in the pan. By now water from the leaking cistern is seeping through the house and finding its way down to the control room in the cellar. The others attempt to prevent Mr Fletcher noticing the various mounting problems, but Frank is already at work trying to repair things. His efforts cause a major short circuit of the house's systems – Betty's sister-in-law gets jammed in an electric window and Mr Fletcher himself becomes trapped in an automatic chair. Fletcher storms out of the house refusing to sign a contract for the technology.

One thing the BBC should have known by 1973 is that it is difficult to do fast-moving slapstick in a videotape studio in real time – such things require editing on film to do properly. This is the main problem with this episode – it looks forced and contrived and the cheap BBC special effects just make things worse. The "climactic" end sequence is especially bad in this respect, with the actors embarrassingly throwing themselves around the set in an attempt to make up for the limited range of movements of the malfunctioning devices.

The episode earlier features a bad blooper with Michele Dotrice struggling with the sliding toilet door when the off-screen operator obviously cannot get it to close. There is also very bad continuity regarding the layout of the house as seen in the studio material versus the filmed exterior shots.

Another facet of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em's success, which this episode almost completely ignores, is the inclusion of slower-paced dialogue scenes. It is surely no coincidence that subsequent episodes would almost always do action work on film and additionally leave time for more verbal interplay between Spencer and the other characters. One of the few good points I can summon up about this episode is that Michele Dotrice looks very cute in her wet dress! In fact, the use of water during this episode caused part of the studio to become flooded, and this led to a disgruntled exchange of memos within the BBC.

Trivia: Actress Carolyn Hudson (who plays George's wife in this episode and is now known as Carolyn Sears) is today in charge of a company called Super Nail & Beauty that markets nail-care products. She is frequently seen on the shopping channel QVC and often talks of her acting career, citing her appearance in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em as one of the highlights.

This episode is also known as Visiting the Brother-in-Law.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank and Betty have a problem with the toilet.

Love Thy Neighbour

Tx: 1/3/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 15/2/73.

Ratings: 11.6 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Jane Hylton (Mrs Fisher), Norman Chappell (Faraday), Geoffrey Whitehead (Osborne), Anthony Woodruff (Dr Smedley), Geoffrey Evans (First Policeman), Ken Haward (Second Policeman), Constance Carling (Police Operator).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), Dave Brinnicombe (Film Sound), John Teather (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Bryan Ellis (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank and Betty are in their new house one night when Betty's mother, Mrs Fisher, arrives having left her husband. She feigns illness and Frank is sent across the road to phone for a doctor. He calls on a neighbour – a writer of television scripts – and asks to use his phone. However, in the process he manages to break the writer's typewriter and upset a vase of water over a new script.

After much confusion over house numbers, the doctor arrives and pronounces Mrs Fisher well. Frank realises he has unwittingly taken away the script that the writer was working on and crosses the road again to return it. While he is gone, Betty locks up and goes to bed. Not wishing to wake her, Frank enlists the services of the writer and his friend to help him break back into his own house. With Frank teetering atop a ladder, the police are called by an onlooker and all three are arrested as burglars.

After the let-down of the previous episode, this is somewhat steadier though still far from a classic. The two intense, slightly camp writers are a very strange idea and one can only imagine writer Raymond Allen intended them to be a tongue-in-cheek pastiche of a television writing team of the time (Galton/Simpson, Perry/Croft, Clement/La Frenais?)

Anthony Woodruff's much-harassed Dr Smedley character is introduced here and would turn up in many later episodes. Coincidentally, at the same time he was playing another family doctor on TV: Dr Foley to the Bellamys in Upstairs, Downstairs.

The "yellow paper scroll" end credits are even more fitful than usual in this episode when they suddenly rise into the air in mid-flow so as not to obscure the on-screen action!

This episode is also known as Crossing the Road and Phoning the Doctor.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank phones the doctor about his mother-in-law.

Have a Break, Take a Husband

Tx: 8/3/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 24/2/73.

Ratings: 12.2 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Cyril Shaps (Kenny), Neil McCarthy (Bedford), John Caesar (Train Guard).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), Dave Brinnicombe (Film Sound), William Symon (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Ian Rawnsley (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank and Betty are embarking on a second honeymoon. Frank is in the station toilet and manages to miss the train. He ends up running for it and grabbing hold of the back of the train. After being dragged along the platform, he is eventually pulled inside by the angry guard and returned to Betty.

The guest house they are staying in is somewhat dilapidated and Frank manages to tear the flimsy bedroom lino whilst moving the bed. In the process of trying to disguise this, he manages to destroy most of the contents of his room. He decides to swap his broken wardrobe, dirty bedspread and torn mat with those in the opposite room. The room is occupied by an effeminate psychic who is convinced the strange disappearance of the contents of his room is an attempt by his dead grandfather to contact him.

After a long struggle, Frank and Betty are eventually ready to go to bed. However, the floorboards under the bed are rotten and the bed collapses. Luckily, Frank has given the proprietor a false name and address since this sort of thing once happened before to him and his mother (Frank: "The bed was rotten anyway. We were up all night flushing the mattress down the toilet.") Betty and Frank climb down to the hotel bar through the hole in the floor and secretly make their escape, wrecking the bar in the process.

Without a doubt, the best of all the Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em episodes which is ironic since it is one of the cheapest and most theatrical. In best Laurel and Hardy tradition, the initial problem (torn lino in this case) is quite minor but attempts to put this right lead to a mounting series of disasters, each designed to build on the one before. With the arguable exception of the forced climactic destruction of the hotel's bar, the execution is flawless – each of Crawford's tumbles looking effortlessly accidental.

Running jokes play an important part of the story, with Frank gradually amassing a pile of bits of hotel property that he has broken or ruined, ready to be surreptitiously "taken out in the morning". Cyril Shaps turns in a wonderful performance as the only other guest in the hotel – a nervous and outrageously camp dabbler in spiritualism. Altogether now... "Mister Bedford! MISTER BEDFORD!!!"

This episode is also known as Going on Holiday.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank is disturbed while looking for a knife in the hotel bar.

sound clip Another guest in the hotel calls the manager.

sound clip Frank has wrecked hotels before...

The Hospital Visit

Tx: 15/3/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 5/3/73.

Ratings: 12 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Elisabeth Sladen (Judy), Norman Mitchel (Jackson), Elizabeth Begley (Mrs White), Deddie Davies (Miss Thomas), Kate Brown (Mrs Griffin), Ralph Watson (Mr Griffin), Daphne Oxenford (Nurse Shaw), John D Collins (Dr Boyde), Rosemary Da Costa (Nurse Davis), James Bulloch (Dr Roberts), Julia Breck (Nurse Taylor).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), John Gatland (Film Sound), William Symon (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Make up), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Bryan Ellis (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Betty is ill in hospital and Frank intends to visit her. He stops off at the greengrocer's to buy her some fruit. After much confusion with money, the shop assistant gives Frank the fruit free of charge in order to get rid of him, although he manages to cause an avalanche of oranges before he finally leaves the shop.

Returning home, Frank finds the back door is stuck and has to climb in through the window. Magically, the door falls off its hinges as Frank, now indoors, is crouching down on the other side, and smashes itself over his back.

Frank then sets about preparing his lunch: steak and kidney pudding and a single tomato. However, the pudding gets too hot and explodes, bringing down most of the kitchen shelving with it.

That afternoon at the hospital, Frank manages to spill some fruit squash on Betty's bedspread. He tries to surreptitiously swap this with one from a different bed. While doing this, Frank is mistakenly identified by one of the doctors as the husband of another patient on the same ward. Franks gets rebuked for visiting "his" wife so infrequently and is told that she is fit to be taken home and cared for there.

Frank returns that evening to find that all the other women on the ward have also decided to go home. He sits them all on a hospital bed to wheel them out but gets lost in the maze of hospital passages. On a sloping corridor, the bed goes out of control catapulting Spencer down a rubbish chute and straight into the back of a waiting ambulance. So Frank ends up admitted to the hospital but this time as a patient.

A below-par episode. The main problem is the hospital bed sequence near the end which is contrived and not particularly amusing. In order to try whip some life into these shots (grainily filmed in genuine dingy and depressing hospital basement corridors), many of them are speeded up. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect from that intended and just makes them look even more forced.

That part of the story aside, the earlier sequence where Frank attempts to cook himself a steak and kidney pudding is great fun, as we see the trouble he has been having coping by himself without Betty (I'm sure the solidified bad milk, congealed leftover sausage and mouldy teapot contents must have a fair amount of students smirking in recognition).

If you are wondering where you have seen the greengrocer's shop assistant before – she played Sarah Jane Smith, assistant to Doctor Who in the mid-seventies.

This episode is also known simply as The Hospital.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank buys Betty some fruit.

The Psychiatrist

Tx: 22/3/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 19/3/73.

Ratings: 12.6 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), Jane Hylton (Mrs Fisher), Bernard Hepton (Webster), Elaine Garreau (Frank's Aunt), Roland MacLeod (Gasman), John Scott Martin (Brown).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), Bob Roberts (Film Sound), William Symon (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Ian Rawnsley (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank has lost his job as a fireman after continually getting left behind by the fire engine. He is depressed by this and convinced that he is a failure, so Betty suggests that he goes to see a psychiatrist. As part of the session with the psychiatrist, Frank relates how he first met Betty at a riding school after he had been tossed from his horse into a pond. Frank and Betty's first proper date didn't go too well either, with Frank becoming trapped in the skittle mechanism at a bowling alley before managing to tear the letter box off his front door in an attempt to sneak Betty indoors without his aunt hearing.

Betty's mother's first meeting with Frank was also unsuccessful, with her mistaking him for a repairman for her cooker. After demolishing the cooker, Frank managed to fall down her stairs, taking the carpet and banisters with him. These unhappy stories make the psychiatrist convinced that Frank really is a failure and that he can't offer any help. His initial beliefs confirmed, Frank leaves the surgery a happy man and is oblivious to warning shouts from a workman across the street. Seconds later he is buried under tons of gravel being dumped from the back of a lorry.

In this episode the framework of a visit to the psychiatrist is used to relate events of Frank's earlier life before he got married (the same idea would later be used to describe Frank's days in the air force in The RAF Reunion in the second season). The highlight is undoubtedly the well-remembered and perfectly executed sequence (completed in just a single take) where a vacuum cleaner – which Frank has accidentally switched on – advances menacingly towards him, sending him tumbling down the stairs wrapping himself in the stair carpet as he goes.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank is depressed.

sound clip Frank talks to his psychiatrist.

sound clip Betty's mother is expecting a repair man for her cooker.

The Employment Exchange

Tx: 29/3/73: 2000-2030.

VTR: 28/3/73.

Ratings: 13 million.

Cast: Michael Crawford (Frank Spencer), Michele Dotrice (Betty), George A Cooper (Bradshaw), Edward Hardwicke (Hooper), Dorothy Frere (Mrs Dobson), Geoffrey Adams (Clergyman), Jack Watson (George), Jay Neill (Jack), Peter Wickham (Policeman), Derek Ware (Window Cleaner), John Witty (Computer voice), Ronald MacLeod (Man at Van), Reid Anderson, Donald Groves, David Aman, John Silo, Gordon Black, Juliet Phillips, Katherine Rosenwink, Elaine Williams, Elizabeth Broom (Workers in employment exchange).

Crew: Raymond Allen (Writer), James Balfour (Film Camera), William Symon (Film Editor), Michael Robbie (Costumes), Anna Chesterman (Makeup), Derek Slee (Lighting), John Lloyd (Sound), Peter Day (Visual Effects), Bryan Ellis (Design), Michael Mills (Production).

Frank's local labour exchange is under new management. The new manager, Mr Bradshaw, is told by his staff about the difficulty of finding Frank a job that he can hold down. Bradshaw doesn't believe anybody can be that bad but begins to change his mind when Frank comes in reporting that he has lost his job as a window cleaner – the first day's work having ending with Frank and his workmate hanging from a rope halfway down a tower block. Bradshaw is also told of another recent job that Frank had as a security guard where the factory was robbed whilst Frank was out looking for his guard dog which had run off.

Bradshaw sends Frank out on a new job as a removal man. However, on the first morning, Frank backs the removal lorry over the furniture being unloaded and thus soon finds himself back at the labour exchange.

With no other options, Bradshaw employs Frank to help out at the labour exchange itself. Frank accidentally leaves the contents of a tea urn running into the works of an expensive computer and blows it up. Once more Frank is fired and the manager of the labour exchange suggests Frank finds a job far away – in Australia on a sheep farm.

Like the previous story, this episode is told in the form of flashbacks – in this case to jobs that Frank has failed to master. However, it is the linking segments at the labour exchange that are the most amusing, particularly the part where Frank relates his somewhat limited educational history (he only went to school for one year because his mother was afraid of him picking up "dirty habits").

The actor who plays Mr Bradshaw, George A Cooper, is better known to thirtysomethings as the caretaker, Mr Griffiths, at Grange Hill during the eighties. Coincidentally, Edward Hardwicke, who plays Bradshaw's assistant, later turns up in a third season episode as the emigration officer who advises Frank about his desires to work on an Australian sheep station – this being the same job that he is suggested to try at the end of this episode.

Trivia: this is the only episode of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em which doesn't end with Ronnie Hazelhurst's familiar piccolo theme music.

More trivia: Michael Crawford and stuntman Derek Ware made the newspapers when they were both nearly strangled during the window-cleaning portion of this episode and left 300 feet up the side of a London skyscraper after the cradle they were dangling from refused to budge – Crawford: "For what seemed like a long time, we were helpless, swinging out over London. All I could think about were my children. I remember feeling very cold and the sweat was pouring off me." The cameraman continued filming throughout this predicament and the results were included in the To Be Perfectly Frank documentary (q.v.)

This episode is also known as The Labour Exchange.

Audio clips:

sound clip Frank is interviewed at the job centre.

sound clip Frank is quizzed about his education.

sound clip Stuntman Derek Ware and Crawford on the stunt which went wrong – from To Be Perfectly Frank.