Years: 1975-1978, 4 short seasons, 30 episodes
Creator: John Howard Davies
Stars: Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington
The Concept: A ad man convinces his wife that they should quit the rat race and subsist on whatever they can raise on their little suburban plot of land. Their social-climbing neighbors are horrified.
How it Came to be Underrated: The show has a tiny cult in the U.S., but it deserves to be a household name.
Sample Episode: 1.2, “Say Little Hen…”
Writers: John Esmonde and Bob Larbey
The Story: The newfound bohemians acquire their first goat and chickens, horrifying their neighbors, who scheme to get Briers back to his old job.
Why It’s Great:
- My wife introduced me to this show, which is only appropriate, since it’s the most appealing marriage I’ve ever seen portrayed on TV. He’s genuinely charming and she’s downright adorable, but put them together and the glow they generate is supernatural. (Of the other hand, their proto-Thatcherite nemesis Keith, with her Amazonian stature and infinite umbrage, is the one person on the show who isn’t lovable, yet she almost steals every episode.)
- The storytelling couldn’t be more laid back and scruffy –this could very well be called “Scruffy: The Show”— but the structure underlying it is rock solid. Each episode takes the form of a pub-dweller’s shaggy-dog story, lulling you with a series of homey comforts, then busting your gut with last-second punchline that suddenly unites the interwoven storytelling ribbons into an intricate bow.
- Why has this show never gotten an American adaptation?? It certainly couldn’t be more timely right now: Downward mobility? Attempting to live with zero waste? Lawn-obsessed picture-perfect suburbs? Come on! Given the success America’s had with British imports recently, this is sort of a no-brainer.
- Unlike the shows I’ve covered so far, this one was serialized. Each episode stands on its own but they also form a satisfying epic when taken in full. And there’s a genuine feeling of jeopardy throughout as they struggle to keep their absurd dream alive.