Successful as a book (1959), movie (1963), stage-play, and soon to be a musical (Billy, which opened in London on 1 May 1974 with additional writing by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais), Billy Liar was turned into two long series of sitcoms for ITV by its original author and his long-time associate Willis Hall.
This LWT production brought the Keith Waterhouse character of Billy Fisher (which Tom Courtenay had made his own in the 1963 big screen version) to the small screen, for a total of 25 episodes and one short special as part of the All-Star Comedy Carnival on 25 December 1973.
The premise was unchanged, with Jeff Rawle playing the young northerner who spends most of his life wrapped up in the fantastic fantasies of his runaway imagination.
George A Cooper fulfilled his usual role – the blunt northerner – and got into mildly hot water with some scripted bad language and blaspheming.
May Warden supported as the matriarchal Granny, dominating her family. Sally Watts was introduced in the first series for some love interest, becoming Billy’s fiancée in the second; and Colin Jeavons appeared as Billy’s boss at the funeral parlour.
The series was remade in the USA as Billy – running to just 13 CBS episodes, screened from 26 February to 28 April 1979 – starring Steve Guttenberg, who later scored success with the movies Police Academy (1984) and Three Men And A Baby (1987).
George A. Cooper
Billy and the Party Spirit | Billy and the French Connection | Billy and the Lost Weekend | Billy and the Monster | Billy and the Cornish Split | Billy and the Freudian Slip | Billy’s Night In | Billy and the Long Lunch | Billy and the Gift of the Magi | Billy and the Au Pair | Billy and the Key of the Door | Billy and Pandora’s Box | Billy and the Alter Ego | Billy and the Matrimonial Stakes | Billy and the Muse of Fire | Billy and the Birthday Treat | Billy and the Bed-Sit | Billy and a Little Learning | Billy and the New Life | Billy and the Food of Love | Billy and Oriental Philosophy | Billy and the Scales of Justice | Billy and the Bedside Manner | Billy and the Temporary Position | Billy and Some Orange Blossom | Billy and a Missing Item