This superb example of British comedy takes place in the new world of television in the 1950s when the BBC was the only television channel.
Wet-behind-the-ears producer David Prentice (Ian Carmichael) has the idea of basing a daily family drama TV series (a la The Grove Family) on a real-life happily married actor couple to highlight the harmony of married life in the homes of the famous.
Unfortunately, they choose Simon and Laura Foster (Peter Finch and Kay Kendall), an acting couple who are unemployed, broke, and need the money, and so agree to do the show. Unfortunately, they are anything but happily married. In fact, they’re on the verge of divorcing.
Matters are made even worse with the introduction of a prank-loving child actor (Clive Parritt) as their on-screen son, Timothy.
To make the Fosters more comfortable in their television roles, their real-life butler, Wilson (Maurice Denham) and maid, Jessie (Thora Hird) are cast as their butler and maid in the series. Also along for the ride is the series writer Janet Honeyman (Muriel Pavlow).
The series is a smash hit, delighting millions of viewers nightly, but it’s difficult for Simon and Laura to play lovey-dovey in front of the camera while fighting behind it. Eventually, it becomes impossible to hide their off-screen lives, and they begin to cross over to live TV.
Meanwhile, Simon becomes entangled with Janet Honeyman, and Laura’s affections turn to David Prentice until the film develops to an extremely wild and amusing climax in which everyone’s affairs are sorted out by the butler and the obnoxious screen son.
There is much good-natured, knowing fun at the expense of the BBC (made with the Corporation’s help) and a pseudo-off-the-record glimpse at some of its entertainers. Alan Melville – who wrote the original play – had worked at the BBC for some time and clearly had inside knowledge.
The satire of the television industry still rings true today.
Controller of Television Drama (‘CT’)
Laura from Newcastle