Home Television Comedy A Sharp Intake Of Breath

A Sharp Intake Of Breath

1 9 7 7 – 1 9 8 1 (UK)
22 x 30 minute episodes

Following his success as support to Ronnie Barker in the BBC’s Open All Hours, and just before taking off as Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, David Jason starred in this ITV sitcom as Peter Barnes, a hapless Mr Average character, forever trying to beat officialdom and red tape.

From trying to book a holiday to being a best man, life seems to hand Peter more than his fair share of frustration.

The only certainty is that whatever it is he’s trying to arrange, it will entail an encounter with a jobsworth whose regulation response is a perfectly timed ‘sharp intake of breath’.

Sharing in his frustrations were his wife Sheila (Jacqueline Clarke) but against him were Richard Wilson and Alun Armstrong, the pair showing up each week in different roles – doctor, mechanic, bank manager, head waiter, railway ticket inspector etc – that defeated Jason’s incompetent war against bureaucracy.


First seen in the 1977 ITV pilots season The Sound Of Laughter, the series was created by comic stalwart Ronnie Taylor but his sudden and unexpected death caused the third series to be aborted after only three episodes. The final series was written by the equally venerable Vince Powell.

An American adaptation of A Sharp Intake Of Breath – titled Harry’s Battles – was screened there as a pilot by ABC on 8 June 1981. It starred Dick Van Dyke as Harry Fitzsimmons, the manager of a Pittsburgh supermarket who is permanently entangled in bureaucracy. No series developed.

Peter Barnes
David Jason 
Sheila Barnes

Jacqueline Clarke
Richard Wilson
Alun Armstrong


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