1 9 8 6 – 1 9 9 1 (UK)
74 x 30 minute episodes
The Boswell family, from Liverpool, are experts at living off Social Security while making ends meet by whatever means necessary. None of them is (legitimately) employed, but they own their own terraced house – at 30 Kelsall Street – and live quite a good life with the help of frequent supplemental Social Security payments and various jobs on the side and other moneymaking schemes.
The matriarch and head of the family is Nellie – a robust and capable “Ma” who has brought up her children without much help from her unfaithful husband, Freddie (Ronald Forfar).
Nellie (Jean Boht) is fiercely proud, loyal (and Catholic) and uses her sheer force of personality to keep the family on her version of the straight and narrow.
The four boys are Joey (initially Peter Howett and then Graham Bickley), who holds the family together financially – it was he who bought the family home; Jack (Victor McGuire); Adrian (Jonathon Morris) – who had changed his name from Jimmy; and Billy (Nick Conway).
The Boswell’s daughter, Aveline (originally Gilly Coman and then Melanie Hill), spends most of her time dreaming of being a model and/or having a baby.
Completing the immediate family are Grandad (Kenneth Waller), who lives next door, and the various wives and girlfriends of the lads – Julie for Billy, Carmen for Jack, Irenee for Adrian – and Aveline’s beau (and later husband) Oswald the vicar.
Rounding off the set is Freddie’s “bit on the side”, Lilo Lil (Eileen Pollock); a sharp-tongued DHSS official named Martina (Pamela Power); Irish cousin Shifty (Brian Murray) – by name and nature; his ex-girlfriend Celia (Rita Tushingham) and a whole swag of memorable irregulars.
Debuting on 1 May 1986, the initial response to the series was poor with critics taking a predictable stance, labelling the series “stale” and “crummy” and utilising every other bread pun they could.
More damning was the response from writer Carla Lane’s beloved city of Liverpool, where local reviewers accused her of reinforcing the stereotype of Scouse scrounger.
The controversy abated, though, when the show fell into its stride and the audience figures picked up. By the fourth series, the popularity of the comedy was gigantic. The episode where Aveline and Oswald married in December 1988 attracted more than 21 million viewers.
The 30 October 1988 episode featured a cameo appearance from Carla Lane’s friends Paul and Linda McCartney.
External filming for the series took place in Elswick Street, in the Dingle area of Liverpool.
Peter Howett (1)
Graham Bickley (2)
Gilly Coman (1)
Melanie Hill (2)
Caroline Milmoe (1)
Hilary Crowson (2)