Home Television Comedy Shelley/The Return of Shelley

Shelley/The Return of Shelley

1 9 7 9 – 1 9 9 2 (UK)
71 x 30 minute episodes

Among the longest-running of all ITV sitcoms, Shelley centred unmistakably on a single actor, Hywel Bennett, ever the idle philosopher, cynically rejecting or questioning the norm with witty one-liners delivered in a laconic, resigned London accent.

When the first series began Shelley was a 28-year-old undergraduate malcontent, whose determination not to pay income tax made him resolve to pursue a life of unemployment – or at least under-employment.

Peter Tilbury created Shelley after experiencing life on the dole and finding that education counted for little at the time.


Five years after ending on TV, Shelley was revived by BBC Radio 2 in a six-part series broadcast between 22 May and 26 June 1997.

Performing scripts especially adapted for the new medium, Stephen Tompkinson was cast as the philosophical idler and Belinda Sinclair as pregnant girlfriend Fran (who he eventually married).

Maggie Steed appeared as landlady Mrs Hawkins (“Mrs H”) and other parts were taken by the likes of Kate Robbins, Phil Nice, Phil Cornwell and Howard Lew Lewis.

The first series of Shelley was interrupted after four weeks by the strike that blanked out ITV in the late summer of 1979. The remaining three episodes were shown as a prelude to the second series, of six episodes, making for a nine-week run.

Shelley eventually left the UK to live in America, but returned five years later on, to Thatcher’s Britain, in The Return Of Shelley.

James Shelley  
Hywel Bennett
Frances Smith  

Belinda Sinclair
Mrs Edna Hawkins  

Josephine Hewson
Gordon Smith  

Frederick Jaeger

Kenneth Cope
Isobel Shelly  

Sylvia Kay

Warren Clarke

Rowena Cooper

Garfield Morgan

Caroline Langrishe

Andrew Castell

Stephen Hoye
Ted Bishop  

David Ryall