1 9 9 3 – 1 9 9 7 (UK)
37 x episodes
Londoner Gary Sparrow (Nicholas Lyndhurst) travelled backwards and forwards in time between World War II and the present day, managing to keep a wife in one time and a girlfriend in the other, all while pretending to be an MI5 agent.
Goodnight Sweetheart derived its humour from the conflict that arose from this double life as Gary flitted between his sarcastic modern wife, Yvonne (Emma Amos), and his feisty landlady, Phoebe (Elizabeth Carling).
The series changed halfway through its run when the actresses who originally played Gary’s lovers both left the show. Thereafter the dynamic altered: Yvonne became a successful millionaire businesswoman with little time for Gary, and Phoebe became mother to Gary’s son, which made Gary’s choice, in the end, rather straightforward.
Two other characters were fixtures in the show from start to finish: Gary’s best friend, Ron (Victor McGuire), and lovably stupid policeman Reg Deadman (Christopher Ettridge).
Ron was the only person who knew of Gary’s time travelling escapades. He also printed his wartime money and generally offered sage advice, which Gary usually ignored.
Reg, the butt of most of the jokes in the wartime sections, was played with childlike innocence by Christopher Ettridge and joins characters such as Trigger from Only Fools and Horses (1981) in the pantheon of great British sitcom fools.
Viewed objectively, Gary was a dreadful person, but scriptwriters Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran made him as sympathetic as one of their earlier comic monsters, Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman (1987).