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Goodnight Sweetheart: series one

cast: Nicholas Lindhurst, Dervla Kirwan, Michelle Holmes, Victor McGuire, and Christopher Ettridge

creators: Laurence Marks, Maurice Gran

230 minutes (PG) 1993
Revelation DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
One of the oddest sitcoms of recent years, Goodnight Sweetheart is a combination of 1940s' whimsy, time travel and some remarkably intelligent, complex moments of character drama.

The story follows Gary Sparrow, a TV repairman who takes a wrong turn one day and ends up in 1940s' London. At first convinced it's an elaborate joke, Gary quickly realises that he really has travelled in time and even quicker, realises the opportunity this presents him. Trapped in a difficult marriage and a dead end job, Gary views the 1940s as a means of literally escaping his life, swapping his wife (Holmes) for sweet, innocent barmaid Phoebe (Kirwan).

Essentially this is a story about an adulterer and it's a credit to the writing that Gary remains as sympathetic as he does. Lyndhurst is great in this, a role that requires far more subtlety than Only Fools And Horses ever did and which has a healthy dose of darkness shot through it. Gary is in many ways a deeply unpleasant man, openly seducing a married woman, claiming credit for achievements that weren't his and continually leaving his wife and his best friend Ron in the lurch. Despite this, Lyndhurst is great fun to watch, his laconic delivery meaning that the moments of real emotion hit all the harder.

The entire cast perform to this level, especially Holmes and Kirwan as the women in his life. Holmes has the most difficult task of all as Yvonne, Gary's wife, but manages to make her both irritating and sweet at the same time. Some of the series' best exchanges are between these two with barbed, cutting comments giving a real insight into this turbulent but loving marriage.

Of the 1940s' cast, it's Kirwan who shines. Whilst Victor Mcguire is great as her pugnacious father Ron, Kirwan's Phoebe is radiant, a sweet young woman far smarter and more independent than she's given credit for. Oddly, it's many of Gary's scenes with Phoebe which see him at his darkest trying and succeeding to seduce this beautiful young woman who is, quite literally, too young for him. Chris Ettridge is also impressive as Ron, Gary's mildly hysterical friend who provides some much needed grounding for the time traveller.

This stellar cast are greatly helped by some superb scripts. Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran produced a series of scripts that manage to balance the two time periods as ably as they do comedy with drama. This is particularly true of I Get Along Without You Very Well and In The Mood, the episodes that close this season. Here, the amiable tone is replaced by moments of real drama as Gary is forced to choose between his life in the past and his life in the present. Lyndhurst, Holmes and Kirwan all do superb work here and had the series not continued, this would have been a perfect ending.

With the writers being interviewed and providing commentaries for all the episodes, this is a quality package for a quality piece of drama. Whilst later seasons went off the boil somewhat, this first year stands as a unique, smart piece of television. Recommended.
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