Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (February 2012)|
|Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em|
Some Mothers Do 'Ave' Em screen shot.
|Created by||Raymond Allen|
|Written by||Raymond Allen (20 episodes, 1973–78)
Michael Crawford (7 episodes, 1978)
|Directed by||Sydney Lotterby|
|Theme music composer||Ronnie Hazlehurst|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3 Seasons plus 3 Christmas Specials|
|No. of episodes||22|
|Producer(s)||Michael Mills (13 episodes, 1973)
Sydney Lotterby (7 episodes, 1978)
|Running time||30 Mins (per episode)|
|Original run||15 February 1973 – 25 December 1978|
Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em is a BBC situation comedy, written by Raymond Allen and starring Michael Crawford and Michele Dotrice. It was first broadcast in 1973 and ran for three series, ending in 1978.
The series follows the accident-prone Frank Spencer and his tolerant, if accident-prone wife, Betty, through Frank's various attempts to hold down a job, which frequently end in disaster.
The character of Frank
The wimpish, smiling Frank, sporting his trademark beret and trench coat, is married to (apparently normal) Betty (Michele Dotrice) and in later series they have a baby daughter, Jessica, which offered scope for even more slapstick humour. Frank was a gift for impersonators, and for a time it became a cliché that every half-decent impersonator was doing an impression of him, particularly his main catchphrase, "Ooh Betty", which is only ever said in one episode: series 2, episode 2.
"Ooh Betty.." is not Frank's only catchphrase of the series. Others include a quavering "Oooh...", usually uttered with his forefinger to his mouth as he stands amidst the chaos of some disaster he has just caused (and which he himself has invariably escaped unscathed). He also sometimes complains about being "ha-RASSed!", or occasionally, "I've had a lot of ha-RASSments lately" (originally an American pronunciation). Other recurring catchphrases include references to "a bit of trouble", which usually implies some sort of undisclosed digestive disorder, and to the cat having done a "whoopsie" (on one occasion in Spencer's beret). If Frank is pleased (or confused) about something, he will often use the catchphrase "mmmm — nice!" or "awww — nice!"
Despite his unfailing ability to infuriate people, Frank is essentially a very sympathetic character, who inspires as much affection from his audience as from his ever-loving and patient wife, Betty. The ability to convey this lovable aspect of his character — which meant that, crucially, the audience is always on Frank's 'side' — was a notable achievement of the writer and main actors. For all his extraordinary faults, the viewer never doubts that Frank adores Betty and would do anything for her, and in their own way they are blissfully happy together. He also venerates the memory of his late mother and worships his daughter.
For the final series, made five years after the previous one (although there had been two Christmas specials in between), Frank's character changes markedly. He becomes more self-aware, and keen to make himself appear more educated and well-spoken. He develops an air of pomposity which is always best demonstrated when someone would approach and enquire, Mr Spencer?" to which he would always reply, "I am he." He also becomes more self-assured, and much more willing to argue back when criticised, and often win arguments by leaving his opponents dumbfounded by the bizarreness of what he would say.
Acknowledging the show's success in Australia, the final series saw him begin talk of having relations there, and contemplating emigrating.
Crawford himself has talked of how he based many of Frank's reactions on those of a young child. Crawford also found it difficult to break out of the public association with the role, despite his later career as a hugely successful musical performer on the West End and Broadway stage, in popular shows such as Barnum and The Phantom of the Opera.
Ronnie Barker and Norman Wisdom were the BBC's first and second choices for the role of Frank. However the casting of Crawford proved effective, as many of Frank's mannerisms and turns of phrase were invented by the actor, and his stunt-performing and singing skills were undoubtedly useful.
In addition to Frank and Betty, most episodes would introduce at least one other character (a doctor, a neighbour, an employer, etc.) who would be seen to gradually suffer the inevitably chaotic consequences of Frank's fleeting presence in their lives. These characters were often played by some of the great recognisable character actors of the 1970s British sit-com era, and indeed spotting these famous faces — and enjoying their reactions to the torture of Frank's hapless influence — is one of the joys of watching the series. Examples of actors appearing in one episode only included George Baker, Christopher Biggins, Peter Jeffrey, Richard Wilson, Fulton Mackay, Bernard Hepton, Christopher Timothy and Elisabeth Sladen (who, in her autobiography, mentions that she was considered for the role of Betty). A pre-Minder Glynn Edwards appeared in more than two episodes as Frank and Betty's irascible new neighbour, Mr Lewis, while a pre-Bread Jean Boht appeared in one of those episodes as Mrs Lewis. One regular character in the early series was Frank's local priest, Father O'Hara, who was played by Cyril Luckham. Dick Bentley appeared in three of the last four episodes broadcast, as Frank's Australian grandad.
[ ••• ――― ―― • ―― ――― ― •••• • •―• ••• ―•• ――― •― •••― • • ―― •―•―•― S o m e/m o t h e r s /d o /a v e/e m /(full stop). ]
Series One (1973)
|"Getting a Job" (aka "The Job Interview")||15 February 1973||Newly married Frank and Betty are due to move into their new flat, but are currently living with Betty's mother, Mrs Fisher. Betty has bought Frank a new briefcase for his impending job interview at Lewis & Co.'s ironmongers for the position of area sales manager. With Betty's advice of remembering to smile, Frank turns up at his interview later than expected, after getting stuck in a lift. When he finally meets the general manager, Mr Lewis, he causes him a lot of frustration. By the end of the interview, Mr Lewis is on the verge of a breakdown. The initial shot of the postman delivering the present that Betty has got for Frank's interview is of number 2 Hemlock Road, Hammersmith and Fulham.|
|"George's House"||22 February 1973||Frank and Betty are invited to stay the weekend at Betty's brother George's electronically-designed home. George receives a visit from Mr Fletcher, a house builder, who may well offer George's employer an order worth thousands of pounds if he likes the equipment, but after Frank loses his slippers down the toilet and ruins it, trouble begins to brew. The situation worsens when the cistern starts to leak and the water ends up interfering with the house's electrical systems, causing George's electronic gadgets to become uncontrollable and Betty and Frank to damage the electric control system, which then sets the house on fire.|
|"Love Thy Neighbour"||1 March 1973||Betty's mother turns up at the Spencer household unexpectedly, suitcase in hand, after leaving her husband and collapses on their couch. Betty feels that Dr Smedley should be contacted, and Frank is the one left to do it, but with the phone box out of action, he pays a visit to his new neighbour, Mr Faraday. Frank calls Dr Smedley but gives him Mr Faraday's address rather his own, and causes a misunderstanding. After all the confusion, Frank locks himself out of the house, and once again has to trouble Mr Faraday, this time for the use of his ladder.|
|"Have a Break, Take a Husband"||8 March 1973||As a second honeymoon, Frank and Betty decide to take a trip to a very old fashioned hotel. Things get off to a bad start when Frank very nearly misses the train and has to run after it down the platform. After arriving at their hotel, Frank takes it upon himself to make a few adjustments to the broken room, which eventually result in their lino getting torn, a broken wardrobe and a hole in their floor. Meanwhile, across the landing, another guest, Kenny, is having difficulty getting to sleep between the noises coming from the Spencers' destroyed room and his furniture disappearing. Property that was allegedly damaged included two holes in the floor, a lino, a painting, draws, a wardrobe. After the episode, the hotel closed down the room for ten days for a renovation.|
|"The Hospital Visit"||15 March 1973||Frank's been fending for himself with Betty in hospital, and has just had a spot of bother with a steak and kidney pudding (which explodes). Now he's off to visit her, but is the recovery ward ready for him?|
|"The Psychiatrist"||22 March 1973||After being relieved of his job as a member of a fire crew, Frank feels that he is a failure. Betty thinks that he should go and see someone who would understand his situation. He goes to see Mr Webster, a psychiatrist who tries his best to get to the root of Frank's problem.|
|"The Employment Exchange"||29 March 1973||Having lost his latest job as a window cleaner, Frank ends up back at the employment exchange, where new manager Mr Bradshaw insists that he can be employed. Bradshaw takes Frank on as an employee around the building, but soon begins to regret it.|
Series Two (1973)
|"Cliffhanger"||22 November 1973||Frank's latest job includes a company car which he and Betty use to go on a picnic. Things start out well enough until Frank manages to reverse the car halfway over the edge of the cliff.|
|"The RAF Reunion"||29 November 1973||Frank attends his annual RAF reunion and reflects on his past experiences.||This episode has flashbacks on his past life.|
|"The Public Relations Course"||6 December 1973||Having lost yet another job Betty suggests Frank try out a course in public relations training. Frank heads off to the school run by Mr Watson, a very experienced public relations expert, who is confident he can make Frank a success but Frank proves too much even for him.|
|"Frank and Marvin"||13 December 1973||Frank discovers he is going to be a father and determines to make a success of his new job at a holiday camp as an entertainer. His act includes a very poor ventriloquist act, bad jokes about kangaroos, an interesting rendition of "Early One Morning" and a human volcano act, which he manages to set off by accident.|
|"Father's Clinic"||20 December 1973||In preparation for parenthood Betty has been looking after two young children from the neighbourhood and she convinces Frank to come along on one of their outings. The girls seem wary of Frank at first but his accident prone ways which they find hilarious soon wins them over.||This episode involves the best known stunt of the series when Frank, who is roller skating at a rink, manages to burst through the fire exit and on a hellish journey through the streets, dodging buses and cars, ducking under lorries and crashing into a baby shop.|
|"The Baby Arrives"||27 December 1973||Frank is worrying about his impending fatherhood and is starting to annoy the hospital staff with his constant false alarms. The doctors tell the Spencers that they have another week to go but that night baby Spencer has other ideas. With their doctor on holiday another one is drafted in, the same one whose car Frank reversed into earlier that day.||Birth of Jessica.|
1974 and 1975 Christmas specials
|"Jessica's First Christmas"||25 December 1974||Frank gets involved in the church's nativity play, much against Father O'Hara's wishes — and with predictably disastrous results.|
|"Learning to Drive"||25 December 1975||After being fired from his job as a Christmas pixie, Frank receives a letter from the BBC inviting him to appear on a show called Man about the Home. David Jacobs turns up and attempts to film but Frank's DIY disasters become apparent. At the same time, Frank is taking driving lessons. He takes his test (for the 10th time) — a series of near misses ensue and Frank ends up driving off the end of a pier into the sea. Even then, he yells to the harassed and bedraggled examiner, who has made rapidly for the shore, "Mr Hayes — have I passed?"|
Series Three (1978)
|"Moving House"||11 November 1978||The Spencers' move gets off to a bad start when Frank manages to fall out of the moving van into a barrel of tar and take half the furniture with him. Things get worse when within hours of arriving he not only gets on the wrong side of Mr Lewis from next door but half destroys his bedroom ceiling.||In this episode, Frank sings a lullaby to his daughter, Jessica. First appearance of Frank's bad tempered neighbour, Mr Lewis.|
|"Wendy House"||18 November 1978||Frank is being kept very busy at woodwork classes especially when the insurance company value his entire collection of furniture at £40. To speed things along he has started using super glue which unfortunately manages to stick him, an old lady and a bus conductor to a chair. In addition to new furniture, Frank is building a Wendy House for Jessica, a very large Wendy House that proves too big to get through the workshop door.||Features One Foot in the Grave star Richard Wilson as the insurance man. First appearance of Columbo, Frank's dog.|
|"Scottish Dancing"||25 November 1978||Frank and Betty have taken up Scottish country dancing and Frank has decided to go into politics and with a gala dinner for a Liberal Party candidate approaching, the rest of the committee are determined not to let Frank cause an embarrassment.|
|"Men as Women"||2 December 1978||Frank receives a letter from Grandad Spencer in Australia inviting him and Betty to join him and help run his farm. Meanwhile Dr Mender appears to be very depressed and preoccupied and for once Frank is not responsible.||This episode marks the first appearance of Dr Mender as the Spencers' GP. This marks a continuity error as Dr Mender claims to have been Frank's GP for years and to still have Frank's chimney brush up his chimney when this was in fact Dr Smedley.|
|"King of the Road" (aka "Demon King")||9 December 1978||Frank's new job as a motorbike courier lands him in trouble with the law and up before the magistrates. Frank defends himself in the only way he knows how.|
|"Australia House"||16 December 1978||Frank is taking elocution lessons in preparation for his flying lessons. Meanwhile a letter arrives from Australia House asking the Spencers to come discuss their possible emigration to Australia. By the end of the interview Mr Lawrence tells Frank he can go just to get rid of him.|
1978 Christmas special
|"Learning to Fly"||25 December 1978||Frank begins his flying lessons at the local school but things take a bit of a bad turn when Frank manages to cause his instructor to pass out in mid flight.||This is the show's final episode.|
The BBC has repeated Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em several times since the series was produced in the 1970s. The programme has been shown in Catalan public television, Nigeria on the NTA in the 1980s and 1990s and in Australia on the Seven Network's Great Comedy Classics Franchise in 2006-2007, GO! from 2009-2010 until the sitcom now screens on 7TWO. British channels Gold, BBC Two and BBC Prime took over repeats of the programme in 2007.
Home video releases
In the United Kingdom six episodes from Series 1 and various selected episodes of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em were originally released by BBC Video on VHS in the 1990s. Series 1 and Series 2 were released on VHS and DVD on 21 October 2002. Series 3 and the Christmas Specials were released on VHS and DVD on 19 May 2003. The Complete Series was released on VHS and DVD on 6 October 2003, by Second Sight available in Region 2. On 1 November 2010, 2 entertain reissued Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Christmas Specials. On 14 February 2011 Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em – The Complete Series and Christmas Specials was reissued by 2 entertain with new packaging.
In Australia Series 1-3 and the Christmas Specials were released in 2003 and 2004. The complete boxset was released in 2004 on DVD in region 4.
In the United States 13 selected episodes were released on VHS in 1998,and reissued on DVD region 1 in 2001.
In popular culture
- In The Now Show, Prince Edward is usually portrayed as Frank Spencer by Hugh Dennis. In an episode from June 2010, the show had a sketch where Fabio Capello used Frank Spencer impressions as a motivational strategy for the England World Cup Squad.
- The show, and the character of Frank Spencer specifically, have even been mentioned several times in the British House of Commons, including when Labour Party leader John Smith taunted Prime Minister John Major in a speech in 1993, by saying recent government mishaps would be considered 'too much' if submitted to the show's producers by script-writers.
- On 14 November 1998, during an edition of Noel's House Party Michael Crawford appeared as Frank to celebrate 25 Years of the show.
- English band Arctic Monkeys mention Frank Spencer in their song "You Probably Couldn't See for the Lights but You Were Staring Straight at Me" from their 2006 album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not with the lines, "I'm so tense, never tenser/Could all go a bit Frank Spencer."
- "Does the Frank Spencer music have Morse code?". BBC News. 4 October 2007.
- Rollerskating clip on YouTube
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em at BBC Online
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em at the BFI's Screenonline
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em at the Internet Movie Database
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em at the British Comedy Guide
- Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em at TV.com
- Playlist of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em videos from BBC Worldwide on YouTube
- Theme tune
- Steve Phillips' Episode Guide
- Jessica's Lullaby from Series 3 Episode 1 "Moving House"