As Time Goes By (TV series)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the Canadian music variety series, see As Time Goes By (Canadian TV series).
As Time Goes By
As Time Goes By cast.jpg
From left: Sandy, Jean, Lionel, Alistair and Judy
Genre Situation comedy, romance
Created by Colin Bostock-Smith
Written by Bob Larbey
Directed by Sydney Lotterby
Starring Judi Dench
Geoffrey Palmer
Moira Brooker
Philip Bretherton
Jenny Funnell
Joan Sims
Frank Middlemass
Moyra Fraser
Paul Chapman
Janet Henfrey
Tim Wylton
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 9
No. of episodes 67 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Philip Jones (1992–2002)
Trevor McCallum (1996)
John Reynolds (1996–2005)
Don Taffner (2002–05)
John Bartlett (2005)
Donald Taffner, Jr. (2005)
Producer(s) Sydney Lotterby
Editor(s) John Jarvis (1992)
Chris Wadsworth (1992–2002)
Mykola Pawluk (2005)
Running time 64x30 minutes
1x45 minutes
1x50 minutes
1x60 minutes
Production company(s) Theatre of Comedy Entertainment
DLT Entertainment Ltd.
Original network BBC One
Original release

12 January 1992 –
11 August 2002

10 December 2005–
14 December 2005

As Time Goes By is a British romantic sitcom that aired on BBC One from 1992 to 2002, with reunion specials in 2005. Starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, it follows the relationship between two former lovers who meet unexpectedly after not having been in contact for 38 years.

The programme's original working title had been Winter with Flowers[1] (from the German proverb "An old man loved is winter with flowers") but was changed during its first day of filming due to the cast's protestations. The new title was taken from the 1931 song "As Time Goes By", which was used as the title music, recorded by Joe Fagin.[2]

The show was created by Colin Bostock-Smith,[3] but written by Bob Larbey,[2] who had co-written The Good Life. In 2004, As Time Goes By was ranked #29 in Britain's Best Sitcom.[4]

The series was produced by Theatre of Comedy Entertainment, in association with DLT Entertainment Ltd. for the BBC.


In the March 2011 PBS pledge drive programming special Behind the Britcoms: from Script to Screen hosted by Moira Brooker and Philip Bretherton, the series creator/producer revealed that Jean Simmons had declined the first offer of the role of Jean (which was written with her in mind) due to her reluctance to uproot her sunny life—specifically mentioning her dogs, garden, and family—in California. Dench was later cast for the role.

  • Jean Mary Hardcastle (née Pargetter, previously Hanson) (Judi Dench) – Judith's mother and becomes Lionel's wife
  • Lionel Hardcastle (Geoffrey Palmer) – Jean's husband and Rocky's son
  • Judith "Judi" Deacon (née Hanson) (Moira Brooker) – Jean's daughter, and Sandy's best friend, later Alistair's wife
  • Alistair Deacon (Philip Bretherton) – Initially publisher of Lionel's book, then Judith's husband
  • Sandy Edwards (Jenny Funnell) – Jean's secretary and receptionist, Judith's best friend and later Harry's wife
  • Richard "Rocky" Hardcastle (Frank Middlemass) – Lionel's father, Madge's husband
  • Madge Hardcastle (Joan Sims) – Rocky's wife
  • Penny Johnson (née Hanson) (Moyra Fraser) – Jean's sister-in-law (from Jean's first marriage to David)
  • Stephen Johnson (Paul Chapman) – Penny's husband
  • Harry (David Michaels and Daniel Ryan) – Sandy's husband
  • Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey) – Hardcastle country home housekeeper
  • Lol Ferris (Tim Wylton) – Hardcastle country home gardener


Second Lieutenant Lionel Hardcastle (Geoffrey Palmer) and Middlesex Hospital nurse Jean Pargetter (Judi Dench) met in the summer of 1953 and fell head over heels in love, but then Lionel was posted to Korea. He wrote, but Jean didn't receive his letter (it becomes a topic in a later episode). Because of this mix-up, each assumed the other had lost interest. After his war service Lionel emigrated to Kenya, became a coffee planter, and married Margaret, whom he later divorced on grounds of "mutual boredom". Some time after his divorce he returned to England. Meanwhile Jean had also married and bore one child, Judith (Moira Brooker). After her husband's death, Jean opened Type for You, a secretarial agency. Her daughter Judith, 32 years old during the series, is twice divorced (from Ken, who had "sad eyes", and Edward, who was "very clever") and, during most of the series, lives with her mother and also works at the secretarial agency.

Lionel, now writing his memoir, hires a typist through Type for You, unaware that Jean owns the agency. His and Jean's awareness of each other occurs as Lionel picks up Judith for a dinner date. Although Lionel's and Jean's reunion is full of missteps and miscues, their romance gradually rekindles. In the third season, Lionel moves into Jean's house in Holland Park, London; they marry during the following season.

In the first season Judith develops a crush on Lionel while Lionel's publisher, Alistair Deacon (Philip Bretherton), takes a similar interest in Jean. Both crushes are brief; eventually Judith and Alistair fall for each other and, in the final season, marry. Other story arcs feature Lionel being asked to write an American TV mini-series, Just Two People, based on his early romance with Jean. The mini-series fails after much rewriting and network interference. Jean eventually retires from Type for You and later volunteers at a charity shop.

Jean's very efficient secretary, and Judith's best friend, is Sandy (Jenny Funnell), who eventually moves in with the Hardcastles after splitting with her boyfriend Nick. After Jean's retirement, Judy and Sandy become co-managers of Type for You. Sandy dates Harry (David Michaels, later replaced by Daniel Ryan), a policeman and rugby player, whom she marries at the end of the series.

Other notable characters include Lionel's irrepressible father, Rocky (Frank Middlemass), who owns a large country house in Hampshire which he later gives to Lionel; the housekeeper, Mrs. Bale (Janet Henfrey), who has an unusual interest in the Shipping Forecast, and the gardener, Lol Ferris (Tim Wylton). (In the early seasons of the show, Lionel received news from Rocky's physician that his father was dying and had less than a year to live. But this plotline was dropped and Rocky continued to appear throughout the show's later seasons, including the final "Reunion Special.")

Rocky marries Madge (Joan Sims), as much a character as Rocky is, when he is 85 and she is 78. They travel the world, tool about in Madge's classic convertible (with steer horns on the grille), and hang out at the local pub, where Madge sings. In Series Nine, Madge is mentioned as being on an archaeological dig in Egypt; in reality Joan Sims died before filming began. Jean's first husband's neurotic sister Penny (Moyra Fraser), who always calls Jean "poor Jean", and Penny's flaky dentist husband, Stephen (Paul Chapman), who once accidentally declined the OBE, also make many appearances.[5]


The programme ran for nine seasons, from 12 January 1992 to 4 August 2002. Nearly every episode was thirty minutes long. The final series episode was followed by an hour-long compilation show on 11 August 2002, and by a two part "Reunion Special" broadcast on 26 and 30 December 2005. The reunion specials were the last appearance of Frank Middlemass, who played Rocky, before his death in 2006.[6] Actress Joan Sims died in 2001 and the role of Rocky's wife, Madge Darbley-Hardcastle, was not recast; in Series Eight it is mentioned that she is away participating in an Egyptian archaeological dig.

International broadcasts[edit]

As Time Goes By has appeared in the United States on BBC America, and has been running weekly on PBS almost continuously since the early 2000s, with various cast members appearing on its perennial pledge drives. It has run in Canada on BBC Canada and TVOntario, in Australia on ABC and 7TWO, in New Zealand on both UKTV and SKY Network Television, in Finland on YLE TV1,[7] and on DSTV in Nigeria. RTÉ One has broadcast the series in Ireland repeatedly. It has been broadcast by Gold for viewers in the UK and Ireland as of 2010, and by UKTV in Australia as of 2011.


As Time Goes By was adapted and recorded for radio. Three series were broadcast on BBC Radio 2 between 1997 and 1999. The first episode included a flashback to Jean and Lionel 38 years before, something that never happened on television. All episodes correspond to a TV episode and featured the original cast, apart from the original actor from the television program (Bretherton) not playing Alistair in Series One – Bretherton did play Alistair in both Series Two and Three. So far, only the first series has been released on BBC audio cassette. Series One was repeated on BBC Radio 4 Extra from December 2014 to January 2015.

DVD releases[edit]

The complete series was released in DVD region code 2 by Cinema Club, in DVD region code 1 by BBC America and as five sets in DVD region code 4 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The reunion special is also available on DVD now, distributed by Acorn Media UK.

Australian DVD Releases:

  • As Time Goes By – Series 1 and 2 (2 Disc Set)
  • As Time Goes By – Series 3 and 4 (3 Disc Set) – 10 November 2004
  • As Time Goes By – Series 5 and 6 (2 Disc Set) – 7 April 2005
  • As Time Goes By – Series 7 and 8 (2 Disc Set) – 6 October 2005
  • As Time Goes By – Series 9–9 August 2004
  • As Time Goes By – Series 1–9: Collectors Edition (11 Disc Box Set) – 6 October 2006


  1. ^ page 18: "In the early 90s he was brought the script for As Time Goes By, which was at first titled Winter with Flowers". Archived 27 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b "As Time Goes By Crew List". Archived from the original on 22 March 2008. Retrieved 12 February 2008. 
  3. ^ "The Den of Geek interview: Colin Bostock-Smith". Den of Geek. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "BBC - Programmes categorised as Comedy". BBC. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  5. ^ "Comedy – As Time Goes By". BBC. 2 October 2007. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "Schedules - LPB". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Ulkomaiset tv-sarjat". 19 April 2008. Retrieved 3 December 2011. 

External links[edit]