Barbara (TV series)
|Created by||Mark Bussell
Graham Mark Walker
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||3|
|No. of episodes||29|
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Original release||10 July 1995– 4 April 2003|
Barbara is a British sitcom starring Gwen Taylor in the title role. A pilot was broadcast in 1995, and three series were then televised on ITV from 1999 to 2003. It was made by Central Television, and filmed at their Lenton Lane studios in Nottingham in front of a live studio audience. The majority of location scenes for the series were filmed in various suburbs of Nottingham, including Mapperley and West Bridgford, with other scenes filmed around Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. The series is regularly repeated on ITV3.
Barbara was first shown as a pilot within the Comedy Firsts series on 10 July 1995. Four years later, on 27 June 1999 the first of three series was presented, with some of the cast and names of the characters being changed from when the programme first appeared. Unusually for a British sitcom, Barbara was written by a team of writers; Mark Bussell, Rob Clark, Ramsay Gilderdale, Graham Mark Walker and Justin Sbresni.
Barbara Liversidge is a no-nonsense, outspoken, nosey, middle-aged doctor's receptionist with a sharp tongue. She has been married to her husband Ted, a mild-mannered taxi driver, for 40 years. Barbara is by far the dominant figure in the relationship, but Ted does occasionally stand up to her. The pair live in Pudsey, Leeds, West Yorkshire with their twenty-something son Neil, who drifts between jobs and a succession of short-term relationships. Their daughter, the long-suffering Linda, is married to Martin Pond, a TV presenter who has his own slot on the local news, Pond Life, which generally involves him making a fool of himself. Jean is Barbara's appearance-obsessed sister (Barbara once claims she's had so much plastic surgery that "she literally doesn't know her arse from her elbow") who gets married to the simpering Phil. Barbara's colleague at the doctor's surgery, Doreen, often regales Barbara with tales of the bizarre situations she and her never-seen husband Clive find themselves in.
Much of the humour revolves around Barbara's tactlessness and her family's fear of getting on the wrong side of her. While the family often complain about her, they usually find they struggle to manage when Barbara doesn't take charge. Although the show initially appears to have a very traditional sitcom setting, surreal humour is frequently used, such as Barbara baking a cake that looks like Judi Dench and a taxidermist friend of Ted's stuffing and mounting his dead wife. There were also some more drama-based plots, such as Linda's discovery she can't have any more children after the birth of her son George. In a particularly dark development, the final episode ("Who Shot Barbara?") ends with an unseen assailent shooting Barbara from behind - a cliffhanger which is never resolved.
- "Job" (10 July 1995)
Series One (1999)
All Sunday, 8 pm, ITV except Scattering, shown at 7 pm
- "Birthday" (27 June 1999) Ratings: 9.8m
- "Rivals" (4 July 1999) Ratings 8.21m
- "Amour" (11 July 1999) Ratings: 7.44m
- "Friends" (18 July 1999) Ratings: 6.4m
- "Coffee" (25 July 1999) Ratings: 7.18m
- "Scattering" (1 August 1999) Ratings: 5.02m
Series Two (2000-01)
- "Kids" (24 November 2000) Ratings: 7.55m
- "Massage" (1 December 2000) Ratings: N/A
- "Mum" (8 December 2000) Ratings: 8.70m
- "Christening" (15 December 2000) Ratings: 7.56m
- "Tyres" (22 December 2000) Ratings: 6.89m
- "Fox" (24 December 2000) Ratings: 7.59m
- "Sisters" (23 March 2001) Ratings: 5.80m
- "Mate" (30 March 2001) Ratings: N/A
- "Wedding" (6 April 2001) Ratings: 5.97m
- "Sheep" (24 June 2001) Ratings: N/A
Series Three (2002-03)
The twelve episodes making up Series Three were recorded as a complete series in 2001, but were split into two separate series upon broadcast - six airing in 2002 and the remaining six airing in 2003. The 2002 episodes were shown Tuesdays at 8.30 pm, apart from "Flood" which was shown at 8.00 pm and "Valentine" which was shown on a Saturday at 7.45 pm. All 2003 episodes were shown Sundays at 7.00 pm; with the exception of the last 2 episodes on Fridays at 8.30 pm due to the ITN coverage of the Iraq war. The Series Three DVD release contains the full twelve episodes.
- "Queenie" (23 April 2002) Ratings: 6.97m
- "Flood" (7 May 2002) Ratings: 5.4m
- "Valentine" (11 May 2002) Ratings: 4.8m
- "Crime" (14 May 2002) Ratings: 6.74m
- "Weekend" (21 May 2002) Ratings: 4.7m
- "Baby" (28 May 2002) Ratings: 4.97m
- "Honeymoon" (23 February 2003) Ratings: 5.34m
- "Neighbours" (2 March 2003) Ratings: 5.42m
- "Guy Fawkes" (9 March 2003) Ratings: 5.94m
- "Kirsty" (16 March 2003) Ratings: 5.02m
- "Cottage" (28 March 2003)
- "Who Shot Barbara?" (4 April 2003)
The majority of location scenes for the series were filmed in various suburbs of Nottingham, including Mapperley and West Bridgford. The exterior location for the Liversidge house is located on Sandford Road in Mapperley, whilst the exterior used for Barbara's workplace is the West Oak Surgery on nearby Westdale Lane.
Martin's news studio is the exterior of Carlton's Lenton Lane studios.
Initial reactions to the pilot were lukewarm. While The Guardian described Taylor as 'ever-watchable', it felt there was too much focus on character at the expense of plot, summing up 'whether or not there's a series in here remains to be seen'. Critics remained ambivalent as Barbara progressed to full series; previewing the second series opener in The Guardian, Jonathan Wright felt the show had become 'an enjoyable slice of mainstream sitcom', but Charlie Catchpole in The Mirror felt Taylor and Kelly were both 'sadly wasted', remarking 'Carlton Television say Barbara is ITV's most popular comedy for five years. I believe them. It's not exactly a crowded field, is it?'. However, every episode of the 1999 and 2002 series was in ITV's top 30 weekly ratings as compiled by BARB and audience figures frequently averaged around 5-7 million viewers, 17 of the episodes winning their slots, meaning they were the most watched shows at the time of broadcast.
The Independent Television Commission's annual report for 2001 labelled Barbara 'a rare exception' to the otherwise unimpressive 'commitment to comedy shown by ITV', as represented by shows such as Sam's Game and Babes in the Wood
|The Complete Series 1||13 September 2010|
|The Complete Series 2||17 January 2011|
|The Complete Series 3||23 May 2011|
|The Complete Series 1 - 3 Box Set||24 October 2011|
- BBFC Entry for Series Three DVD Release
- The Guardian; 8 July 1995, page B70
- The Guardian; 24 November 2000, page 20
- Catchpole, Charlie. 'Lonely at the Top for Babs', The Mirror; 28 November 2000, page 13
- The Guardian; 29 April 2002, page 9