Executive Stress

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Executive Stress
Genre Sitcom
Directed by David Askey
John Howard Davies
Starring Penelope Keith
Geoffrey Palmer
Peter Bowles
Harry Ditson
Elizabeth Counsell
Mark Caven
Theme music composer Andrew Lloyd Webber
Opening theme Why We Fell in Love
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 19
Producer(s) James Gilbert
John Howard Davies
Running time 30 minutes
Original network ITV
Original release 20 October 1986 (1986-10-20) – 27 December 1988 (1988-12-27)

Executive Stress is a British sitcom that aired on ITV from 1986 to 1988. Produced by Thames Television, it first aired on 20 October 1986.[1] After three series, the last episode aired on 27 December 1988.

Written by George Layton, Executive Stress stars Penelope Keith as Caroline Fairchild, a middle-aged woman who decides to go back to work. Her husband, Donald, is played by Geoffrey Palmer in the first series. However, Palmer was unable to return for the second series, so Peter Bowles played Donald in the remaining two series.[1] Keith and Bowles had previously appeared together in the BBC Comedy Series, To the Manor Born.[2]


When writing Executive Stress, George Layton was inspired by his wife's difficult experience juggling a career in Public Relations after having had two children.[3] His wife resigned a month after going back to work because she felt guilty, and Layton commented how "like Caroline In the series, she’d had a very good job and it set me thinking about all the compromises women have to make."[3] The programme was set in the world of publishing as it was one of the few industries of the era dominated by women, meaning Donald and Caroline could realistically be on an equal footing at work.

The producer, John Howard Davies, commissioned a second series before the first series had even aired.[3]

The opening theme, "Why We Fell in Love," was performed by Julie Covington. The lyrics were written by Tim Rice with the instrumentals composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber.[4]



After 25 years of marriage, mother-of-five Caroline Fairchild decides to go back to work.[2] Her husband Donald would like her to work part-time in their home town of Amersham in Buckinghamshire.[2] Instead she gets a job in London as an Editorial Director for an American company called "Oasis Publishing".[1][2] At the company she is reunited with her former secretary, Anthea Duxbury, who is a sales export director.[2]

"Oasis Publishing" is owned by the "Frankland Corporation", which is run by Edgar Frankland, Jr., the son of the corporation's boss.[2] On Caroline's first day at work, Frankland takes over "Ginsberg", the company that Donald works for and they find themselves working together.[2] However, an unwritten rule at Frankland states that married couples cannot work together, so they have to pretend not to know each other, and Caroline uses her maiden name of Fielding.[1][2] In Series Two, Edgar finds out they are married, but does not sack them and makes them joint managing directors of "Oasis Publishing".[1][2]


Three series of Executive Stress were broadcast from 1986 to 1988. The first series, made of seven episodes, aired on Mondays at 20:00 following Coronation Street, as did the six-episode second series.[2] The third series, also of six episodes, aired on Tuesdays at 20.30 following The Bill.[2]

Series Episodes Year
1 7 1986
2 6 1987
3 6 1988

Series 1: 1986[edit]

# Title Original Airdate[5]
1 "Episode One" 20 October 1986 (1986-10-20)
2 "Episode Two" 27 October 1986 (1986-10-27)
3 "Episode Three" 3 November 1986 (1986-11-03)
4 "Episode Four" 10 November 1986 (1986-11-10)
5 "Episode Five" 17 November 1986 (1986-11-17)
6 "Episode Six" 24 November 1986 (1986-11-24)
7 "Episode Seven" 1 December 1986 (1986-12-01)

Series 2: 1987[edit]

# Title Original Airdate[5]
1 "Episode One" 21 September 1987 (1987-09-21)
2 "Episode Two" 28 September 1987 (1987-09-28)
3 "Episode Three" 5 October 1987 (1987-10-05)
4 "Episode Four" 12 October 1987 (1987-10-12)
5 "Episode Five" 19 October 1987 (1987-10-19)
6 "Episode Six" 26 October 1987 (1987-10-26)

Series 3: 1988[edit]

# Title Original Airdate[5]
1 "Episode One" 22 November 1988 (1988-11-22)
2 "Episode Two" 29 November 1988 (1988-11-29)
3 "Episode Three" 6 December 1988 (1988-12-06)
4 "Episode Four" 13 December 1988 (1988-12-13)
5 "Episode Five" 20 December 1988 (1988-12-20)
6 "Episode Six" 27 December 1988 (1988-12-27)


In an article published in The Daily Mail two days before the first episode broadcast, Corinna Honan praised Penelope Keith saying, "This is Keith at her best playing a totally believable middle class, middle-aged woman with wit, finesse and touching vulnerability".[3] Honan also said that Geoffrey Palmer is the "perfect foil with his dry humour, understated style and rubbery features".[3] She also said that the programme "makes very serious points about women, work and motherhood".[3]

Broadcast around the world[edit]

PBS aired at least the first series in the 80s & 90s.

Reruns of the series aired in 2009 in Australia on ABC Television.[6]

Online releases[edit]

All seven episodes from the first series have been released online through British Telecommunications BT Vision Download Store.[7]

DVD release[edit]

The complete first and second series of Executive Stress were released on 26 April 2010 and 24 January 2011, by Network, The third (and final) series was finally released on 20 May 2013, with a complete series set to follow.

DVD Release date
The Complete Series 1 26 April 2010
The Complete Series 2 24 January 2011
The Complete Series 3 20 May 2013
The Complete Series 1 to 3 Box Set TBA

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Summary". British TV Comedy. 2006. Archived from the original on 19 December 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lewishohn, Mark (2003). Radio Times Guide to TV Comedy. London: BBC Worldwide. ISBN 0-563-48755-0. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Honan, Corinna (18 October 1986). "A brand new Penny!". Daily Mail. 
  4. ^ Jennifer J. Bogdanski. "Sir Tim Rice - Singles & Other Songs". Tim Rice official web site. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  5. ^ a b c "Executive Stress Episode Guide". TV.com. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  6. ^ "ABC Television airing schedule". ABC Television. Retrieved 2008-01-01. 
  7. ^ "BT Vision Download Store search results". British Telecommunications. Retrieved 2008-01-01. [dead link]

External links[edit]